$24 Million Crypto Sim Swap Victim Asks FCC to End “Scourge”

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Michael Terpin, the crypto investor who lost $24 million worth of crypto after a sim swap hack, has called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to end the “scourge” of sim swap hacks in an open letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai. In the letter, Terpin, who is suing mobile provider AT&T because of their involvement in the theft, calls for the commission to take three actions which he says will dramatically reduce the chances of further sim hacks, which he says are on the increase.

Sim Swapping “Cancer” is Growing, Says Terpin

Terpin, the co-founder of BitAngels crypto investment group, was compromised twice in seven months in 2017-18, with one hack allegedly being the work of an “insider” at mobile company AT&T, resulting in him suing them for the loss. Terpin says in the letter to Pai that the FCC has made “laudable decisions on behalf of consumers” over the years, particularly with respect to robocalling and telemarketing, which have been successful in protecting customers, but very little is being done to tackle “the fastest growing cancer on the mobile consumer landscape: the hacking of personal information, accounts, identity theft and money via a growing crime called “SIM swapping” or “sim jacking.” Sim swaps, Terpin says, are “orchestrated by highly sophisticated, repeat offender, criminal gangs” who have stolen tens of millions of dollars through the practice, which the individual companies seem unable, or unwilling, to address.

Three-pronged Attack Recommended

Terpin suggests a three-pronged attack on tackling sim swapping: the physical punching in of account PINs and passwords rather than reading them aloud to retail clerks or call center employees; the option of a high-security mobile plan, with automatic no-port option; and an immediate, comprehensive study of this area of the industry with recommendations for mandatory reforms. He claims that the first two recommendations would be “easy to implement”, something that the mobile carriers themselves may not wholly agree with. The practice of sim swapping was brought into the media focus last year when Joel Ortiz, the leader of a criminal gang, was arrested for orchestrating a mass sim jacking campaign at 2018’s Consensus conference in New York, which saw him hack more than 40 phones and steal $5 million worth of cryptocurrency from attendees.