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Social Media Identity Deception (How it Matters to You)

Social Media Identity Deception

The growth of social media platforms in the last decade has changed the way people interact with one another. However, the use of these media has also created new opportunities for individuals and organizations to deceive social media users. Deception on social media continues to be a major concern and its detection and prevention has been attracting a lot of attention by researchers. In this article, we present the motivations for deception in social media, Identity concealment type of social media identity deception, how to identify them, and how to avoid them.

Deception on Social Media: Deception occurs when one leads another person to believe something that he (the deceiver) does not believe to be true (Ekman; Miller & Stiff). Identity deception occurs when someone pretends to be someone, but he is not. The victim (receiver/social media user) is unaware that the identity of the sender (deceiver) or part of the information in a message is concealed, altered or deceptive. Some of the motives behind social media deception are relationship driven (building strong relationship) and identity driven (protecting the deceiver’s identity). There are three types of social media identity deception: identity concealment– occurs when part of the identity information or its source is omitted or altered; identity theft– occurs when a person’s identity is stolen; and identity forgery– occurs when a new persona is created along with a new history record.

In this article, we discussed identity concealment type of social media deception, which occurred on WhatsApp social media. We outlined how to identify identity and information source concealment, and provided suggestions on how to deal with it.

In identity concealment, a user of social media (sender/fraudster) conceals some of the information about himself or the original source of the information. The sender can be an individual or an organization. The concealment creates a different perception about the sender or the sending organization. Users then perceive this individual or organization as authentic. Pools of actors or social media users believe the fake identity or organization and begin to interact with this fake entity.

“Information Source Identity Concealment” is one form of identity concealment deception. Many Ghanaians have been defrauded by this type of deception. In this type of identity concealment deception, the deceiver hides the actual source of the information and then presents the information as if he or his organization is the source of the information. The deceiver acts as a “middleman”, but the recipient (victim) does not realize that. An example of Identity (source) Concealment message is a screen shot of WhatsApp message shown below.

 
Text message hiding the original source of the information

 

The Institute of Cybersecurity and Information Assurance (ICIA) of Ghana is an organization that provides cyber security and IT Audit training, consulting, and free advisory services in Ghana. On 3rd January 2018, ICIA received above text from WhatsApp user- a teacher. As shown above, the text invited experienced teachers who want to teach in the US to submit CVs to the named travel agency (named in the text not shown for privacy reasons).

How can this be an Information/Identity Concealment? The original source of this information was from US Teachers Council. The US Teachers’ Council has a J-1 Visa program which invites experienced teachers to apply for teaching position in the US. The US uses this program to attract talented and experienced teachers to the US. The application form is available on US Teachers Council’s web site, and it is free of charge. Candidates first submit requested information (found on their website) for initial screening. If a candidate is successful, he is contacted and taken through series of interviews until candidate is finally selected. The program does not require “middlemen” or agents. The text is concealment because the sender (deceiver) hid the actual source of the information (US Teachers Council Teaching Program) so that users have limited knowledge about the program.

Why Does This Matter? It matters because many fraudsters are in this type of business, and are making money from this type of deception. Hundreds of Ghanaians have fallen for it- like the US DV lottery program.

How do we identify identity concealment and deal with it? Some of the ways of identifying identity of a sender of a text has been concealed are as follows:

  • The sender gives users or readers limited time to respond to the text. Readers are not given enough time to research about the authenticity and source of the text. When you are being rushed in a text you have interest in, stay calm and do research about it. In the above text, the “LIMITED SLOTS AVAIALABLE” texts let readers “rush”, to register for the program without verifying the source and the authenticity of the text or information.
  • The sender uses the information in the text to advertise himself or his company than the actual source of the information. In the above text, the sender announces his company as: “T***** and T*** B***** (Full name is masked for privacy sake) is a subsidiary of Belcom Ghana Group”. This announcement has no link with the whole text-which invites teachers to apply for the program. We did not find the identity of this company when we did name search from Registrar General Department’s website.
  • The text does not contain the source’s information. Check and see if the text contains the website or company’s information of the information sent to you. In the above screen shot, we expected the fraudster to name the organization that is recruiting teachers-US Teaching council, but he did not.
  • The fraudster directs readers or users to himself or his organization than the true source of the text. In the above example, the fraudster gave his email address and his phone number and directed all applications to himself or his organization.
  • Sender hides source of the information, but does not give reasons for hiding the actual source of the information. When a reason is given, check and see if the reason makes sense to you.
  • Some senders (fraudsters) may include the actual source of the information, but may tell users to register through them. When the source of the information is given, take time and do “cross validation”. Cross validate by researching for the phone numbers and email contact of the actual source, gather information from there, and compare it with the original text message.
  • If cross validation becomes a problem to you, but you are interested in the information sent to you, consult IIPGH (org) or ICIA (myicia.com). They will do research and give you a feedback within 24 hours at no cost.

