Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A WTF to the start the year.

[Every once in a while a news story comes along that makes you wonder...]

According to TechCentral :-

Thieves steal Sim cards from Jo’burg traffic lights
"The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) suspects that a syndicate is stealing Sim cards from the city’s hi-tech traffic lights, and using them to run up phone bills."

The article goes on to say "If all 400 traffic lights need to be repaired due to theft and vandalism, it could cost about R8,8m."

So, the big question is why the JRA used normal SIM cards in their traffic lights. It was probably a cost cutting method so they can just get them off the shelf but it is backfiring for them. 

A comment in the article says to glue the SIM cards in place or use resin but this doesn't seem like a great idea as it would be almost impossible to replace a SIM card that is faulty. 

Maybe the answer for the JRA is to react fast. As soon as a traffic light stops reporting to the central server (which is what these SIMS are used for) then move to disable the SIM immediately. Send a team to the light to assess and re-enable it if it is a false positive. 

Another comment was about using PIN codes. But these would end up either being easy to guess "1234" "0000" etc; well known "Jack the JRA last week, now we need to redo all 400 PIN codes" or a mission to manage "Did anyone see the spreadsheet with PIN codes?" Even 1 PIN number is too much for some people to manage. 

It seems that the SIM cards are well protected in the traffic lights because it takes the scum thieves a lot of destructive work to get to them so that is not a deterrent. The only option I can think of is to make the SIM cards useless to anyone but the JRA either by using special cards or by the above "react quickly" method. 

Surely these SIM cards must be connecting to a private APN. (This is the gov. so this assumption is not a certainty). In which case they should have been disabled on the normal GSM APN. Problem solved. 

One wonders how much the cellphone bills that were clocked up came to.