Tag: WASPs

The murder of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear has lifted the veil on the unlawful use of location-based data provided to companies by Vodacom and MTN, says MyBroadband.

Kinnear’s movements were tracked using this location-based information. His phone was tracked from 08:00 to 15:25 on the day of his murder, and he was assassinated at 15:00. Kinnear, a section commander in an anti-gang unit, was assassinated in front of his home in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town on Friday 18 September.

On 23 September, Daily Maverick reported that the criminals who plotted the shooting of Kinnear used a location-based service to track his cellphone.

This case uncovered the widespread abuse of location-based data from mobile operators to track the movement of South Africans without their knowledge or consent.

  • This highly sensitive and personal data was available to a wide range of companies, including vehicle tracking firms, security companies, and even credit bureaus
  • MTN was not aware that the data they provided to these third parties was abused until the South African Police Service (SAPS) brought it to their attention
  • MTN provided companies access to their subscribers’ location information in good faith
  • Based on the previous information and feedback from MTN, third parties have, or had, access to the following information about MTN subscribers: last activity information; the location of a subscriber and the ability to bill a subscriber for content and related services
  • Vodacom said in terms of contractual partnership agreements, users must give consent to be tracked, but a partner allowed its service providers to bypass the controls
  • Vodacom said while it is technically possible for WASPs to bypass Vodacom’s controls, it “would be irresponsible to suggest widespread abuse of the system”.

MyBroadband has released an explosive report detailing how billions of rands worth of airtime has been stolen from mobile subscribers in South Africa, by rogue wireless application service providers (WASPs) who bill cellular subscribers’ accounts without their permission.

MyBroadband received this information from two industry insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, subscribers are defenceless as “there is no way to proactively block WASP billing on their accounts”.

How it works

  • WASPs are able to bill mobile cellular users’ accounts, taking airtime for content subscription services
  • Rogue WASPs exploit the system to bill people’s accounts without their permission or knowledge
  • Users’ only defence is to regularly check their account and ask for a refund if their airtime was stolen
  • Unless the fraud is detected and a complaint is lodged, the money is gone forever
  • Both the rogue WASP and the mobile operator profit

According to MyBroadband, this has been happening for over a decade, and mobile operators are well aware of this problem.

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