 

Samuel Owusu- Institute of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, Ghana-ICIA (Affiliate: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

 

 

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ArticlesGhanaIIPGHInformation and Communication TechnologyTechnology

Five Ways to Hire a Good IT Professional

Five Ways to Hire a Good IT Professional

As all managers know, hiring the right people is not easy, and at the same time a very crucial process for the success of an organization. The more complex, fast changing and technologically advanced the world becomes, the more important it becomes to find the right people for the right jobs. This is in particular true for IT-personnel. In fact, in most African countries, businesses are inclined to contract IT-companies from the US or India to come and do the job as soon as things start to become risky. They are not sure they can find the right staff in their own country.

But that is not necessarily the best decision.

For example in the Netherlands, the Dutch central government has a long track record of failed ICT projects and programs. Most of them were carried out by large IT companies with a good reputation, capable to deliver large amounts of IT personnel of different kinds. Many of these projects failed, often leading to enormous losses of tax payer’s money. The conclusion of the Dutch parliament was, that ministries should start to recruit and train their own IT-professionals and IT-managers, rather than depending on these large companies, who often abused these expensive projects to cash big while using the government as the training grounds for their youngest employees.

Recently the Dutch central government decided to start a new agency, the  “Government ICT Guild”  It is a training program as well as a pool of highly qualified IT professionals, that can be hired to execute IT projects of all kinds for the Dutch government.

Recently, a director of Accra based training center Maxim Nyansa IT-Solutions, met with Mr. Mo Jaber, the founder of the agency, to exchange experiences. Both organizations have an elaborate selection process, where practical skills are tested as well as knowledge of IT.  Mr. Jaber stated: “We have even taken the technical selection process a step further. We had an assessment developed especially for us by the Software Improvement Group (SIG, Amsterdam) to evaluate the quality of someone’s code.”  Still, the vast majority of candidates are turned down by the Government ICT Guild for other reasons than the quality of their technical skills.

During the meeting, Mr. Jaber then lifted his hand and said, pointing at the five fingers: “I have come to the conclusion that there are five criteria to hire a good IT professional: attitude, attitude, attitude, attitude, and finally technical skills.”  In most cases, the technical skills can be learned. Or, as we experience, some candidates are extremely intelligent, and will be capable to do their work in only a fraction of the time of an ordinary professional. But if the person does not have the right attitude, hiring him can still turn out disastrous.

Young graduates in Ghana often wonder how they can become attractive in the job market in this country.  A master degree from the US, India or China is the magic word, but hard to get for most… But looking at the conclusion of the Dutch ICT Guild, this may not be the issue. Of course, recruiters should ask their candidates if they have been investing in personal development. There are young Ghanaians who are studying day and night online with free resources like Coursera. They show much more than technical knowledge. They show eagerness to continue to learn and meet the international standards of the industry, today, and in the future. In IT, lifelong learning is inevitable. Doing it is showing the right attitude.

So what other attitudes should you look out for?

Beyond any doubt, reliability is the number one. Reliability implies being a person of integrity. A reliable person will always tell you the truth, is transparent about his intentions, and normally does what he has promised.

Goal-orientation is also very important. A purposeful person has a clear goal in mind and will always tune his actions to deliver the product that you want, working hard to get things done.

Finally, time management is key. In the international job market, being on time for appointments and meeting deadlines are the norm. In the Ghana of 2018, this should no longer be an issue.

Mr. Mo Jaber of the ICT Guild in the Netherlands is expecting to build an inspiring new agency, and be an attractive employer for talented young people. Hiring IT professionals in this way, he is probably going to succeed. Smart young graduates with the right attitude will just love to work there.

 

Diana van der Stelt, Trinity Software Center Kumasi (member: Institute of ICT professionals Ghana and managing board member at Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions).

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Information and Communication Technology

Smart Forest: Can ICT Play A Role In Preserving The Forest Resources of Ghana?

