The Impact of eSIMs on SIMBox Fraud: Elimination or Acceleration?

Wait, what is an eSIM?

SIM cards play an essential role in mobile phones. They contain the unique IMSI number that identifies users to the mobile network. They are also used to verify users’ identity, store network settings, and enable network access allowing users to make and receive phone calls and text messages. An eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a small, integrated chip within mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches and performs the same functions as a SIM card.

Although the very first eSIM enabled smartphone was released in 2017, it took several years for the technology to gain awareness with consumers. Initially eSIM adoption was relatively slow. However, starting in 2022, the rate of adoption of eSIM technology has greatly accelerated. According to GSMA Intelligence’s latest findings, nearly 400 mobile service providers (i.e. MNOs, MVNOs and providers of international roaming services) have now launched commercial eSIM services for smartphones across 116 countries.

Unlike the traditional SIM card, an eSIM is pre-installed in a device and cannot be physically removed. It is provisioned remotely, with the ability to hold up to eight unique subscriber profiles, two IMSIs, and two different network providers at the same time. For consumers, eSIMs make it much easier to switch wireless service providers and avoid roaming charges through local subscriptions. Not having to swap physical SIMs in their devices is also an added benefit. Acquiring a new eSIM can be accomplished by simply scanning a QR code.

Understanding SIMBox Fraud

The Promise of eSIMs

The Potential for Elimination

Factors That Could Accelerate Fraud

The transition to eSIMs will take time as older, legacy devices will remain on operators’ networks for years to come. Further, eSIMs will not guarantee a complete eradication of fraud. In fact it could accelerate it. Operators who give away eSIMs for free, to attract new subscribers, can easily be victimized by BOT-based attacks. These eSIMs can then potentially be used in devices, roaming on other operators networks. This is just one example illustrating how, as technology evolves, so do the tactics of cybercriminals.

The Role of Ongoing Innovation