South African mobile networks fight back against criminals

South Africa’s biggest telecommunications operators have joined forces to establish the Communication Risk Information Centre (Comric), a non-profit organisation focused on protecting their networks from criminals.

MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C and Liquid Intelligent Technologies will use Comric to collectively identify, mitigate and prevent the common risk issues within the industry with a key focus for 2022 centred on critical infrastructure network vandalism, commercial crimes and cyber security.

Comric chief executive officer, Vernall Muller, said the criminal gaze shifted to South African telecommunications operators during the past two years.

Factors contributing to this include the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the advent of load-shedding.

“Telecommunications infrastructure, which is the backbone of the information age, is particularly vulnerable to attack, and this escalating crime has translated into a loss of service and network integrity,” Muller stated.

He said the formation of Comric has enabled formal discussion and solution-finding between operators to handle the risks they faced.

“It has also created a platform through which we will engage society on issues of related crime and support government in the overall fight against crime in South Africa.”

Comric has established a Critical Infrastructure Monitoring Operations Centre (Cimoc) to prioritise the collective monitoring of critical network infrastructure theft and vandalism across the combined South African telecoms network footprint.

“This includes working closely with the SAPS to identify and apprehend suspects in network vandalism, store robberies, battery theft and fraudulent application scenarios including commercial crimes, among other things,” Comric stated.

Muller added that the industry recognised that criminals did not discriminate regarding which network they targeted.

“As such, collective working as the telecommunication industry provides benefits in terms of risk management for all operators irrespective of market share,” Muller said.

“The opportunity exists for creating a safer environment that may lead to uninterrupted customer experience in the telecommunication space.”

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South African mobile networks fight back against criminals