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Embedded SIM Design Means No More Swapping Cards 192

Posted by timothy
from the but-watch-for-the-new-skimmers dept.
judgecorp writes "A new remotely-programmable embedded SIM design from the GSMA operators' group means that devices can be operated on the Internet of things and won't have to be opened up to have their SIM card changed if they move to a different operator. The design could speed up embedded applications."
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Embedded SIM Design Means No More Swapping Cards

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  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:43PM (#45739165)

    why is this needed?

    • Re:why? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:45PM (#45739193)

      Because nano-sim is too big for Apple users because it's still bigger than their penises.

    • Re:why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:50PM (#45739275)

      waterproof phones? My Motorola Defy is good and all, but those rubber plugs and the seal around the battery cover can only take 1M of water pressure.

      • the rubber isn't there to protect the sim card... unless they permanently embed the battery, you're still in the same boat.

        • I think the issue occurs when one is out of the boat here.. In the boat is fine.

        • Yeah but if you're still in the same boat then you're on water and still need a waterproof phone, so you're back to square one.

        • The rubber plugs are for the USB and headphone sockets.
          When was the last time you saw an iPhone with a MicroSD card slot or replaceable battery?
          If there was no MicroSD card, SIM card and no replaceable battery, there would be no need for the removable back cover, that tends to fall off every now and then after two years of use.

          Head phones can be replaced with bluetooth, charging can be done wirelessly, plugs can be made water proof.

          The mic, speaker and vol/power buttons are already waterproof.

      • by puto (533470)
        My Defy has gone down 20 feet with no problem.
      • by Hentes (2461350)

        That much water would block the signal anyway, what's the point of bringing a phone underwater?

        • by MiniMike (234881)

          To take cruddy underwater pictures?

          I always thought that the main benefit of waterproof phones is not to enable underwater use, but to protect against accidental plunges.

          • by anagama (611277)

            The thing is, everyone makes their phones as thin and dense as possible. Which means they sink like a stone. A couple months ago, I watched a person pull a stocking hat out of his coat pocket ... the same pocket his iPhone was in ... a fraction of a second later, there's a sickening little splash sound and a short time after that, the realization that his phone had become lodged in marina muck under 15 ft of saltwater. Unless the phone floats, accidental plunges only protects against toilets and mud pudd

        • So if it gets wet it doesn't stop working.

      • by TeknoHog (164938)

        waterproof phones? My Motorola Defy is good and all, but those rubber plugs and the seal around the battery cover can only take 1M of water pressure.

        Oh yeah? Well mine can take 55.56 M of water concentration. I'm not sure about the pressure/depth though...

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Well one reason I would like this is that the nano SIMs in a lot of current phones are simply too tiny to easily change while on a plane. I travel for work to several different countries and have a local SIM for each. Trying to manipulate and swap out those tiny SIMs while cramped up into an aeroplane seat sucks.

      I could wait until I arrive I suppose, but it's something useful to do while you have dead time on the plane, plus there usually isn't a good place to do it when you arrive and are herded into the i

    • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wycliffe (116160) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:03PM (#45739461) Homepage

      Not only why? But I don't want it. This seems like a huge step backwards for consumers. One of the great things
      about GSM vs CDMA is the ability to move a phone from carrier to carrier or a number from phone to phone. I don't
      want an embedded sim that only the carrier can change and I can't swap to a different handset or carrier. Some
      things I routinely do are swap a sim when in a foreign country or put my sim into an old cheap phone when I take
      it to the beach or if my phone is acting up, dies, or needs to be charged.

      • Not only why? But I don't want it. This seems like a huge step backwards for consumers. One of the great things
        about GSM vs CDMA is the ability to move a phone from carrier to carrier or a number from phone to phone. I don't
        want an embedded sim that only the carrier can change and I can't swap to a different handset or carrier. Some
        things I routinely do are swap a sim when in a foreign country or put my sim into an old cheap phone when I take
        it to the beach or if my phone is acting up, dies, or needs to be charged.

        Good thing it isn't intended for consumers, then. Look, I know this is Slashdot and it isn't cool to RTFA, but, really, from TFA:

        Despite the convenience of over-the-air management, the GSMA says the embedded design is not meant to replace conventional SIM cards, even though this exact idea was floated when ETSI was deciding on the future of the nano-SIM in 2012.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        " I don't want an embedded sim that only the carrier can change ..."

        They wish.

    • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:09PM (#45739513) Journal

      So that you have to replace your entire phone if you have a bad sim.

