Pakistan turns to fingerprint liveness detection to shut down fraudulent SIM business
Stolen fingerprints in Pakistan have pushed the government to deploy live finger detectors.
Government regulator the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority will use the biometric devices specifically for issuing mobile device SIM cards. Fraudulent SIM cards hide the identity of a device’s owner.
Pakistan began enforcing SIM ownership in 2008 using biometric verification. At the time, would-be buyers provided their national ID number and a fingerprint.
The publication ProPakistani reports that there are more than 300,000 older government-approved biometric verification devices nationwide. Each will be replaced with the live detection version.
There reportedly are around 700,000 active fake SIM cards in the country. Most false prints come from deceased individuals. Others are from official documents such as voter cards, sometimes obtained through collusion with insiders.
When Pakistan launched its biometric SIM registry, the idea was still somewhat novel. Since then, other countries such as Nigeria, Bangladesh and more than a dozen others have followed suit, like Pakistan hoping to cut down on crimes carried out under the anonymity provided by mobile phones. A similar proposal has met with staunch resistance in Mexico.
Liveness and presentation attack detection for fingerprint biometrics have likewise advanced significantly in recent years, as shown by the participation of more than a dozen technology providers in the LivDet challenge.
Pakistan appears to be the first nation to deploy fingerprint liveness detection for SIM registration.
The stakes for weeding out fraudulent SIM cards are made even higher by a plan to launch digital wallets based on the biometric SIM registry, in an effort to improve financial inclusion.