Thieves rip off SIM cards from Johannesburg's traffic signals

Criminals in Johannesburg are raiding the city's traffic signals for the SIM chips that allow them to be monitored and reprogrammed using the phone network; the SIMs can be inserted into regular phones to make free, anonymous calls. T
The components were ripped out by the criminals from the traffic lights and used to make unlimited calls that have cost JRA a lot of money...

In early December 2010 there were also reports of thieves removing traffic light poles to sell them for scrap metal.

Robots theft 'a huge blow' (via Schneier)

(Image: Commissioner Street, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mister-e's photostream)


  1. Why wasn’t the service provided to these cards data-only? If I pop the SIM card out of a USB modem and put it in an unlocked phone, I can’t place a call.

    “…used to make unlimited calls that have cost JRA a lot of money…” ah, that’s why. Why would the telco want to help JRA avoid this situation, when they’ll get paid for it?

  2. Oy . . . what a mess. I can see how the people designing this system would overlook this potential issue . . . but on the other hand, how could you overlook this potential issue? You get enough people together and few of them are bound to be shitheads. That’s like physics or something.

    1. Most likely it’s designed by committee then a few smart engineers.

      I also think the statment “traffic lights scattered across the city use a sim card, modem and GPS system to send and receive information.” tells you alot about the design.

      Think about it carefully, you NEED 400 GPS points that tend to stay in one area? How dense is Johannesburg, does GPS work in all areas? Is there a great probability the next point is less then 1km apart? Why not use a map and coordinate system, instead of 400 units of GPS?

  3. Calls don’t really cost much if anything; that’s just hyperbole. Correct me if I’m wrong and we’re paying fair market value for cell phone calls.

  4. @frijole – you don’t really get “data-only” SIM cards in SA, due to various reasons; most with words like “regulatory body” and “oligopoly” and other things too irritating to discuss.

    The LOL bit is you do get services in SA where the SIM is only loaded with prepaid data bundles, monitored, and reloaded as necessary. Did no-one at the JRA even google? Bad. But funny.

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