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Pakistanis Must Provide Fingerprints Or Give Up Cellphone 134

schwit1 sends this report from the Washington Post: Cellphones didn't just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days. In one of the world's largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don't, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here.

Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan's efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.
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Pakistanis Must Provide Fingerprints Or Give Up Cellphone

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  • So those intending criminal activities will just find a way around it. I wonder if there is an ulterior motive for collecting all those fingerprints.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well no, its not a magic cure to the terrorist problem, but i can see how it would significantly hamper the terrorists and criminals. Its not like you can use a sim card registered to your name for dastardly deeds. You could for example use foreign sim cards, but you can bet authorities will be watching these with extra care.
      Anyway i don't know about where you live but over here biometric passports and id cards are used, meaning that you give your fingerprints when you apply for an id. So names and fingerpr

      • by Kkloe ( 2751395 )
        and as we can tie our phone to as example tax-services the government can track me by my number without asking the carriers for it, and yes I was aware of what I was signing into when I put my number in the government sites
        • by Anonymous Coward

          I don't know whether to be angry about the incursion against freedom or happy that dem Mozlems be doing something to clean up terrrism.

          Where's Fox News to feed me an opinion when I need them?

      • You can see how it would significantly hamper terrorists and criminals?

        Maybe you're totally clueless about Mexico, and the fact that the cartels have built huge empires off of "illicit" goods. In effect, we have funded those cartels, so that they are more powerful than government. And, the cartels aren't hampered by human rights considerations, either.

        You may look forward to a new Pakistani industry booming in the near future, with "terrorists" and "criminals" helping the common man to bypass these ridicu

      • by CreatureComfort ( 741652 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @08:03AM (#49118025)
        'Cause stealing someone else's cell phone and using it would be totally Inconceivable!

        / I don't think that word means what you think it means.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        I would agree in general but I see a big potential loophole. What about foreign sim cards? Does Pakistan plan to apply the same restrictions to people who visit the country? If so then I would think that this might provide a significant hindrance to international tourism and trade - "no cell phone for you unless you go register it with the government while you're here!" On the other hand, if they don't do it, then lawbreakers will just get foreign sim cards.

        Maybe the government could make a fairly painless

        • Anyone going into Pakistan (or any other foreign country) would need a visa (and probably a Visa). So the government would have ample opportunity to set up tracking / notification / surveillance or whatever they deem appropriate. Killing or kidnapping foreigners for a SIM card seems a bit overwrought as other Slashdotters have quickly discovered several other loopholes (give a random kid $20, kid gets cell phone, kid disappears into the slums .... )

          I doubt this will be terribly useful but it might

      • by Rhipf ( 525263 )

        And just from the summary this is exactly what they did in the December incident that supposedly lead to this rule.

        "Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers."

        So if they used cloned SIM cards how would this law prevent them from doing the same thing?

      • Taliban warrior walks into a cell phone store in Pakistan.

        Tells the clerk he wants a phone

        Clerk does all the various bits of things required ... asks for a finger print.

        Taliban member lays down someones finger on the counter, says 'use this one'.

        Taliban sympathetic clerk says 'Okay!'

        • by dwye ( 1127395 )

          Seriously, the clerk is likely to say, "I, for one, support our Talibanic overlords!"

          Well, if he reads Slashdot enough to pick up the old cliches, he does. Anyway, more likely the Taliban use live hostages, or relatives of hostages. Dead fingers cause comments more than trembling ones.

    • what gets me is how is having an illegal sim card not be traceable.

      a cell phone is a portable tracking and identifying device. You don't need fingerprints, just force everyone who accesses the local networks to have registered sim cards, linked to registered contracts. no prepaid sims.

      if you can't track cell phones without fingerprints then you are doing something wrong.

      • They are tracking (or rather, were previously) cell phones without fingerprints. The point of this initiative is to verify that the identify registered to the cell phone actually belongs to the person using the cell phone. IE, terrorists have been using cell phones registered to other people (or fake identities), and fingerprinting all cell phone users hopefully will make that more difficult or at least provide an avenue for investigation.

    • That's what I took away from it.

      Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.

      What? You mean something intended to curb or stop this altogether is known to not be effective? Then other than having the national database of fingerprints why do it? NVM answered my own question, to have a national database of fingerprints.

      It's good to read that the rest of the world is as screwed as my country wh

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @06:28AM (#49117807)

    Which is exactly the point in Pakistan.

  • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @06:43AM (#49117831)

    .... solution is more registration?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      or simply use a roaming SIM on a network with more lax requirements...

    • .... solution is more registration?

      Solution is to switch them to Gemalto SIMs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by abhisri ( 960175 )

      Indeed it is. If you actually thought about it, if getting a new sim card mandatorily required biometric authentication, there will be a fool-proof system that the said terrorists cannot get SIM card using someone else's name. And since now I cannot blame a flawed system, I will take more care to report a stolen/lost SIM card to authorities and get it disabled.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        I bet you're a fan of gun control too.

      • Why would people not report a SIM as stolen currently? They have every incentive to. They'd need to do so, to get their old number back anyway.

        But seriously, if you're a terrorist, you're not going to be fazed by just doing some street muggings to obtain cell phones first. It doesn't matter much if the cards get de-activated a day later. Heck, just point a gun at a SIM vendor and force them to activate the cards with fake data. If the vendor doesn't have the IMSI codes for every SIM in their inventory, they

        • by dwye ( 1127395 )

          Why would people not report a SIM as stolen currently?

          Perhaps because the report goes to the ISI, which invented the Taliban. Then you and your family disappear some night.

    • Think iPhone6's collection of fingerprints... no match means the SIM is useless. That will cut back crime and terror by making people accountable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    More of this ridiculous "if you can't get hold of the terrorists, carpet-bomb the innocent with surveillance". Hey, we are talking of terrorists, who regularly buy assault rifles and explosives, who happily will die in a suicide bombing or in a shot exchange with special police forces. Surely they'll find it very difficult to get an unregistered SIM card.

    • by Meneth ( 872868 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @07:23AM (#49117929)

      Surely they'll find it very difficult to get an unregistered SIM card.

      No, but they'll find it difficult to get unregistered cards to work, at least once the networks start blocking all cards that are not registered.

      The counter to that is to steal registered cards. The counter to that is to report the cards as stolen. Counter: kill the card-owners, so they can't report the cards. Counter: police de-registers cards belonging to dead people. Counter: kidnap/disappear the card-owners. Only works until the authorities catch on in each individual case. Mitigation: keep kill/stealing. That's what terrorists do anyway, so no problem there. Problem: you're now switching numbers often. Gonna be difficult to keep your address book up-to-date.

      • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @08:31AM (#49118105) Homepage

        Gonna be difficult to keep your address book up-to-date.

        that's not a problem if you only need a one-time (or limited) campaign. or a IED remote trigger device for example. or you have a dead-drop location (online or otherwise) with up-to-date numbers. or a whole number of other scenarios that are probably and have been standard practice *anyway* for decades.

        tell me... how come in a simple public discussion slashdot readers can come up with simple practical scenarios why mass-surveillance "solutions" like this will be completely ineffective, yet the people considering (or actually) deploying them cannot? and: why can the pakistani government not see that this knee-jerk response will have the terrorists celebrating the success of bringing awareness of their campaign to every single mobile phone user across pakistan in a very personal way.

        • by u38cg ( 607297 )
          Because it reduces attack surface for the authorities. No, registration of SIM card details will not stop or defeat terrorists; but it does mean that the terrorist has to improve his security hygiene to remain undetected.
          • but it does mean that the terrorist has to improve his security hygiene to remain undetected.

            And what happens when they do? Why actively encourage them to make themselves harder to catch?

            • by u38cg ( 607297 )
              It may surprise you to learn that most terrorists are stupid and by making their lives harder it makes it easier to catch them beforehand or trace them afterwards. It's not like Pakistan isn't doing something we're not already doing in the West (trying buying an anonymous cellphone in Europe).
              • Go a little farther west and you can walk into a 7-11 and walk out with a dozen anonymous phones.
        • by Selur ( 2745445 )

          > how come in a simple public discussion slashdot readers can come up with simple practical scenarios why mass-surveillance "solutions" like this will be completely ineffective, yet the people considering (or actually) deploying them cannot?

          Must be that all /.ers are EVIL to the core and have a gift to fight against GOOD.
          Everything else would just cause to much upset.

        • Because we're willing to admit that government effectiveness is limited, and that compliance is avoidable by simple dodges.

      • They already switch out often to avoid surveillance. And keeping up to date with everyone's contact info is difficult but they seem to manage.
      • Counter... Use Walkie Talkies.... Use wifi...

