Prelims cum Mains Security Issues

Virtual SIMs used in Pulwama terror attack; India to approach US for help

Topic in News

  • Virtual SIM used in Pulwama attack


News Summary

  • Forensic data from the terror site in the aftermath of Pulwama has revealed that the JeM suicide bomber used a ‘Virtual SIM’ to constantly interact with the masterminds in Pakistan.
  • The Virtual SIM used by the suicide bomber was generated by a service provider of USA.
  • India has requested the USA to assist with the details of the call trails of the Virtual SIM used by the suicide bomber.


In focus: Virtual SIM

Basics: Working of SIM

  • A traditional physical SIM card is simply a means to identify an end user using mobile telephone services.
  • It usually stores the identity data of the end user (mobile number) associated with a particular operator (service provider).
  • Illustration:
    • When you want to use a mobile network from Airtel, you enter into a contract with Airtel who issue a physical SIM card to you.
    • The SIM card issued by Airtel stores data of the end user and operator (mobile number and other data) that enables you to connect to the Airtel’s network.


Virtual SIM: Working Principle

  • In case of Virtual SIM, there is no physical SIM card issued to the end user.
  • Instead the mobile phones are embedded with a universal SIM card that can be configured to store data of any operator. (Note: In the traditional SIMs the SIM card stores data only of a particular operator)
  • This enables remote SIM provisioning, which simply means that one may connect to any operator of choice remotely without actually having to buy a physical SIM card.
  • To enable remote SIM provisioning, you will be authenticated by the operator (say Airtel) using say a QR Code sent to you or other means.
  • Further the information on Virtual SIM is rewritable which means you can decide to change operator.
  • Further the smart phone can have ‘multiple virtual SIM’ facilities



New Modus Operandi

  • The multiple e-SIMs has made it easier for travelers who may use multiple networks using a roaming e-sim along with their home-based operator.
  • This makes it vulnerable for misuse by terror outfits to use operators of one country for terror operations in another country.
  • This makes the process of tracing the phone call time-intensive and involves interaction between two sovereign countries and therefore cumbersome.

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