      I'm not sure how that's a good thing, but I'm guessing the carriers didn't think about that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      RTFA. They're not talking about phones; they're talking about assorted Internet-of-Things devices--how your toaster and your microwave talk to your Roomba.

      Do you want your smart electric meter to stop talking to your electric company because they're switching network standards and don't have time to send a technician to change SIM chips in every meter in the city? With this, your meter can be reprogrammed to connect to an updated network without a service call to your house.

      Of course, if someone hacks the

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:43PM (#45739167)

    Compared to a hard wired chip, we got something controlled by software. And a lot of Devices that likes to be jail braked.

    • by Carewolf (581105)

      The point is that in many places it is not legal to put in a phone "in jail" in the first place. So if they want to get rid of physical SIM card they need a non-physical way of changing the phone to a different provider on the fly.

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:44PM (#45739189) Journal
    Sounds good in theory, just so long as the "remote provisioning" can be handled by the user of the device, and the user doesn't have to ask permission from anyone.
    • Considering that they explicitly say: " ... remotely assigned to a network. This information can be subsequently modified over-the-air, as many times as necessary.", odds are that this will be a repeat of the procedures followed on CDMA networks where it is entirely the Carrier to take care of a change, and who can choose not to should they not sell/support the device you wish to use.
    • I'd like it as if it was just:

      Settings > Networks:
      Set phone network to use.
      Set phone number to use (identity on the network).
      Set passphrase to use (probably a key given by the network, like PUK code).
      Connect to network.

      Ooooo OAuth2 like would be interdasting.

      • It's a bit more complicated than that since all the carriers in the US use wildly different frequency bands. I've got a Lenovo S750 (waterproof and all that) thatI love, but can't get over 2G speeds due to all the spectrum issues in the US. Also, it has TWO sim cards so I can be on multiple networks at once. Lucky for me I'm usually in range of wifi so its not really a problem. Streaming pandora while I drive down the road is about the only thing I miss, and I didnt do that much anyway.

        • And I thought phones these days were packed with multi-frequency band capabilities to allow that crap.

          Or at least to make it cheaper for device manufacturer by selling one phone capable for all networks. But hey, I don't know the US mobile landscape.

      • by fisted (2295862)

        OAuth2 like would be interdasting.

        Would it? Well, OAuth's lead designer politely disagrees [hueniverse.com]

    • by icebike (68054)

      Sounds good in theory, just so long as the "remote provisioning" can be handled by the user of the device, and the user doesn't have to ask permission from anyone.

      Don't be silly, it is precisely that capability which the carriers want to eliminate.
      There is nothing wrong with SIMs. You know when you change out your sim card that your ties with the prior carrier are interrupted. Who knows what information this scheme will provide to your prior carrier, or government monitors.

      This seems more likely to provide protection for Government wire tapping than any benefit to the user.

      • Don't be silly, it is precisely that capability which the carriers want to eliminate.

        Yeah, if *you're* not controlling the access to the SIM module, then *somebody else* is. If anybody can think of a secure way to make this happen without the user losing control, please leave a comment.

  • Neat, an audit trail that follows you, forever.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Neat, an audit trail that follows you, forever.

      A wiretap that follows you around as well.

    • There already is one.
      The phone already has a unique ID as well (that you aren't supposed to be able to change, and in some countries is illegal to do so because its used to black list stolen phones), called the IMEI number. The SIM card has an IMSI number.

  • This also means that users can no longer swap the SIM card to move a device between carriers (e.g. putting in a local SIM when traveling). I doubt that the carriers are going to make this easily changed by users, since it means less lock-in.

    • It also means that you have to go through your carrier to change your device. Regardless of where or how you obtain your device you will always have to go down to your local shop and have them push the config.
  • Internet of Things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rogueippacket (1977626) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:51PM (#45739289)
    This buzzword annoys me even more than Cloud. Cloud has more or less become common vernacular for describing Internet-connected servers which you may or may not own, but the term Internet of Things seems to imply that a) there were no "things" on the Internet before now and b) the "old Internet" simply isn't hip enough to run more devices, and you should be clambering all over a vendor to be a part of it. Ugh.
    • by vux984 (928602)

      cloud was inevitable; every network diagram I've ever seen always represented the internet as a "cloud".

      I've always thought it was perfectly approrpriate too. Its a relatively opaque morphous network outside of your direct control, there's "stuff" in it, you can connect to but you don't really know what or where it is.