        That said, it makes it substantially harder to use ubiquitous networks without some level of traceability. The easiest control is limiting the number of SIM cards registered to an individual.

      • The counter to that is to steal registered cards. The counter to that is to report the cards as stolen. Counter: kill the card-owners, so they can't report the cards. Counter: police de-registers cards belonging to dead people. Counter: kidnap/disappear the card-owners. Only works until the authorities catch on in each individual case. Mitigation: keep kill/stealing. That's what terrorists do anyway, so no problem there. Problem: you're now switching numbers often. Gonna be difficult to keep your address bo

      • by ai4px ( 1244212 )
        because in other countries, the bad guys have never, ever coerced people into doing things like, say letting drug dealers move into their government subsidized housing. It will be no different in this case.... bad guys will make good people get the sim cards for them. This ultimately will do nothing except create a database of all the good people in the country.
    • More of this ridiculous "if you can't get hold of the terrorists, carpet-bomb the innocent with surveillance"

      That's because you (possibly?) foolishly believe that the goal is to stop "terrorists". It's not, the goal of all of these spying programs is to control the population, terrorists (especially the government trained and funded ones) are just a nice PR tool to achieve that goal.

  • Fingerprint biometrics is oldschool, and in my opinion very soon rendered useless.
    This will be misused again by real terrorists, and the government.
    The normal citizens will take the real hit.

    Like to also ask if the government officials are also forced to do the same thing ?
    If they agree, theres allready a way around this, if not well, it's government so no penalty.

    All in all, completely useless waste of poor countrys money.

  • for the Taliban as personal freedom and liberty takes it up the ass yet again,

    • I found myself on the fence here. Though it is shrinking, there has been a great deal of support in Pakistan for the extremist Muslim crusades by Al Qaeda and ISIL. Case in point: the Americans didn't notify Pakastanis before the raid on bin Laden's compound, even though they were allegedly allies at the time.

      I believe this represents a turn from the tacit support of recent Pakastani leadership, as the actions of ISIL have become less palatable to many of their former support bases.

      So yeah, it's a restric

  • According to the summary, the attackers were all using cellphones registered to someone else. It might help make a case against the woman to whom the cellphones were registered, but I don't see how this would curb future attacks.

    Even that link to the crime is tenuous at best, since it would be easy enough to create reasonable doubt and claim biometric identity theft. Without limits on the number of SIM cards registered to a single user, nothing is stopping them from getting a mule who isn't on a watch list

  • Yeah, the guy who is willing to blow himself to bits by strapping himself to a bomb is really going to try to keep his fingerprints a secret.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @08:41AM (#49118141) Homepage
    Its worth noting this enforcement is largely designed to target terrorist attacks against the Pakistani government. The longterm solution to Pakistans terrorism problems is largely structural and political. Increased education funding, crackdowns on government corruption, increased employment, and most of all a more vocal and political opposition to the United States drone war. Nawaz Sharif is kept in power by coup and crackdown, not free election, while the united states basically shovels money into his political fund. The fingerprint system is, conveniently, also an excellent means by which to deter active protests and dissent.

    people are terrorists due to a combination of desparation, isolation, and doctrine. Once a person becomes determined with nothing to lose, then theyre not easily dissuaded from terrorist acts. Having your village razed by foreign aircraft you could never see is one thing, but for your government to turn a blind eye just adds insult to injury and paves the way for neurotic warlords and clerics to fill the void.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      The longterm solution to Pakistans terrorism problems is largely structural and political. Increased education funding, crackdowns on government corruption, increased employment, and most of all a more vocal and political opposition to the United States drone war.

      Wishful thinking. Its time to realise terrorism is motiveted by Islam, not poverty or lack of education. The BBC let slip this morning that girls going off to become "ISIS brides" were above average intelligence, straight A students and they did not grow up in poverty. The same for the 9/11 bombers.

