Cybersecurity behind SIM card registration

Niël Terblanché

In order to strengthen national security and enhance digital innovation, the Namibian government has reinforced its commitment to combating cybercrime and ensuring a secure digital environment for its citizens.

This commitment was articulated in a comprehensive ministerial statement delivered by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Emma Theofelus to the National Assembly.

Theofelus addressed critical topics of SIM card registration and cybersecurity measures.

According to the Theofelus, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology mandated the registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards as a strategic measure to deter mobile fraud, and identity theft, and facilitate lawful digital surveillance and interception within the framework of existing laws in response to the rising tide of technology-aided crimes.

Despite a voluntary registration campaign leading to a 62.5 percent compliance rate by the original deadline on 31 December 2023, an extension was granted until 31 March 2024 to achieve broader participation.

She said that as of 29 February 2024, 70.6 percent of active SIM cards have been registered.

The minister added that disparities among mobile operators’ registration rates have emerged, highlighting both successes and areas requiring intensified effort. Notably, Paratus Telecommunications and UCOM Mobile Namibia achieved a 100 percent registration rate.

Theofelus explicitly stated that no further extensions beyond the 31 March deadline would be granted.

She told the National Assembly that unregistered SIM cards will face a three-month suspension, during which service restoration is possible upon completion of registration.

“However, failure to comply by 30 June 2024 will result in service termination and loss of the mobile number which stresses the government’s serious approach to this initiative,” she said.

Parallel to the SIM registration drive, according to Theofelus, Namibia has escalated its efforts to fortify its cybersecurity framework in the wake of over 2.7 million cyberattacks recorded in 2022.

She said the establishment of the Namibia Cyber Security Incident Response Team (NAM-CSIRT), backed by N$20 million in funding for operationalization, is a significant step in enhancing the country’s digital defence strategy.

To strengthen the initiative, the ministry, in collaboration with Salt Essential IT, has launched free weekly cybersecurity training sessions to equip the public with the knowledge to protect themselves online.

Theofelus said that these initiatives, complemented by awareness campaigns conducted by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), represents a holistic approach to enhancing digital security and resilience.

The minister called on all Namibians to engage actively in safeguarding their digital identities and infrastructure.

She said that by adhering to the SIM card registration mandate and participating in cybersecurity training, Namibians will be able to contribute to creating a safer digital space for everyone.

According to Theofelus, these measures will eventually lead to a proactive response to ensure a secure and prosperous digital future for the nation.

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