Are your mobile phone bills unexpectedly high? There?s a chance you are the victim of ??mobile cloning??. It is also known as cell phone piracy and has been taking place throughout the world since decades. Recently this crime has come to India.
Mobile phones have become a major part of our everyday life. On the one hand, India?s mobile phone market has grown rapidly in the last few years on the back of falling phone tariffs and handset prices, making it one of the fastest growing markets globally. On the other the number of mobile phone subscribers is exceeding that of fixed-line users. The mobile phone subscriber base has already crossed the 50-mn mark.
Today millions of mobile phones users, be it Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), run the risk of having their phones cloned. And the worst part is that there isn?t much that you can do to prevent this.
Such crime first came to light in January 2005 when the Delhi police arrested a person with 20 cell phones, a laptop, a SIM scanner, and a writer. The accused was running an exchange illegally wherein he cloned CDMA-based mobile phones. He used software for the cloning and provided cheap international calls to Indian immigrants in West Asia. A similar racket came to light in Mumbai resulting in the arrest of four mobile dealers
While mobile cloning is an emerging threat for Indian subscribers, it has been happening in other telecom markets since the 1990s, though mostly with regard to CDMA phones. Pleas in an US District Court in 1997 effectively ended West Texas authorities' first case of `phone cloning.' Authorities in the case estimated the loss at $3,000 to $4,000 for each number used. Southwestern Bell claims wireless fraud costs the industry $650 million each year in the US. Some federal agents in the US have called phone cloning an especially `popular' crime because it is hard to trace. Back home, police officers say the Yasin case is just the tip of the iceberg and have asked operators to improve their technology. But the operators claim they can't do much for now. "It's like stealing cars or duplicating credit card numbers. The service providers cannot do much except keep track of the billing pattern of the users. But since the billing cycle is monthly, the damage is done by the time we can detect the mischief," says a Reliance executive.
Qualcomm, which develops CDMA technology globally, says each instance of mobile hacking is different and therefore there is very little an operator can do to prevent hacking. "It's like a virus hitting the computer. Each software used to hack into the network is different, so operators can only keep upgrading their security firewall as and when the hackers strike," says a Qualcomm executive.
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