Haseeb Awan with EFANI joins us to discuss keeping your crypto safe by protecting your phone from sim swapping.
Haseeb Awan is CEO of EFANI – America’s Most Secure & Private Cellphone Service. In past, he built co-founded the 1st Bitcoin ATM 7 years ago & grew it to 15 Countries. He is a Y-Combinator Alumni & angel investor in 30+ companies.
*Disclaimer. None of this information is financial advice.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:00:01:13 – 00:00:12:02
Richard Carthon: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host, here Richard Carthon, and today I got a special guest all the way out in Sacramento, California. We have Haseeb Awan with Efani. How are you doing today?
00:00:12:22 – 00:00:13:29
Haseeb Awan: I’m pretty good. How are you today?
00:00:14:13 – 00:00:25:03
Richard Carthon: I’m doing well man, it’s some interesting times that we’re living in, but you know we’re all getting through, but before we dive into today’s interview, how about you give us a little bit of background on yourself?
00:00:26:03 – 00:01:19:22
Haseeb Awan: Thank you Richard. So I am Haseeb Awan, I am a founder of Efani, which is a matter that’s the most secure and private cell phone service. In the past I got into crypto fairly early, maybe probably seven years ago. I made the first Bitcoin ATM and we were the first ones to start a team across the world. We have, I think, seven thousand locations right now where you can buy and sell Bitcoin, not just through bit ATM, but also locations like 7-Eleven or other stores. We also provide services to the governor of Canada and you know, we have clients like I believe Eli Deloitte and yes, I also presented in the Senate of Canada for our ATM, so we took our ATM to the Senate of Canada and we did give a demo to them. So yeah, in crypto for a long time, investment in over 30 plus companies, my degree in telecommunication and I went to Y Combinator.
00:01:20:09 – 00:01:44:21
Richard Carthon: Wow, so quite the impressive background. I mean, you definitely have a plethora of knowledge in various aspects, but I definitely want to stay on the Bitcoin ATM, so explain that process of creating the first one here in the states and then also just going through your experience with Y Combinator. Let’s start off first with what was your first introduction into the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, like how did you even find out about it and then say I want to bring ATMs?
00:01:45:23 – 00:02:09:11
Haseeb Awan: I think the first time I got a Bitcoin ATM was I actually bought it. I think I heard that something is driving 10x per day or something like that, a crazy amount of increment. I just went in for money, I was a student in Canada at that time and frankly that was the only investment vehicle available to me, so I bought I think, 20, 30 Bitcoin at 50 dollars or 100 dollars or something like that, I don’t remember the price.
00:02:09:13 – 00:02:09:28
Richard Carthon: Nice.
00:02:10:00 – 00:02:45:14
Haseeb Awan: And my friend of mine, so I bought on cash and there was exchange called BTCE, that a lot of people don’t even remember, but it was pretty much you have to send to a Russian exchange that you have no information about and you hope that they will come through. So you send Bitcoin there and Mongkok, if you send money there, and they’ll send you Bitcoin. So these were the only two options at that time. So yes, I sent money, I actually bought it in cash and the guy just transferred me my Bitcoin, he set me up for the Bitcoin warrant. The price of Bitcoin went to half the next day and I cried pretty much that you know, what kind of scam this is.
00:02:45:24 – 00:02:46:09
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:02:46:11 – 00:03:07:21
Haseeb Awan: And then I just held onto them and the price of Bitcoin kept on rising and we met at a meetup and we decide let’s build a Bitcoin ATM startup, but all from crypto background, frankly, but it was just a fun project for us, rather than building a company that turned into a massive company.
00:03:07:23 – 00:03:10:08
Richard Carthon: Right. Give me a timeline, what year is this?
00:03:11:12 – 00:03:13:03
Haseeb Awan: 2013
00:03:13:05 – 00:03:13:23
Richard Carthon: Okay.
00:03:13:26 – 00:03:16:11
Haseeb Awan: Yeah around 7 p.m.
00:03:16:25 – 00:03:40:08
Richard Carthon: Wow, gotcha. Awesome, so you get into the Bitcoin ATM, so you’re running that business and then you know, as you’re kind of weaving through all of that you know, security became an underlying issue that continually comes up. So can you tell us a little bit about you know, how did you get passionate about this and decided to create Efani through some of the various things that were going on with you?
00:03:41:00 – 00:04:24:28
Haseeb Awan: Yes there’s someone in crypto like you know it’s not uncommon to be heard of himself, right? So obviously I’m a victim not one time, but four times, and it was getting so annoying and it actually had some kind of mental impact on my life too, that I was getting paranoid about being hacked all the time. Like thinking about someone breaking into your house every day, he doesn’t get anything out of it, but still it’s just something that takes a lot, it is emotionally, definitely, like how can someone break into your house every night, right? It was causing problems with my sleep. I was actually out of the country last time when this happened, and it was almost impossible for me to recall my number, so I got very frustrated and I flew back.
00:04:25:00 – 00:05:12:29
Haseeb Awan: And I said, “Okay you know what this is time to change and I want to fix it myself,” but it was often a lot of frustration, so I said, “Let me fix that issue.” And luckily I did my telecommunication engineering. I said, “Okay I have a degree in hand that I can use,” so I started understanding the process and I realized what the weakness is in this and how it can make this process better for people who want better protection and privacy. Start out with the production part, the security part, but now we are also the privacy. How can we secure customer data? How can we not make them turn into a product so your data isn’t being sold by companies? So I said okay you know, can we let people pay for their product and not be sold to criminals? That’s how I built Efani.com.
00:05:13:14 – 00:05:19:25
Richard Carthon: Gotcha, okay. And that’s a really good point and just for people who aren’t familiar with SIM swaps, can you first explain, what is a SIM swap?
