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SIM Cloning: The complete guide to help you Understand it and Protect yourself

The word cloning means to duplicate. As such, SIM cloning is the process in which a legitimate SIM card is duplicated. It means creating another SIM card with the exact same information as the original. When the cloning is completed, the cloned SIM card’s identifying information is transferred onto a separate, secondary SIM card.

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A SIM card is an electronic chip that makes connecting to the mobile network possible. The subscriber’s information and mobile operator information are embedded in it. It is the SIM card that identifies each individual subscriber and enables them to make calls, send and receive SMS, as well as connect to mobile Internet with their mobile number.

SIM cloning - card

What danger are you in if your SIM card is cloned?

If your SIM card gets cloned, the hacker has access to all your incoming calls and SMS. They can also make calls and send messages from your number. If you have mobile banking active on that line, they can spend or transfer money from your bank account. They can pretty much pretend to be you (identity theft) in a number of ways that are detrimental to you.

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Note that both your original SIM card and the cloned SIM will be active. You would probably be no wiser about what is happening after the duplication has happened.

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SIM Cloning: What data is copied to duplicate a SIM card?

SIM cards contain two secret codes or keys called IMSI (which is unique to each card) and ki (also called Authentication key) which enables the operator to know the mobile number and authenticate the subscriber. FYI, the word SIM is an abbreviation for Subscriber Identification Module.

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These two codes are extracted from the original SIM card and imprinted into a blank SIM to create the duplicate. Because it is these two keys that authenticate the user, the duplicate SIM is then able to connect to the mobile network.

How is SIM Cloning done?

To duplicate or clone a SIM card requires four things – a PC, a clone software, a blank SIM, and a gadget called a SIM card reader. Of course, the original SIM is assumed.

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Using a USB cable, the SIM card reader is connected to a PC that has a clone software installed. The authentic SIM is inserted into the card reader and the required data is copied from it to the PC. The duplicate card is then inserted into the reader and the data is then copied to it. Voila, the cloned SIM is ready.

No; it isn’t a straightforward process, and modern SIMs can be difficult to clone, thanks to security features built I to them. Some of those security features are dependent on you using them, as I highlight further down in this article). As such, sometimes, the duplicating process fails. But the above is a good idea of how SIM cloning is done.

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SIM Cloning: Can a SIM card be cloned remotely?

Is it possible for someone to clone your SIM card without getting physical access to it? Yes; it is possible for someone to clone your SIM card remotely, but it is not easy or cheap. Which makes it an uncommon occurence. To clone a SIM card remotely requires the most cutting edge of equipment.

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Is SIM Cloning illegal?

In many countries, phone cloning is illegal, especially when you consider that it is a form of identity theft and so is used for fraudulent activities. Tampering with a SIM card is illegal in most places.

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SIM Cloning: How to prevent your SIM card from being duplicated

For the most part, physical access is key to SIM cloning. That means, that a SIM card can be cloned if you allow a 3rd party to get their hands on your SIM card. Duplicating a SIM card remotely is difficult, costly, and so is not common.

To protect your SIM card from being cloned, don’t let others get their hands on it. For example, if you are sending in your smartphone for repairs, remove your card and keep it away or put it in a spare phone that you can use.

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Secondly, enable a PIN on your card. If you have a security PIN active on your card, the process of duplicating it cannot be completed without the hacker entering that PIN. This is different from having a password or PIN on your phone. Your mobile provider allows you to set a PIN on your SIM card. Do it.

SIM Cloning: How to tell if your SIM card has been cloned

There are tell-tale signs that can help you figure out if your SIM has been duplicated and is being used by someone else.

  • If you are getting replies to SMS that you didn’t send. The incoming messages read like a continuation of a conversation that you haven’t held. That’s a sure sign.
  • If you are getting bank debit/credit alerts for transactions you didn’t initiate. It is possible that someone is using a cloned SIM card to carry out those transactions.
  • You get a lot of calls that stop ringing before you can answer them. Someone else might be answering your calls from a duplicate. This is because when a SIM card is cloned, both lines get incoming calls, but only one can answer them.
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SIM Cloning: What to do if your SIM card has been duplicated

If you suspect that your line has been cloned, head over to your mobile network provider to request for a SIM swap. This will shut down the activities of any existing cards – original or duplicate, and transfer your subscriber information to a new card. Both your old card and the duplicate/clone are thus rendered useless.

SIM cloning has been around for years. In the early years of GSM technology, security measures were not so strong. But that is no longer the case. Still, the risk of falling victim is there. To protect yourself from, keep your SIM card away from others, and also have a SIM PIN enabled on it. All the best.

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