It is literally a child’s play getting a false UK passport, Frederick Forsyth said in 1972. In his bestselling thriller, The Day of the Jackal the protagonist used the birth certificate of a dead child to obtain a fake passport. Thirty two years later, BBC was not sure the loophole was plugged or not. Not sure how many mercenaries still benefit.
The UK passport cannot be the only document an interested party can manipulate. This issue is particularly interesting to Sri Lankan mobile owners, as the regulator now wants users to prove mobile ownership at omnipresent checkpoints to ensure ‘National Security’
While Tigo will be issuing a loyalty card bundled with an ownership certificate, Dialog GSM today announced a more tech-savvy approach. As claimed by a full page advertisement in Lankadeepa (see above) instead of issuing ‘paper certificates’ Dialog offers a way to check the owner of a phone. Dial #132# and pronto, you get all information needed; customers name, National Identity Card Number, Mobile Number and certificate code.
Great. This is not different from what we suggested earlier. It saves money, time and of course, trees. Use technology to its best. (But please remember to regularly charge your battery. A low battery signal might land you in jail because you are not be unable to prove ownership)
The bigger questions are with the proposed ‘Re-registration’ process. (Though not applicable for everybody) The request by Dialog for customer with ‘incorrect’ information to re-register indicates that their database is incomplete. Isn’t it possible for anyone to manipulate the process? Cannot somebody use a forged NIC to re-register? What guarantee Dialog has that somebody does not re-register a stolen SIM to his/her name because its present customer database is incomplete?
Far bigger questions. Is TRC happy with operators selecting their own modes to comply with its new regulation? Are policemen/women properly instructed about these different modes? Will they insist on certificates when operator does not provide any? Can the police differentiate between a loyalty card (which doubles as a mobile ownership certificate) and any other plastic card (which has the customer name). What guarantee does the TRC have that these certificates cannot be forged, particularly if it is a plastic card with no high security features? (Cannot assume operators want to issue sophisticated cards for millions of customers on their account, for something they do not benefit from)
The fictitious mercenary in Forsyth’s novel was able to reach France on a false passport and almost succeed in assassinating Charles De Gaulle. Agreed, that is fiction. With a system with so many loopholes can the outcome be far different?