Cleaning up airwave off to bad start

The Smart site crashed due to the number of people registering. I had to wait 10 to 15 minutes before I could register.

The Philippines, the acknowledged texting or short message service capital of the world ended the year with quite a paradox, through the registration of mobile phone subscribers amid a flood of digital scams and identity theft.

Scams usually involve an anonymous text sender who casts a wide net to filch money from subscribers, lately in the guise of enticing offers such as winning an online contest.

As phone users become more familiar with the racket, scam syndicates innovate and come up with more sophisticated schemes to dupe people.

The government has taken a special interest in “spear phishing,” the latest twist in a series of Internet ruses that trick specific mobile phone users into divulging personal information through a string of innocuous clicks through a Web link attached to a text message.

Aside from victims’ loss of money, the phishing trend has strengthened doubts over the lucrative Internet economy and Web-based transactions.

The recently passed SIM Card Registration law regulates the sale and distribution of SIM cards or the basic identity module in a cell phone to put the capability to secure mobile phones back to users and assist law enforcers in resolving Internet and text scams within the limits of data privacy laws and regulations.

The Act was included in the Common Legislative Agenda adopted by the Legislative-Executive Advisory Council, and it was the law enacted by the President since he took power in July.

The call for mandatory SIM registration grew in response to increasing reports of cell phone users, including several lawmakers and government officials, receiving unsolicited messages containing their personal information and instructing them to click on a link to access certain services or transactions.

A 2020 World Bank report presented at the House of Representatives showed 137 cell phone subscriptions per 100 Filipinos that indicate multiple subscriptions or mobile phones.

Under the law, every SIM card seller should require a user to accomplish in triplicate a numbered registration form issued by the public telco entity, which includes an attestation that the person appearing before the seller is the same person who accomplished the document and that he presented valid identification cards.

Any information in the registration document should be treated as confidential unless access to it is granted by the subscriber.

However, such information shall be disclosed upon a court order or written request by law enforcement relative to an investigation of a criminal act involving the use of a mobile number.

Troubled beginning

Posts about SIM card registration woes flooded social media, with netizens venting their frustration on inaccessible links.

Though Globe, Smart and DITO subscribers still have six months to register their SIM cards to prevent deactivation, mobile users swamped the registration sites causing telecom companies’ portals to crash.

Louielyn Aranas told Tribune that she was lucky enough not to experience any difficulties during the first day of SIM registration, as she was able to register her SIM in less than 15 minutes.

“The Smart site crashed due to the number of people registering. I had to wait 10 to 15 minutes before I could register,” she said.

She then received a message from Smart stating, “You have successfully registered your SIM! You will receive another SMS once your SIM is fully activated.”

In an advisory, Smart Communications Inc. stated that some users might have problems accessing the SIM registration site due to the huge volume of registrants but assured that their technical team is working on increasing capacity.

Mobile users complained about dealing with technical difficulties with the “Bad gateway” displayed on the portals of two of the largest telecom companies, Globe and SMART, as early as 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Globe, however, told subscribers that they should try to access the crowded link at a later time.

“Our people are working on it as we speak and we hope to be able to get back on track with the registration anytime of the day,” head of regulatory development and strategy of Globe Telecom Corporate Legal Services Group Manny Estrada said.

Despite telecommunications firms’ assurances that they are prepared to handle the influx of registrants, Janice Alvarez is just among thousands of mobile users still experiencing trouble registering their SIM cards.

“I began signing up at 7:30 in the morning. I’ve been trying to register for ten hours, but the Globe portal is just too slow,” she stressed.

The National Telecommunications Commission earlier said that telecommunications firms have already committed their readiness for the full implementation of the SIM registration as its implementing rules and regulations take effect on Tuesday.

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