      And cloud storage and cloud compute etc is literally moving those servers on those diagrams INTO the cloud. :)

      So cloud doesn't bug me as a term at all. As a trend it offends me greatly, since

    • by sir-gold (949031)

      There were no "things" on the internet until recently, there were only computers.

  • I can see the utility, but this seems like a security issue. Isn't one of the purposes of the SIM to provide a physical identity chip? Why does it need to be programmable? Shouldn't you just say 'this SIM now has access to this network'?

    I probably just don't understand the function of a SIM card well enough to get the significance of this. Can someone clarify? I am not 5, FYI, and I can understand multi-syllabic words.

  • by neorush (1103917) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:56PM (#45739357) Homepage
    How long before the market for phone serials are is just as big as credit card data. I would imagine this technology be jail broken in hours and then the bad guys can easily change phone numbers. Imagining being able to change phones in-between calls, or how about randomly using a stolen one...that said, I do feel moving this to software is a good idea. As long as I can switch carriers as easy as the carriers can switch it.
  • by CokoBWare (584686) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:59PM (#45739405)

    I view this as bad for a number of reasons:

    1. Normally, when you have service, it's attached to the SIM, not the phone. With this new embedded SIM model, this goes away. Your service is attached to the phone. Bad.
    2. Remotely programmable means that it will be even easier for hackers to fuck with your phone. Bad.
    3. Your phone is really no longer your phone. The carrier will have ultimate jurisdiction over the phone, unless you pull the battery. Bad.
    4. If I lose or seriously damage my phone, my SIM is gone, and I HAVE to buy a new phone and activate it again. Bad.

    I won't want a phone like this if this is how the carriers want to do business. I'll keep my removable SIM card thank you very much.

    • by mlts (1038732)

      You hit the nail on the head. With CDMA providers, unless you buy the device from them, AFAIK, they won't allow it on the network. With GSM providers, if you had an unlocked device with the proper antenna bands, it would work without issue, and just swapping the SIM did the job. No calling up and pleading for permission to use the device, just a card swap and perhaps a power cycle.

      A simless device gets us back to the bad old days. With those, I have to beg/plead with the telco in order to have a device

    • Yup. I will never be a customer for a phone that doesn't let me use the SIM of my own choosing.

      • by Tanuki64 (989726)

        And what will you do? The majority of people are only brain dead and arrogant meat, which calls people like you tin foil lunatics, and buys those phones if it thinks it can save a fraction of a cent. Given enough buyers, piece by piece SIM card phones will vanish. Even if you stockpile a few phones, what if the carriers won't support them anymore? Stop using cell phones at all?

    • 1. Normally, when you have service, it's attached to the SIM, not the phone. With this new embedded SIM model, this goes away. Your service is attached to the phone. Bad.

      It's not even for phones - maybe some day, but not yet.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:03PM (#45739465) Homepage

    To fix this issue, the GSMA has developed a non-removable SIM that can be embedded in a device for the duration of its life, and remotely assigned to a network. This information can be subsequently modified over-the-air, as many times as necessary.

    What this seems to do is take control away from the user, who could swap SIM cards, and give it to some carrier. This looks like something where you beg and plead with your old carrier to let you switch your device to a new carrier. There's a lot of elaborate key management in this system, and compromise of certain keys could break the whole system.

    Spec for the system architecture. [gsma.com]

    • What this seems to do is take control away from the user, who could swap SIM cards, and give it to some carrier.

      When you say "seems to," do you really mean "could possibly some day"?

      This looks like something where you beg and plead with your old carrier to let you switch your device to a new carrier.

      That sounds more like something you're inferring than something being implied by the article.

      There's nothing in the article to suggest it's going to make it's way into consumer devices just yet. It might one day, but not yet.

      The GSMA has published the technical description of a SIM card designed specifically for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication

      Despite the convenience of over-the-air management, the GSMA says the embedded design is not meant to replace conventional SIM cards

      • by sir-gold (949031)

        If it's more profitable for the carriers to sell embedded-sim phones, then that is exactly what they will do, regardless of the intent of the specification or the wishes of it's designers.

      • by Animats (122034)

        What this seems to do is take control away from the user, who could swap SIM cards, and give it to some carrier.

        When you say "seems to," do you really mean "could possibly some day"?

        No, I mean that's what the documentation seems to say. The user can't swap SIM cards when there is no removable SIM card. It has to be done remotely. From the documentation, it seems that the carrier has the keys to do that, but the user does not. Some devices start out in "provisioning mode", from which point (I think) the first carrier to talk to the device downloads a profiile and has control of the device until they release it. Or the device might come pre-locked to a carrier. Whether the user can forc

  • by mrex (25183) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:23PM (#45739675)

    I'd be OK with this, under one condition - a hardware-based write protection lock that is absolutely 100% not able to be bypassed or circumvented in software.

