Crackdown on anonymous criminal calls

Restrictions have been imposed on devices used to make anonymous calls as part of a government crackdown on criminal communications.

Sep 26, 2017

Restrictions have been imposed on devices used to make anonymous calls as part of a government crackdown on criminal communications. Security Minister Ben Wallace has issued a direction to Ofcom limiting the use of commercial multi-user gateways (COMUGs), which can be used to disguise a caller’s location. The direction means COMUGs can only be licensed when suppliers are able to prove that users can be identified. The Government claims this will prevent a “safe space” for terrorists and criminals to communicate, and will make it easier for officers to find people at risk of harm. The direction comes after Ofcom found COMUGs should be exempt from licensing requirements in July. COMUGs use multiple SIM cards to process calls from fixed phone lines to mobiles in such a way that they appear to the mobile network as a mobile-to-mobile call. As calls pass through the device, they are converted into a call from a SIM card on the same mobile network as the one in the recipient’s phone. This process masks information about the caller’s phone number or location, as these details are replaced with those of the proxy SIM card. As a result, using a COMUG can make it almost impossible to identify this information. The Government claims this could “prevent emergency services from being able to get to a person who is at serious risk of injury or death”. The devices could also be used by criminals or terrorists to disguise their location. Signing the direction, Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “The first duty of Government is to protect the public. “This direction is necessary to ensure that those charged with keeping families and communities safe have access to relevant and accurate information when they need it and when they have the appropriate authorisations in order to do their job.”

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