In 2018, US authorities arrested several men suspected of “SIM swapping”. It’s a fraud which consist in hijacking phone numbers and using them to hack other personal accounts such as mail adress, social media and most of all : online cryptocurrency wallets.
The fraud is known by the authorities for a while, but for the first time, a person has been sentenced for the crime. Last January, the US american citizen Joel Ortiz pleaded guilty for SIM swapping. He was accused of stealing more than 5 millions dollars in cryptocurrency by hijacking the phone numbers of approximatively 40 victims. The website Motherboard, quoting Erin West, the Deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara County, California, explained that the young student accepted a plea deal of 10 years in prison.
What is “SIM swapping” ?
It is a term which refers to “theft” someone’s phone number. In fact, this phone number is attached to a SIM card that identifies and allows you to connect to public telephone networks. The fraud is simple : a hacker contacts your operator and pretends to be you. Then, he asks for your phone number to be activated on his new SIM card, which he already possesses.
Why SIM swapp ?
To protect social media accounts, users are are invited to activate what is called a : “double authentification”. Once you entered your password, you need to go through a verification procedure that send you a temporary code on your phone. However, by hijacking your phone number, the hacker receive the code, and don’t even have to break your facebook account to take control of it.
How to protect yourself ?
In order to prevent and protect yourself against the treat of hackers, Motherboard wrote a guide. The website advises us to harden our telephone operator accounts, by adding passcodes. They are also recommending to remove our phone number to every online accounts that could interest hackers.