DoT Use AI To Detect 2.25 Lakh Benami SIM

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Ahmedabad Mirror
April 27, 2023


DoT Use AI To Detect 2.25 Lakh Benami SIM


  • 27 FIRs filed in 24 police stations of 13 districts
  • 40 accused arrested from 45 Points of Sale who issued 9,127 benami SIM

In a striking display of the extent of cybercrime, fraud, and other criminal activities, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has exposed the issuance of an astounding 2.25 lakh benami SIM cards across Gujarat.

Mirror has learned these cards were distributed through Points of Sale (POS), exploiting the photographs and documentation of approximately 15,000 unsuspecting citizens. These benami SIM cards have been misused by criminals, anti-national elements, and other wrongdoers to commit offenses without fear of prosecution.

AI on supercomputer found the fakes

The investigation involved collecting data from 8.2 crore telecom subscribers in Gujarat. The Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification (ASTR) on India’s supercomputer PARAM was used. The supercomputer is housed at the Centre for Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Pune.

“The AI tool analysed the Telecom Service Providers (TSP) data and identified similar photos with different names and addresses, allowing authorities to pinpoint benami SIM cards,” said an official.

After detecting around 2.25 lakh benami SIM cards issued using 15,000 misused photos, the DoT chose to focus on large-scale frauds, as some images had been used multiple times, while others were utilized more than 1,000 times.

Consequently, the Gujarat Police received a database of 29,552 SIM cards issued using photos of 486 individuals, with one photo being used more than 20 times.

AI keeps learning with human in loop

Despite the efficacy of AI, Machine Learning, and Facial Recognition in processing vast amounts of data, a margin of error remains. Officials had to manually examine samples to verify the accuracy of the information.

Speaking of such errors, one official said, “For example, some people in a family may have similar faces or some people may be twins. So those photos may be put in one group with similar photos but different names.

“We are trying to weed out such mistakes manually but I’m sure that the system will improve day by day.”

Gujarat cops file 27 FIRs in a month over benami SIMs

In response to the intelligence received from the DoT on March 21, the Gujarat Police filed 27 FIRs in a month by April 26, arresting 40 individuals accused of issuing 9,127 benami SIMs from 45 POS. The FIRs were filed across 15 police jurisdictions and 13 districts of Gujarat. They handed over individual cases to cybercrime police in local jurisdictions.

Gujarat model to be replicated in India

While the AI system has been used in other states where the rate of cybercrime is higher, Gujarat was the first state in India where coordinated action was initiated for large-scale police action across a region.

Mirror has now learned that, looking at the success of police coordination in Gujarat, the top brass of the DoT in a meeting on April 26, urged officials in all states to adopt this centralized cooperation model with police, rather than filing individual FIRs in cities and towns. A senior official said, “Government departments cannot afford to work in silos and need to cooperate on a large scale to tackle criminal activities across the country.”