      • the hijackers for the world trade center bombings:
        Mohamed Atta (Egyptian) held a technical degree,
        Abdulaziz al-Omari (Saudi Arabian) held a religious degree from a cleric,
        Wail al-Shehri (Saudi Arabian) was mentally ill and had gone to numerous clerics for assistance,
        Waleed al-Shehri (Saudi Arabian) had no education,
        Satam al-Suqami (Saudi Arabian) dropped out of law school.
        Atta was a rather brilliant individual beaten down in egypt by a regime that at the time was supported directly by the United State
        • by radl33t ( 900691 )
          It is interesting to me that you start with the Carter Doctrine, surely many other prior interventions by the west in the region are equally if not more important?
        • by dargaud ( 518470 )
          Plenty of countries have been oppressed by the US, south America comes to mind. And you don't see them strapping bombs to themselves in schools.
          • by dave420 ( 699308 )
            Very true, but as US oppression has many shapes, you can't really just make that statement and expect it to have any weight, unless you go into further depth to find a directly comparable situation where the only variant is the religion of those involved, and specifically their personal beliefs. We have plenty of cases of terrorism from non-Muslims, so this really is a moot point. No one religion has a monopoly on terrorism.
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        I knew you'd make a post like this. I simply knew it when I saw the headline. Does the plethora of intelligent Irish terrorists in the last few decades show that Catholicism causes terrorism? Of course not. You just have a handy excuse to blame Islam for things you don't like, which you seem to revel in every single time this discussion comes up.

        You probably don't realise that your opinion is just as dangerous as the opinions held by the terrorists themselves - you are willing - no, actively trying - to

      • They are going for the Revolution, not for Allah. Charlie Manson is still recruiting women
    • Are we completely ignoring the fact that the Pakistan government has encouraged Islamism in its territory since Prime Minister Bhutto in the 1970s? It's America's fault now?

      What does the word 'Pakistan' mean?

  • Great idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @08:48AM (#49118165)

    Why not use the same logic with guns?
    If a person who asks for a gun license and enters 'armed robbery' as reason for obtaing one, just refuse it.
    Presto, no crime anymore.

    • Why not use the same logic with guns?
      If a person who asks for a gun license and enters 'armed robbery' as reason for obtaing one, just refuse it.
      Presto, no crime anymore.

      Why, that's exactly how the US visa application reads like. There is a series of questions in the form, asking whether you are a terrorist, whether you plan on a terrorist attack on the US soil, etc.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why, that's exactly how the US visa application reads like. There is a series of questions in the form, asking whether you are a terrorist, whether you plan on a terrorist attack on the US soil, etc.

        That's there to give the FBI leverage over state and local law enforcement. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's crimes were entirely within Massachusetts' jurisdiction, but because he falsely answered this question on his immigration forms several years prior, it retroactively becomes a Federal case. Poof. Magic.

  • Mightened the Taliban (aka virtually every tribe in north western in Pakistan) resort to stealing SIM cards or buying them on the black market. Considering that the Taliban had virtual safe haven in North Pakistan. Such attacks don't seem to be the product of rational minds. The net effect being to force Pakistan Intelligence to move against them.
  • In one of the world's largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb freedom.

    Fixed that typo for you.

  • How is making sure you know who it was going to scare them?
  • "...after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here"

    Interesting choice of words.... lol!
    • Perhaps the government should declare a Jihad on unregistered SIM cards? Or create the Intracellular Electronic Documentation Service to keep track of this stuff?
  • Let's say in the US we routinely had bombs blowing up by a nonidentifiable group, so we can't perform any real profiling.

    Say 5000 people[1] were killed every year in the US for the last 15 years due to these hard-to-identify terrorists.

    The public would scream for biometric everything.

    [1] - Scaling to match the US population.

  • I find it fascinating how slashdotters seem to be unable to transcend their western viewpoints. There are numerous comments in here, many highly upvoted, with themes like "I wonder what their real motives are" and "This has nothing to do with terrorism, this is about controlling the population".

    Guys, this is not the US, where "terrorists" are trotted out like the bogeyman for scare effects. In Pakistan, terrorists are real, active forces that have de facto control over significant amounts of the country.

    • If the terrorists at the school were using phones belonging to someone completely unaffiliated with them, how would having her fingerprints have done a damned thing?

    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
      Yup. In 2009 the country's average was 7 incidents per day. List of terrorist incidents in Pakistan since 2001 [wikipedia.org]

      Now of course, X years from now when everything has stabilized, will their government repeal these rules and delete the database? It's not really relevant since most likely they will have been overthrown by the insurgents or the US again.
  • You know people are way too paranoid about terrorists when they move to stop "explosive growth" in an industry.

  • Authorities are also struggling to curb extortion carried out by criminals, often affiliated with banned militant groups, who make threatening phone calls demanding money.

    That's a nice dinner you got there. Would be a real shame if it got cold... buy my product!

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