Roll-Out Biometric Checks for SIM Cards Nationwide

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Roll-Out Biometric Checks for SIM Cards Nationwide
Roll-Out Biometric Checks for SIM Cards Nationwide

Thailand will introduce biometric checks nationwide for mobile telephone users to register their SIM cards from December 15th in a bid to stamp out fraudulent electronic transactions. The new rules require users to either have their fingerprints verified or their faces scanned.

The regulator first launched the system in June in Thailand’s troubled south. Officials say insurgents in the largely ethnic Malay Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat have used pre-paid SIM cards to trigger bombs. Biometric registration in the south was adopted for national security reasons but elsewhere in Thailand it is aimed at mobile banking security, said regulatory official Takorn Tantasith. “This is not aimed at tracking users, but enhancing security, especially in case of mobile payments,” said Takorn, the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. Similar biometric systems are already in use in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. From December 15th, Thais will be required to register new SIM cards, both pre-paid and post-paid, at service centres and retailers across the country, which will be equipped with biometric tools, he added. SIM cards for postpaid accounts are now registered on purchase, while pre-paid SIM cards can be bought with no identification. Biometric registration in the south was adopted for national security reasons.

To register a new SIM card, users’ fingerprints will be matched against the data stored on their national identification cards, identical to that in the government’s central citizen database, Takorn said. Mobile operators will shoulder the cost of card readers, which range from 500 baht ($15) to 9,000 baht ($271), he added. The verification process might alternatively involve facial scans, depending on the equipment available. After verification, service centres will send users’ data to mobile operators for record-keeping, without storing any information on-site, Takorn said. The more mobile marketplace continues to grow, the more it becomes the target attack for illegal identity thieves. According to a survey of telecommunications fraud and security experts, global fraud loss in the industry for 2013 is US$46.3 billion, a 15% rise from 2011. The primary reason for the increase was fraudulent activity targeting the wireless industry through new ways of stealing identities, devices and network access.

Biometric subscriber identity module (SIM) registration which is described as a process of identifying the personal information of a subscriber by using their biometric characteristics has been recent Governments’ efforts in fighting crimes and curb possible terrorist attacks. Biometrics has proved to be an effective and optimal choice in the SIM card management. As many crimes triggered by mobile phones threaten nation security, an increasing number of Governments has urged to look for a more secure and convenient way to monitor those. In the future, there will be more and more countries realise the advantages of biometrics and adopt its use in the telecommunication to reduce mobile phone related crime such as money laundering, cyber terrorism, and prank calls.

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