Smart Forest

Ghana’s total land area is at 22,754,000 square hectors while total area covered by our forest is 5,517,000 square hectors representing 24.25% as at 2005 according to data published by the mongaby.com. However the statistics keep dropping due to various factors that affect our forest thus causing fast depletion of the forest reserves. There’s alarming rate of destruction of our forests and game reserves according to Sumit Chakravarty’s research into cause and effects of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization FAO’s FRA report on deforestation according to Annon, 2001 estimated that between 1990 and 2000 about 0.20% representing 8327ha/year of the world’s total forest cover was depleted and 0.13%ha/year representing 5211ha/year was destroyed and this is a serious call for concern for us and the whole world because our livelihood depends greatly on the forest.

According to data published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Ghana’s forest reserve for the year 2010 under the Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) program, Ghana’s forest contributed to 4% of the nation’s GDP for same year as compared to 8% a decade from 2010. What will the next decade be?

Forestry experts have warned according to the Graphic Online; 21st August 2017, that Ghana risks losing its forest reserves to illegal and legal logging in just a decade from now if immediate actions are not taken to curtail activities of wood harvesters and unregulated miners.

These forest reserves have been handed over to us by our forefathers and there is the need to preserve them in a sustainable manner at all cost for the generations after us and also for our own benefit.

Now let’s take a look at some of the factors that contribute to the fast depletion of our forest reserves;

  1. Population growth: the population of humans in Ghana is on an exponential increase resulting in high rate of urbanization, increase demand for food and shelter. Due to this forest reserves are rapidly being converted to farmland, trees are increasingly being felled to satisfy the growing demand for man’s need.
  2. Illegal logging: Apart from meeting the growing demand of the citizens of Ghana, some people also illegally are involved in the harvesting of timbers in our forest for export thus resulting in fast depletion of the forest.
  3. Bush burning: In 1982, Ghana suffered severe destruction of our forest reserves from bush fires during which period a lot of farmlands and farms were destroyed. The result of this was severe famine in 1983 which impacted negatively on the economy causing the death of many people. According to the BBC, bush fire is caused either naturally or by human activities which may be accidental or deliberate but in most cases it’s deliberate.

The Forestry Commission of Ghana has been on the vigilance guarding against deliberate destruction of the forest by activities of people. However, there is the need to find ways and means by which ICT can be used to provide increased vigilance of the forest and also to provide real time data collection from our reserves. The question then is what role can ICT play in preserving the forest reserves of Ghana?

Let’s therefore examine a few things that can be done using ICT.

Internet of Things (IoT)

There is the need to inculcate ICT tools into the management of the forest especially in areas where illegal activities require monitoring. One way by which this can be done is the use of Internet of Things simply referred to as IoT.

In this context, sensors, cameras, wireless technology can be deployed in the forest to collect data on the various components of the forest ranging from wildlife mobility and migration, trees, plants, humidity, temperature, flood detection, bush burning, presence of people, sound level, canopy cover etc.

A network of these sensors, cameras and wireless devices can be set up and connected to a cloud based server for easy monitoring and real-time data collection via the internet. Data from the forest can now be ubiquitously obtained. Examples of some of these sensors that have been developed purposely for this technology are dendrometer bands and photosynthetically active radiation sensors for automated forest and rangeland productivity measurements; nitrate, dissolved oxygen, pH, and dissolved organic carbon sensors for automated water quality measurements; acoustical sensors for automated detection of presence or absence of wildlife species; optical sensors, including “critter cams” to capture and record wildlife presence and behavior, as well as more sophisticated phenocams and image extraction procedures to automate detection of canopy condition resulting from stressors such as drought, nutrient imbalances, pests or pathogens. Kudos to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for setting the pace in the development of these Smart Forest Technologies.

This new cyber-technology can be built using wireless sensor communication to transmit high frequency and high quality data to stakeholders more rapidly. Measurement can be obtained more easily and cost effectively compared to manual collection.

Advance countries like the USA, Australia, and Canada have already deployed these technologies and are still making researches into how to make use of ICT to better manage their forest reserves which serve as important national asset.

Economic Benefits of Using ICT to manage the Forest reserves

Information Communication Technology has come to make live comfortable and so is Internet of things (IoT) which keenly focuses on connecting things both animate and inanimate to the internet for easy manageability and real-time data collection.

