The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Tuesday launched the Sanchar Saathi portal, which enables people across India to track and block their lost or stolen mobile phones. Through this portal, people can also verify the authenticity of used devices before making a purchase, and track how many numbers are associated with their identity without their knowledge.
Key sections of the portal include the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) regarding blocking and tracking of phones, ‘Know Your Mobile’ feature that allows users to verify the authenticity of second-hand mobile phones, and the TAFCOP (Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection) facility to check numbers associated with an identity.
“Various frauds such as identity theft, forged KYC and banking frauds can take place by misusing mobile phones. This portal has been developed to prevent such fraud. User safety is also an important part of the draft Telecom bill,” communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.
“The reforms announced today will help control the increasing trend of cyber frauds,” he said, adding that two more citizen-centric reforms will be announced by the government going forward.
If a mobile phone is lost, users can visit the portal, submit their device’s IMEI number, complete an identity verification process, and the portal will then coordinate with law enforcement agencies and telecom service providers to block the lost mobile phone. The Sanchar Saathi portal and related facilities have been developed by C-DoT, the technology development arm of DoT.
Vaishnaw also said that the government is currently using AI and facial recognition for telecom SIM subscriber verification (ASTR) technology to identify fraudulent SIM cards and block them.
Using ASTR, DoT has so far detected around 4.1 million suspected mobile connections. After due verification, 3.7 million connections have already been disconnected, and the remaining is under process, the government said.
On the increase in fraudulent activities on WhatsApp, the government is in touch with Whatsapp’s parent company, Meta, which has agreed to deactivate services linked to any mobile phone number involved in fraudulent activities. “OTT platforms are also cooperating by deregistering users identified as fraudsters,” Vaishnaw said.
“We have been actively engaging with the government to consistently ensure a safe and secure user experience, including weeding out bad actors from the platform. WhatsApp is a leader among end-to-end encrypted services in protecting user safety and we continue to provide several in-built safety tools like Block & Report, Two-step verification, among others, along with regularly driving user safety education and awareness,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
In April, FE reported that DoT will soon come up with KYC reforms for SIM cards as per which it will reduce the number of SIM cards issued on a single ID to four from the current nine. Similarly, the government is also working towards strengthening the point of sales from which fake SIM cards get sold through penalties.