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Safaricom Receives GSMA Backing In New Competition Challenging Its M-Pesa

Equity Bank has been aggressively on the offense to enter and capture the mobile money transfer market in the Kenya which is currently dominated by Safaricom. An offense move that has seen Equity Bank plan to introduce an embedded SIM card that will be placed in-between the normal SIM card and the mobile device.

Safaricom Receives GSMA Backing In New Competition Challenging Its M-Pesa

Mobile network operator, Safaricom has petitioned against this move with the Communications Authority of Kenya in what has now become an embedded SIM card row between Safaricom and Equity Bank. It would appear that Safaricom’s petition has just gotten stronger after the UK-based GSMA backed Safaricom’s defence against the embedded SIM cards.

In a letter written by GSMA to the Communications Authority of Kenya, citing potential security breach over another SIM card between the normal operator’s SIM card and the mobile device. Saying it poses a security threat of harvesting data and jeopardizing the security of sensitive data passing through the system. GSMA said that the thin embedded SIM card could bypass any security technologies, such as the cryptographic keys and be able to record sensitive data and that could be made available to 3rd parties.

In the advisory note to Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), GSMA said, “The overlay SIM has the potential to facilitate a man-in-the-middle attack by observing, collecting and revealing sensitive data such as PINs, ciphering and integrity keys.”

Credit: afrobotic.com

Credit: afrobotic.com

Another point of concern, is that the embedded SIM card could have unauthorized access to the primary SIM card, and possibly change the configuration settings and start executing certain actions despite not having the explicit permission or even the knowledge of the phone’s user.

The association has recommended that the CA seek an independent consultant who can then establish whether or not the planned rolling out of the thin SIM technology is actually not a security breach as mentioned above.

GSMA was among the mobile telecoms from whom, the CA sought expert opinion from. As it prepares to make a ruling on Safaricom’s petition against Equity Bank’s planned roll out of the ultra-thin SIM card which will be part of its mobile banking services facilitated by its subsidiary Finserve’s.

A meeting between the two parties was held last week, but the CA Director-General, Francis Wangusi, has not yet given a ruling or replied to GSMA’s letter.

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