Governments all over the world especially in Ghana can take advantage of technology in the effective management of the forest reserves so as to;

  1. Be able to the collect real time data what is happening in our forest reserves and to formulated policies or to enact laws to prevent people from destroying to forest.
  2. Enhance access to data on our forest reserves. Accurate data is required in forecasting what the forest reserves will be like in a period of time to come and this can be made possible through ICT
  3. Curb incidents of bush burning. Bush fire is number one threat to our forest resources and food security. However, with effective and automated monitoring and warning in place, bush fires can easily be detected and prevented or controlled so as to avert its economic impact on the nation as had been the case in 1982 and 1983 and many similar repeated occurrences thereafter.

In summary, ICT has a key role to play in the future of our forest resources and that is the way to go and the nation must embrace it with all urgency required.

Investors, researchers, ICT professionals are encouraged to begin to focus on the best ways by which this important national assets can be reserved using ICT.

Elolo Alfred Konglo – Telecommunication, ICT, Electrical and Energy Engineer (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

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ArticlesInformation and Communication TechnologyToday in History

The Facebook Evolution Since…

facebook

There are very few apps that is as popular and used daily as the Facebook app. For many people it’s the next app to check after a weather app in the morning to see what’s up with the friends, family, countless number of brands they follow, and of course, news.

Millions of people use Facebook every day to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

On Wednesday, February 4, 2004, Facebook was launched, and obviously looked different from what we see today. The site looks completely different now. Facebook has come a long way since 2004. We shall take a little tour of how the site evolved.

Before it had 1 billion users, the site was available to Harvard students only—Thefacebook. It started at Harvard and slowly opened up to other colleges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg as the founder of Facebook, also described himself as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State." See the about section in the image below.

 

In 2005, this is how a group page looked like (left)… Compared to current looks of group page as at 2018 (right)…

In 2005 the company decided to drop “the” from its name, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000…

Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends’ activity in a single timeline in 2006, and in 2009, Facebook’s home page got a face-lift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real time…

 

 

 

The Facebook Timeline was launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life. Same year, Facebook also split its instant-messaging into a different app called Messenger.

Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. Facebook has acquired more than 50 companies, including WhatsApp. The WhatsApp acquisition closed at a steep $19 billion; more than $40 per user of the platform. Facebook also purchased the defunct company ConnectU in a court settlement and acquired intellectual property formerly held by rival Friendster. The majority of the companies acquired by Facebook are based in the United States. Facebook has also made investments in LuckyCal and Wildfire Interactive.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated in 2010 that “We have not once bought a company for the company. We buy companies to get excellent people… In order to have a really entrepreneurial culture one of the key things is to make sure we’re recruiting the best people. One of the ways to do this is to focus on acquiring great companies with great founders.” The Instagram acquisition, announced on 2012-04-09, appears to have been the first exception to this pattern. While continuing with a pattern of primarily talent acquisitions, other notable product focused acquisitions include the $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition and the $2 billion Oculus VR acquisition.

 

Here’s what Facebook’s News Feed looks like today…

This is what Facebook’s mobile app looked like when it first launched (left)… And over the years, the mobile app version has evolved in looks too (right)…

Today, there are roughly 2 billion smartphones in use in the world and out of that stunning number, 85% of smartphone owners use Facebook app. Among all Facebook users 47% access it via mobile. In fact about 6% of ALL digital time is spent on Facebook and this figure grows steadily.

In 2011 Facebook decided to single out a messaging feature into a standalone app – Facebook Messenger and three years later the company announced that messaging featured will be removed from Facebook app completely and so all users will have to download the Facebook Messenger app to be able to send instant messages on Facebook.

 

Today, more than 2.2 billion people use the social network every single month.

As of the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion monthly active users. In the third quarter of 2012, the number of active Facebook users had surpassed 1 billion, making it the first social network ever to do so. Active users are those which have logged in to Facebook during the last 30 days. This statistic shows a timeline with the worldwide number of monthly active Facebook users from 2008 to 2017. The platform is also the most popular social network worldwide.

By virtue of having more than a 2 billion of users, Facebook app is the one that has the most diverse user profile. It is available globally, except 10 countries where Facebook and therefore its mobile apps are banned.

Source: Statista 2018

Leading countries based on number of Facebook users as of January 2018 (in millions)

The statistic shows the leading countries ranked according to their number of Facebook users as of January 2018. During the measured period, 130 million Brazilian users were registered on the social networking site. India claimed the first place with 250 million users, ahead of second-ranked United States with 230 million Facebook users. Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide, with a global usage penetration of 22.9 percent.

