Pakistan has blocked the use of 10.5 million
unregistered (anonymous) SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for cell
phones. These SIM cards are the type favored by gangsters and terrorists. In
most parts of the world, you can move your cell phone service from one phone to
another by simply removing the small (25x14mm) SIM "card" from one
phone and inserting it in another. SIM cards can also be bought just for the
minutes stored on them, and these "anonymous" SIMs are popular with
gangsters, and terrorists. Police have long noticed that terrorist bombs are often set off using a cell phone
with an anonymous SIM card. It's not uncommon to raid a terrorist hideout and
find hundreds of anonymous SIM cards.
Algeria recently did the same thing,
cutting off service for over three million anonymous cards. In both countries,
users are supposed to supply an ID before buying a SIM card. But even the
anonymous cards provided police with useful information. Police can take
captured SIM cards and extract a lot of information. Not so much from the SIM
card, but from the traffic that has passed through that phone. Satellite phones
are even more vulnerable, and captured SIM cards often identify specific sat
phones being used by the bad guys.
The Taliban and drug gangs know of their
vulnerability, but cannot run their operations without these communications
tools. Gangsters in other parts of the world have developed ways to lessen SIM
card vulnerability, and the terrorists are learning as fast as they can. In the
meantime, it's getting them killed or captured.
With anonymous cards now more difficult
to get, it's easier to track down bombs that use cell phones for detonation.