Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)’s Director,Licensing,Compliance and Standards (LCS) Mr.Christopher Kemei explains how a SIM BOX that was  discovered in an illegal facility works. RIGHT: Some of SIM cards discovered at the facility.

The Authority today raided the premises of an illegal SIM BOX operator in Nairobi, confiscating hundreds of SIM cards and equipment used to terminate international calls.

The SIM BOX scam is one of wider syndicate that is denying the Kenyan government revenue, while mobile operators are losing millions of shillings as a result of the illegal business.

Enforcement officers from the Authority in the company of security officers raided the offices of Asterisk Technologies and established the extent the fraudsters had gone to subvert the surveillance systems to establish such a network.

The crackdown was a major breakthrough for the Authority as it heightens surveillance in the ICT sector.

‘‘After our investigations in consultations with the Police and relevant players in the telecommunications sector, we have confirmed that indeed certain individuals were carrying out illegal activities with regards to international telephone traffic termination using equipment popularly known as SIMBOX,’’ said CA DG Mr. Francis Wangusi in a Press statement read by Mr. Christopher Kemei, the Director, Licensing, Compliance and Standards soon after the sting operation.

An illegal SIMBOX operator, in a bid to avoid detection, often manipulates the calling line identification (CLI) thereby presenting a major security concern since it is difficult to trace such calls, added Mr. Wangusi.

With the termination charges for international calls being higher than those for local termination, the fraudsters thrive in this vice by re-routing international calls through the Internet and dumping them on the local networks disguised as local calls and cashing on the termination price margins.

The raid is one of the many enforcement actions that the Authority continues to undertake in efforts to rid the ICT industry of such fraudsters, which are also a security risk since the calls are not easily traced.

Further investigations are ongoing to establish if the SIM cards are registered and in whose name as the Authority seeks answers to this menace that, it is feared, may rope in the mobile operators.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Wangusi warned mobile operators of stiff punitive measures against those found to be colluding with the fraudsters.

"This is not going to leave the operators (telecoms) off the hook. They are the ones that provide those lines and are required to help in monitoring activity on those lines," said Mr. Wangusi.

A SIMBOX is a device used as part of a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateway installation and contains a number of SIM cards, which are linked to the gateway but housed and stored separately from it. A SIMBOX can have SIM cards of different mobile operators installed, permitting it to operate with several GSM gateways located in different places.

Over the past ten years, the Authority has undertaken a number of interventions to rid the sector of this menace including the requirement that each network operator procures a SIMBOX detection tool capable of identifying SIM boxing activities.

The Authority has also advised operators to exchange information relating to such activities to prevent illegal operators from moving from one operator to another.

Additionally, the Authority also has in place VoIP guidelines that provide for explicit interconnection arrangements between duly licensed operators to facilitate legal VoIP traffic exchange or termination.