Source: Statista 2018

Building Global Community

To our community,

On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we're building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?

Today we are close to taking our next step. Our greatest opportunities are now global -- like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science. Our greatest challenges also need global responses -- like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.

For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community -- for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.

MARK ZUCKERBERG·THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2017

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Information and Communication Technology

SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The Control Mechanisms

SIMBox Fraud

Introduction

A SIM box fraud is a setup in which fraudsters install SIM boxes with multiple low-cost prepaid SIM cards. The fraudster then can terminate international calls through local phone numbers in the respective country to make it appear as if the call is a local call. This way fraudsters bypass all international interconnect charges. It has become a very important area of cybercrime in the telecommunications sector in Ghana.  In our previous article entitled article “SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The way forward”, we discussed about the nature of SIM Box fraud, how it works, its effects, and some control mechanisms in Ghana. In this article, we continue with the last section of the previous article- “SIM Box Fraud Control Mechanism” We first discuss the effects of SIM Box fraud. Next, we discuss briefly about how some African countries have mitigated this type of fraud. We conclude by proposing some mitigation strategies.

Effects of SIM Box Fraud

Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) box fraud is a set up where fraudsters team up with international entities to route international calls through the internet, using voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and terminate those calls through a local phone number in Ghana to make it appear as if the call is local. This allows the box operator to bypass international rates to fraudulently undercut the prices charged by Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and evade the surtax charged by the government. This act denies telecommunications and government from benefiting from international phone calls.  Besides loss of revenue, SIM Box operators cause degradation of call quality which prevents them from meeting service level agreements for mobile hubbing traffic. Ghana, in 2016, made attempt to detect and track SIM Box fraudsters. We believe the tracking and detection activities only deter fraudsters, but it does not eradicate the problem. Administrative and technical controls must be implemented in Ghana to thwart SIM Box operations.

 Some African Countries’ Perspectives

Elsewhere in Africa, mobile operators have traditionally suffered from SIM Box fraud activities over the years, but they have successfully mitigated the risk. Countries like Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya have implemented several measures to restrain people from engaging in the act using policies. According to the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA), the country has experienced less fraud than its neighboring countries because it has a fraud management system within its International Gateway Traffic Verification System. Nigeria reduced this activity by implementing relatively less international call rate as compared to other African countries in the sub-region. The low international call rate has made SIM Box acts unfavorable for fraudsters to operate because criminals will not have high profit margins as it is in Ghana.

The huge difference in the local call termination rates compared with the international termination rates has created a loophole which has led to the loss of millions of dollars from the mobile network operators in Africa.

The way forward in Ghana

Authorities in Ghana recently made attempt to work with Afriwave to investigate fraudulent bulk SIM registration. By July 2016, about 300,000 SIM cards used in SIM Box fraud have been detected and deactivated in the first six months of test operations of Afriwave Telecom. It was reported that strategies are being implemented to include Geo-location solution which will expose the location of the equipment and their operators for confiscation and prosecution. The network operators were mandated to block all SIM card identified to be involved in SIM Box fraud activities, but these operators mostly do not block this fraud SIMs in real time or near time. We believe these mechanisms cannot prevent SIM Box operations in Ghana because they can only detect or track fraud activities. The solution must not be just tracking, blocking SIM cards and arresting the culprit. Both administrative and technical measures must be put in place to stop the act or make it less attractive.

The only plan that could probably stop or prevent SIM Box fraud in Ghana is to create an environment where the criminal will feel uncomfortable to operate. Since it is practically impossible and economically unwise to reduce the call rate for the international traffic penetration, government must implement measures to either reduce the crime rate or eradicate it entirely.

The sale of pre-paid SIM cards contributes to operation of SIM Box activities. We recommend that National Communication Authority (NCA) put measures in place to reduce the sale of pre-paid SIM cards by Ghana’s mobile telecommunication companies. NCA must sanction any network operator whose SIM is used for perpetrating crime without proper profiling. NCA must speed of the implementation of is in the process of SIM registration. Additionally, network operators need to implement an intelligent software or hardware system that can detect and report multiple name registration for onwards investigations.

