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NBI uses monkey photo on ID to register SIM card

Senators have expressed disappointment with telecommunication regulators after learning that the National Bureau of Investigation successfully registered a subscriber identity module (SIM) using a photo of a monkey.

The lawmakers are now planning to amend the implementing rules and regulations of the SIM Registration Act.

Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the committee on public services, asked what identification card the NBI team used.

MONKEY BUSINESS. In this screengrab from an NBI presentation at the Senate on Wednesday, a picture of a monkey is placed inside a Philhealth ID, proving it was easy to fake a registration for a SIM card as required by law.

NBI Cybercrime Division chief Jeremy Lotoc said they tried to register SIMs bought from different telecommunications companies as part of their investigation. He added it is easy to craft government IDs online and just put a picture on it.

Lotoc said they entered the face of the monkey and different names, and it was still accepted for registration Poe requested the cooperation of the National Telecommunications Commission to amend the SIM Registration Act rules, with Commissioner Ella Lopez promising compliance and addressing spurious registration issues in the post-registration validation mechanism.

Previously, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it confiscated a large number of illegal China-made “text blast” machines used by organized syndicates for text scams via mobile phone messaging.

This developed as the PLDT Group vowed to support two bills — one in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate – that will strengthen the country’s current laws on cybercrime and imprison individuals who act as “mules” in the commission of cybercrimes.

“Many” of the text blast machines were confiscated, DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said in a Viber message to reporters, without indicating a number. “They are not legal unless the NTC approves it.”

He added that it is “challenging” to confiscate some of the text blast machines because “some of them are owned by local politicians.”

Uy did not mention which politicians owned such machines, which were used as recently as the 2022 national and local elections.

DICT Undersecretary Alexander Ramos said the text blast machines are typically connected to a computer or laptop and send random text messages to a series of numbers.

Ramons said these machines are now being sold at low prices.

Uy earlier blamed the continued “smishing” (SMS phishing) and text scams on organized syndicates that are buying pre-registered SIM cards from people willing to sell them.

“These people have little regard for protecting their identity or credentials, which is mostly from poor communities,” Uy said.

“At the same time, the syndicates have also shifted to OTT (over the top) platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger,” he added.

Globe Telecom Inc. earlier reported that it blocked 2.2 billion spam messages from January to June, a nearly four-fold increase from the 615.01 million it logged in the same period last year. In 2022, Globe said it blocked 2.72 billion spam messages.

PLDT Group, on the other hand, recorded a seven-fold jump in monthly blocked SIMs to more than 35,000 as of July 2023 from under 5,000 in 2020. In July alone, it blocked more than seven million phishing messages.

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