    I'll never understand why this incredibly basic feature that is so easy to design, cheap to implement, and valuable to device security went the way of floppy disks. How awesome would a thumb drive with a hardware write lock be?

    • How awesome would a thumb drive with a hardware write lock be?

      These exist. I use one regularly to load malware-cleaning software onto infected machines, without risking getting the thumb drive itself infected.

    • by mspohr (589790)

      Your hardware lock would negate the advantage of the embedded SIM design. The reason for embedded SIM is that you can remotely change the carrier, phone#, etc. without having to physically access the device. This is intended for use in devices such as cars, machinery, etc. It is not intended for use in your phone (most people here seem to have missed that little detail). If you have to physically access the device to flip a hardware lock, you might as well just use a regular SIM.

      • It is not intended for use in your phone (most people here seem to have missed that little detail)

        How can you expect us to fulfil our need to become apoplectic with nerdrage if you want us to notice things like "details"?

        • by mspohr (589790)

          I agree. The discussion would have been much shorter and a lot more intelligent if people hadn't felt the need to rage about "prying my SIM from my cold dead hand".

          • The discussion would have been much shorter and a lot more intelligent if people hadn't felt the need to rage

            You might as well make that your sig. Well, maybe not you, based on your current one. Someone though.

      • by mrex (25183)

        Fair point. I can envisage scenarios where modifying the SIM remotely would be helpful. Then again, I can envisage scenarios where it could be a very, very bad thing. My main point was user empowerment - if I can choose between two models of a device, one with a hardware lock, one without... I'll be happy with that.

        Not like cellular device security is anything but an oxymoron anyway...

    • How awesome would a thumb drive with a hardware write lock be?

      They exist. Check Amazon.
      SD cards have the same.

      They make great secure boot drives.

      • SD cards have the same.

        Note: the lock tab on a SD card doesn't actually do anything inside the card, it merely activates a contact on the socket.

        Whether that contact is used to implement a hardware write lock, a software write lock or no write lock at all is entirely dependent on the designer of the system you plug the SD card into.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:38PM (#45739833)
    Preventing the need to open up devices to swap a SIM could be easily resolved by using a simple spring-loaded insert/eject slot for SIM cards (the same way most SD card slots work). That this is because of the "Internet of Things" is a cover story, and a weak one. What's more of a hassle? Spending 30 seconds to swap SIM cards or spending 30 minutes on hold before mentally parsing the unintelligible engrish of a slave-wage phone drone?

    This is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. The only "problem" this solves is enabling the carriers to revert to the abusive and restrictive CDMA model.
    • Preventing the need to open up devices to swap a SIM could be easily resolved by using a simple spring-loaded insert/eject slot for SIM cards

      That would still need physical access to the device, which is the problem this proposal is actually trying do away with. It might also (speculation on my part here, but doesn't seem unreasonable) run the risk of causing more problems when users brick their phones or SIMs by popping the SIM without turning off the phone.

      This is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist to me.

      FTFY. There are plenty of use cases where this would be an incredibly useful facility. Just because none of them personally impact on you doesn't mean this is automatically a nefarious conspi

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I pop out the sim all the time with the phone on. you can not "brick" a phone by doing this.

  • by Pop69 (700500) <billyNO@SPAMbenarty.co.uk> on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:22PM (#45740283) Homepage
    "Embedded SIM Design Means No Longer Able To Swap Cards"

    There, that reads better
  • by omnichad (1198475)

    So...GSM now has an ESN? All this talk about the "Internet of Things" is really just saying that the devices are getting the equivalent of a MAC Address and can be remotely provisioned. And phones will still have SIM cards.

    Guess there's nothing wrong with that, but I thought there was a big reason for GSM's push to have SIM cards in the first place.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:49PM (#45740621)

    It's marketing, like "the cloud". It's such a gross oversimplification that it's meaningless.

  • Because I have 100% control with a removable SIM. I don't need yet another thing held hostage by the telephone carrier.

  • SIMs that can be fully reprogrammed by OTA already exist. All SIMs support changing the identity (IMSI) and a few also support changing authentication data (Ki, Op, algorithm). Most likely this is just a method to take away one of subscriber's freedoms - to become somebody else's subscriber.

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