How biometrics strengthen SIM card registration

September 28, 2023    |    4 minute read

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Mobile devices have become an indispensable part of our lives, connecting us to the world and empowering us with countless capabilities. They serve as gateways to online services, allowing us to pay bills, shop, and even run e-commerce businesses. However, with this widespread adoption comes the need for enhanced security. According to The Mobile Economy 2023 survey by GSMA, the estimated global smartphone penetration rate in 2022 was 68%, up from 67% for the first time since 2018. 

This need for improved security especially applies when it comes to the small but powerful piece of technology within our mobile devices: the SIM card. 

The Significance of SIM Cards

Every mobile device contains a physical SIM card, a tiny but crucial smart card that stores an owner’s unique identification number and personal data. It serves as a security barrier, preventing unauthorized usage when removed. And many people opt for the purchase of a SIM card to access mobile telephony and data services on a pay-as-you-go basis, as opposed to subscribing to long-term contracts. The appeal of this service model lies in its affordability, flexibility, and convenience, making it the choice of the vast majority of users.  

On the flip side, prepaid SIM cards (pay-as-you-go) are also attractive to individuals with malicious intentions who seek the benefits of the potential anonymity afforded by the prepaid model to exploit the mobile network for fraudulent, criminal, or even terrorist activities. So, unfortunately, the prevalence of prepaid SIM cards has given rise to a concerning global trend: SIM swap fraud. 

What is SIM Swap Fraud?

SIM swap fraud, aka a SIM swap scam or SIM swapping, is a malicious practice in which a fraudster gains control of someone’s phone number by convincing the victim’s mobile phone company that they are the legitimate SIM card owner. Once successful, the hacker gains access to the victim’s sensitive data and can bypass multi-factor authentication, which often relies on SMS code verification. 

What is SIM Card Registration?

Many countries around the globe have responded to the SIM swap fraud epidemic by mandating SIM card registration. Under these regulations, wireless operators must collect personal information when selling prepaid SIM cards and maintain records, sharing this information with government agencies as needed. A subset of these countries also perform a biometric search as part of their registration process. 

One significant hurdle in the process of SIM card registration is spoofing, as it involves the falsification of identity information and biometrics during the enrollment process. For instance, fraudsters may attempt to capture biometric facial images using videos or photographs instead of real-time, live images. 

How Do Biometrics Help Prevent SIM Swap Fraud?

One part of addressing the challenge of SIM swap fraud involves the implementation of robust biometric solutions with spoof detection measures. The second part is the enforcement of best practices throughout the enrollment process. 

Certain governments have taken a proactive stance by imposing stringent requirements on mobile operators. In addition to mandating the collection of biometrics, they stipulate that the quality of the captured biometric data must adhere to international standards. Furthermore, these governments require mobile operators to ensure that the biometric data collected is of a sufficiently high quality, facilitating its utilization in biometric searches against criminal or terrorist watch lists as part of background checks. 

Biometric technology has gained rapid adoption across various industries for use cases like SIM swap fraud due to its ability to provide stronger authentication methods. It revolves around unique human characteristics such as facial features, fingerprints, palm prints, voice, iris, or retina patterns. Since these traits are inherently unique to each individual, biometrics offers a more secure method for identity verification compared to traditional means like passwords and PINs. Additionally, biometric authentication can cater to the growing demand for contactless solutions, ensuring a user-friendly experience, even when done remotely.  

Biometric Solutions with Robust Spoof Detection

Does liveness detection sound like something your business could benefit from? Here are a few solutions to consider… 

Knomi, Aware’s mobile biometric authentication framework which provides secure and convenient facial and speaker recognition for mobile, multifactor authentication, also includes robust spoof detection. Additional features include:  

  • Passive approach to minimize user friction and maximize usability 
  • Advanced machine learning AI algorithms for unmatched liveness accuracy 
  • Solutions for onboarding, authentication, and document verification 
  • Browser-based options for rapid onboarding 

AwareID also offers spoof detection in a lightning-fast identity verification, multi-factor authentication and biometrics in a single, low-code platform. AwareID’s cloud-based platform provides a functional offering from the start, combining automation with trust so you can continuously authenticate while increasing efficiency and lowering costs. 

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