Identity theft is not a joke. Millions of families suffer every year. And the most pernicious form attacks those of us that thought we were doing the right thing: SIM swap fraud.
For years, security experts have urged regular people to take better care of their personal information security. Simple steps like just having a different password for every account can only go so far — once somebody has access to your email then they can go after every account that uses that for a login. So we push people to use two-factor authentication (2FA), and it seemed like getting a one-time code texted to you each time you tried to log in was the solution: you have to know the password and have access to your phone (itself behind its own passcode).
Except for one teeny tiny problem: with only a bit of information about you it's too easy for a bad actor to con the human tech support at your cellular carrier into transferring control of your phone number to a different SIM card that the criminal controls. Or worse, they're in on the scheme. With access to your second-factor code source your accounts are free game, and to make it worse your phone line is dead. Everything you thought you had secured is not just in the hands of criminals, it's now even harder for you to regain control.
There are ways around this, like using an authenticator app instead of SMS codes, but not everybody offers that. And that's yet more complication to accessing your accounts. What if it was just harder to pull off SIM swap fraud in the first place? That's what Go Talk Wireless wants to do: apply simple, common-sense measures to the most vulnerable part of your personal data security. This new cellular carrier puts privacy and security first and foremost, with two-factor and even three-factor security. And as a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), Go Talk Wireless works on top of the existing infrastructure of another network, meaning you still get great coverage across the USA.
You might think of Go Talk Wireless as the BlackBerry of cellular carriers.
To get to the bottom of what Go Talk Wireless is all about, I met up with CEO James Quaid earlier this month in Vegas during CES 2023 and learned the story how he ended up creating a cellular carrier with security at its core (hint: his long-time BlackBerry addiction had a little something to do with it). This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kevin Michaluk: What's your "elevator pitch" for Go Talk Wireless?
James Quaid, Go Talk Wireless CEO: Go Talk Wireless is the ultimate choice for secure and private communication. Our wireless plans include a free VPN to protect your online activity, anti-phishing tools to keep your personal information safe, and SIM swap fraud defense to ensure that your account stays secure. With Go Talk Wireless, you can trust that your conversations and personal information will remain private and secure.
Kevin: Starting a MVNO is a big thing! Were you inspired by the success Ryan Reynolds has had with Mint Mobile?
James: Ryan is great, isn't he? He's an inspiration to all of us! My passion in mobile has always been in security, both working with BlackBerry or and in the wireless industry for over 15 years — across vendor, distributor, and re-seller levels. I gained a lot of experience and I wanted to start a business that would have an impact for wireless users.
Kevin: Leading with privacy and identity theft protection is a unique angle for a carrier; what made you take that route?
James: I was a victim of identity theft at a high level. This led me to thinking about what tools and features that could help protect people, so others wouldn't have to endure the inconvenience and time to sort out the mess I was left in. We started with SIM swap fraud, something I don't think people are aware enough about. Dependency on SMS one-time passwords with SIM swap fraud is often the final part of the puzzle for fraudsters to add new recipients and send money or crypto, so securing this was essential in step one.
SMS one-time passwords are often the final part of the puzzle for fraudsters, so securing this was essential in step one.
Step two, we wanted to look at the entry point: how data loss can occur or what gives a fraudster that initial data or access to start compiling a profile on you. So, we made our mobile app, and bundled a free VPN and anti-phishing tools to give our subscribers more tools.
Kevin: Having your identity stolen must've been awful. How did you get back that control?
James: I was surprised it had happened to me! But, If someone wants to build a profile on you, they are going to try and find a way. And in some cases of SIM swap fraud even carrier employees have been in on the scheme.
One of the most frustrating things when this happens is you end up having to do so so much work to prove you are the 'real' individual to clean up the mess that has been created. I remember being in a bank telling the representative that I hadn't opened an account at this institution and they simply sent me away with a fraud telephone support number to call. The clean up is the worst part.
Kevin: What makes Go Talk's security better than other carriers?
James: Firstly, we help secure your account with three-factor authentication. This helps combat SIM swap fraud via someone knowing your PIN and basic login information.
Three-factor authentication combats SIM swap fraud via someone knowing your PIN and basic login information.
Secondly, we don't sell your data. Most larger carriers find huge value in your data and browsing usage, which they can also sell or use in their media relationships. We don't don't sell your data.
Thirdly, we include a free VPN for your phone and your desktop computer to keep your online activity private and stop that initial potential leak or attack. Plus we have anti-phishing tools which allow you to check URLs from malicious-looking text messages or emails.
Kevin: Since Go Talk is an MVNO, your service runs on the network of another carrier, right?
James: We run on the same carrier as some other MVNOSs, like Mint. You get 99% national coverage, 5G included, and it's very reliable. You get the same service and speeds with us as any other carrier.
Kevin: Who have your customers been so far?
James: We have seen a lot of customers who are concerned about privacy already sign up for Go Talk Wireless service, and people searching for SIM swap fraud defense. Adding the VPN also brought people to our door as this is generally a seperate subscription people pay for — it's free with our plans, who wouldn't want that? But also businesses are signing up, mainly for security reasons, as it helps protect their staff and in turn the business.
Kevin: That's the consumer side, though. What does Go Talk look like for B2B and enterprise customers?
We built our platform and user interface to cater to business users. Protecting the staff helps protect the business.
James: Business accounts are very important to Go Talk and we built our platform and user interface to cater to business users. We aim to protect their staff by providing guidance and education in staying safe online, and by giving them the tools to do this — such as our mobile app with VPN and anti-phishing.
Protecting the staff helps protect the business. Data held by staff, perhaps remote workers, is valuable information and a hack could either lead to data loss via their hardware or lead to entry to the business's files or server. Joining Go Talk as a business account will help protect you from this.
Kevin: Go Talk is relatively new. What are your growth plans, and what does success look like for you?
James: We want to be a household name! If you look at what Mint Mobile has achieved, they have been so successful. So maybe we need a Ryan Reynolds!
Kevin: You've been a bit of a BlackBerry addict yourself over the years — what's your history there?
James: BlackBerry has and always will have a place in my heart, Kevin! I found it very difficult moving away from my Bold 9900. I worked with BlackBerry from 2006 on different things up until 2020 when TCL was handling hardware. Our offices are even just down the road from BlackBerry's in California!
To check out plans and more, visit GoTalkWireless.com