NCA must task the ICH implementers to provide enhanced bypassed traffic detection and location-aware system. This system has the capability to identify fraudulent VoIP calls (in real-time) and provides the GPS coordinates for the exact location of the SIM Box.  The proposed intelligent solution could be software or hardware device programmed to intelligently detect cases in real-time and then enforce immediate blocking of the SIMs detected. Real-time information of any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity can be instantly identified and brought under control so that financial losses are avoided. Further, there must be automation of fraud detection process, implementation of organizational standards, customized policies, rules, and thresholds (with fraud management system) which is built around NCA’s specific needs and operational requirement. Government must ensure that the law enforcement agencies, NCA, Network operators and ICH collaborate to affect an arrest of the perpetrators in near real time.

These measures, when implemented appropriately, have the tendency of providing a lasting solution to the SIM Box fraud in Ghana.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

 

 

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ArticlesIIPGHInformation and Communication Technology

SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The Way Forward

SIMBox Fraud

Introduction

Cybercrime and cyber-fraud activities are on the rise in recent times. SIM Box fraud is just one of the ways cyber fraudsters earn quick money. It has become a very important area of cybercrime in the telecommunications sector in Ghana. This article touches on the nature of SIM Box fraud, how it works, its effects, and some control mechanisms in Ghana.

SIM Box Fraud and How It Works

The SIM Box fraud generally is a technical concept which is implemented to reroute or bypass international traffic channels from one country to a SIM Box device in another country. The victims are mobile users who receive calls from abroad. When someone receives a call from abroad and the recipient sees a local phone number on the phone screen, then it means that call was routed through a SIM box.
Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-box is a device with several ports for SIM cards. The name SIM BOX was derived from an electronic device which has several ports for SIM cards. The entire box could hold between 100 to 1000 SIM cards. We use the diagram below to explain how SIM Box fraud works.

 

 

 

The flow of international and local call traffic. 

When a caller initiates a call in country A, the call is carried through the internet (also known as voice over IP- VoIP), the caller will be redirected (rerouted) through the SIM Box to the recipient in B Ghana. The call appears like a local call to the recipient in Ghana.

How the Fraudsters Make Money

SIM Box fraud is a lucrative business because the fraudsters receive the international charges for the unapproved calls. The network operator whose SIM cards were used to terminate the calls in Ghana only get paid for a local call rate because the call was rerouted through a local SIM card. Most people ask how these fraudsters get paid for their criminal activities. For instance, if a caller initiates a call in country A (in above diagram), the person pays $0.88 to the network operator in country A. The network operator keeps $0.63 and pays the international traffic carrier $0.25. The international traffic carrier keeps $0.06 and pays $0.19 to the local network operator in Ghana. The local network operator keeps $0.13 and pays $0.06 to the destination country (National Communications Authority -NCA for Ghana). If the international traffic is routed through a SIM Box, the $0.19 will go to the fraudsters who will then pay a local call rate to the network operator in Ghana.

Causes of SIM Box Fraud

Many SIM Box fraudsters have been arrested and prosecuted, but the activities are on the rise.
Besides the huge financial gain in the business, there are other two reasons for the surge and persistence of this type of fraud in Ghana. The first is the use of pre-paid SIM cards which is commonly used by the fraudsters. Their ownership and address are much harder to trace compared to the easily traceable post-paid SIMs. Secondly, the problem is prevalent in countries where the incoming international traffic rates are high. These are the identified areas which entice SIM Box operators to be firmly rooted in the business.

Impacts of SIM Box Fraud Activities

SIM Box fraud has created serious privacy challenge to the users and local government-especially where (local) governments want to know who made certain calls to whom and from where. The extent of revenue loss to SIM Box activity is so huge and it has been classified among the top 5 emerging threats to in the telecommunications industry. Cellular network operators lose about 3% of the annual revenue due to fraudulent and illegal services. Juniper Research estimated the total losses from the underground mobile network industry to be $58 billion in 2011. Ghana has experienced several SIM Box fraudulent activities since 2010 and it is estimated that Ghana has lost close to $100 million.

SIM Box Fraud Control Mechanism

The NCA must sanitize the communication industry as a preventive measure to deter fraudsters from having pre-registered SIM and provision of fake personal data for registration. This, if implemented properly, may reduce the incidence of SIM Box fraud. NCA must also ensure that the network operators implement an efficient registration mechanism to commence the SIM registration as soon as possible. Additionally, the $0.19 international call and network operator’s rates are too exorbitant (attracting criminals) and must be reduced. Ghanaian network operators must reduce the rate of $0.13 to $0.06 to discourage SIM Box fraud activities.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

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