Monkeys bypass Philippines new SIM registration system

13 September 2023

The Philippines National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) found a flaw in the country’s new SIM registration system, by using a photo of an animal to successfully register for a SIM card.

NBI Cybercrime division chief Jeremy Lotoc detailed in a senate hearing the bureau tried to register for SIM cards with several operators in September as part of its investigation. The bureau used a picture of a monkey under different names, finding it easy to fabricate a government ID card online with any picture. It did not disclose which operators it was able to gain approval from.

Globe Telecom head of policy Ariel Tubayan said it would be easier for telcos to use a fully implemented national ID system with biometrics to prevent such fraudulent activity.

“That’s the best practice and all countries that have implemented SIM registration — they have slotted first the national ID before they went into SIM registration,” said Tubayan.

DITO Telecommunity said that its SIM registration portal would not permit a picture of an animal to be processed.

Smart Communication head of regulatory affairs Roy Ibay said that it will investigate similar cases in its systems, and that glitches may occur in its optical character recognition technology, particularly with the rush to make the SIM registration deadline.

Senator Grace Poe said the blame does not lie with one party and that nations are in a constant race to keep up with rapidly developing technologies, but admitted it was “insult to injury” to see a picture of a smiling monkey bypass systems.

Poe pushed for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to amend the implementing rules and regulations of the SIM Registration Act. NTC commissioner Ella Lopez said the body will comply and add the new issues in the reformation of the SIM Registration Act.

DITO and Smart have already submitted proposals to the NTC for the post-registration validation mechanism.

Since 3 September there have been 118,908,469 registered SIMs nationwide, and the commission received 45,697 complaints related to scams.