New entity to fight against telecom theft, vandalism

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Cell C, Vodacom, MTN SA, Telkom and Liquid Intelligent Technologies have created the Communication Risk Information Center (COMRiC), a non-profit organization that seeks to better protect the network investments of telecom operators.

COMRiC will primarily focus on the industry’s collective identification, mitigation and prevention of common risk issues within the industry, with a key focus for 2022 on critical infrastructure network vandalism, commercial crime and cybersecurity.

COMRiC’s unveiling comes in the wake of growing cases of vandalism to telecommunications infrastructure.

Cell C, Vodacom, MTN SA and Telkom have all been victims of theft and vandalism, disrupting communications services.

This has resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of rands to mobile operators over the years and in some cases the rate of vandalism and theft, especially multiple repeat incidents, forces operators to abandon base stations in due to unsustainable replacement costs.

Damage to infrastructure has also concerned the telecommunications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

Last year, ICASA had to approach national joint operations and intelligence agencies to prioritize the safeguarding and protection of this critical telecommunications infrastructure.

COMRiC CEO Vernall Muller said collaboration between SA network operators to combat network infrastructure theft and vandalism has resulted in the creation of the Critical Infrastructure Monitoring Operations Center (CiMOC). ), which operates under the COMRiC framework.

CiMOC will prioritize the collective monitoring of theft and vandalism of critical network infrastructure across the South African telecommunications network.

This involves working closely with SAPS to identify and apprehend suspects in network vandalism, store robberies, battery theft, and fraudulent app scenarios, including commercial crimes.

“COMRiC’s training allowed for a formal discussion and search for solutions between operators to manage the risks they face. It has also created a platform through which we will engage society on related crime issues and support the government in the overall fight against crime in South Africa,” Muller said.

“The telecommunications infrastructure, which is the backbone of the information age, is particularly vulnerable to attack, and this escalation in crime has resulted in a loss of service and network integrity. “

According to Muller, notably, over the past two years in particular, the criminal eye has shifted to South Africa’s telecom operators, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and load shedding and blackouts. related current also contributing to the growing problem.

“The industry recognizes that criminals do not discriminate which network they target. Thus, working collectively as the telecom industry offers risk management benefits for all operators, regardless of market share.

“The opportunity exists to create a more secure environment that can lead to uninterrupted customer experience in the telecommunications space.”

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