00:05:22:04 – 00:06:06:21
Haseeb Awan: Yeah. So you know, telephone numbers link to more identity than your social security number right now, like you go to eye repair and you give your telephone number, so a lot of exchanges like banks and they have your telephone number as a backup. So imagine if you lost something, if you lost your password, you click on “Change password,” it sends to your telephone number, right? If you lost your email password, they’ll send your telephone number, so pretty much everyone’s telephone number is used as a backup if you lost your password. Now the problem with that is exploit, more like a criminal offense, so you can trick any employee or bribe them or go on the dark web and purchase data. Imagine I want to see Richard take our digital telephone number. I can just basically go to AT&T store or go on dark web and find out if someone in that store would give me the information.
00:06:07:03 – 00:07:11:13
Haseeb Awan: And once I get this information, I can just swap the number of SIM card that I control, so now Richard doesn’t have a telephone number anymore, so if someone gives him a call, it comes to me. Similarly, I can go to Gmail and say, “Okay, forgot my password,” I click on “Forgot my password”. The text comes to me, now I have access to your Gmail. Once I have access to your Gmail, I’d run a cron job, so I can basically go into all your bank accounts on crypto exchanges, social media accounts of it in half an hour or maybe even 15 minutes. I basically drain you of your finances, your social media private life and at that point of time you’re hostage to me, so you have to first of all obtain all your money that you had. Number two, I have drained all your things that you had and now I have control of the data, so I’ll hold you hostage for you know, I hold you hostage for whatever data you want back or in some cases, I may have to pay for you know, you may have to pay a ransom to make sure that, yeah you may have to pay a ransom for that I don’t destroy your life or something.
00:07:11:15 – 00:07:49:03
Richard Carthon: Right. So in my understanding, I actually had this happen to a friend of mine and it was insane because it all happened just like you said so quickly, like as soon as he got locked out, they started like just draining all this stuff and within like almost I would say 20 minutes, they almost like took over everything and my understanding is that this happens all the time and it can just be really random. They might not have any vendetta against you, but somehow get your information and just say, “I’m going to attack this person.” So can you like give us more information like how often is this really happening and like what can people do to protect themselves against it? And I’m sure Efani is one of the ways that people can do that.
00:07:49:05 – 00:08:20:01
Haseeb Awan: Certainly. So a number one thing is absolutely it happens, more often than we think. A lot of people believe that it never happened to me, so it’ll never happen to me. I might as you know died, it doesn’t mean that you’re not died, right? There’s a lot of things that they say, “I’m not a high profile person and I cannot afford it.” So I say, “If you cannot afford security today, you definitely cannot afford a beach tomorrow.” You know this is basically a thing that you should be talking about like you know we are used to being like in a product where our data is being sold, right?
00:08:21:13 – 00:09:21:26
Haseeb Awan: It’s kind of okay, but like think about if someone put a camera in your living room and they know, monitor all the habits, how you watch TV and everything and how you watch food and you know, I’ll pay you for that. You know, you may not be okay with that, so long story short is that it happens quite often to a lot of people and 95 percent of cases do not get reported either because of multiple reasons. Like if you have not lost like maybe half a million dollars, even if you claim like the FBI, probably there’s a very likelihood of chance that they would not come. It’s like reporting to your local police officer about something you lost, like a laptop or something. It may show up, but you know there’s a 100 percent chance you will not get it back, you can just report it for your fun. So some people just don’t report it because they know something and sometimes it’s a ransom or it’s kind of a blackmailing, they have to say if you talk to anyone, they’ll do this thing to you, now that you’re paying them you’re also you know, in a kind of a contract or held hostage by them.
00:09:22:03 – 00:10:06:01
Haseeb Awan: People don’t talk about it, that’s one thing. Number two thing is your telephone number is very very very very very vulnerable to SIM swap, right? Like if someone said that it will not happen, it will happen, it’s a matter of time. So it’s not one of those that hey it’s not happening. It’s definitely going to happen. The only thing is when you’re multiple, which obviously we are the best way and I’m obviously biased against that, but we only protect Americans, that we only protect certain people. We cannot definitely cannot reach everyone and there’s a chance that people may not be able to afford our product because we are a slightly higher product than what is currently in the market. But number one thing is go to all your accounts and turn off you know, SMS with authentication, right?
00:10:06:13 – 00:10:06:28
Richard Carthon: Okay.
00:10:07:00 – 00:10:46:22
Haseeb Awan: And always believe that you know, you will get hacked. Your number will be taken away, this should be not a question that hey what if I know this will get hacked. Now what happened is you have to make sure that you do not have any kind of SMS or telephone based authentication and for companies which have you should take another telephone number, that’s the only way. So if someone’s takeaway he should be only able to take away some of the information you, but not do harm to them financially. So have a two factor authentication not using SMS, but like using apps like Google Authenticator.
00:10:47:06 – 00:11:24:23
Richard Carthon: Gotcha. No, and I think that’s great advice and actually something I’m actually going to go back and do now cause I definitely have a lot where I use the authenticator, but there’s still like another backup where sometimes I have authenticator, but they still send me a SNS message anyway to just go and turn all those off. So I think that is very useful and definitely something to think about because I know with a lot of people in the crypto and blockchain space security is a super high issue and very important. And you know with everything that you have going on with Efani, like what are the various ways that people could come and use your platform to help make themselves more secure?
00:11:25:19 – 00:12:14:17
Haseeb Awan: So we operate like a service company, right? Like AT&T or like T-Mobile or any media carrier you have. We work with one of the bigger carriers, the biggest carrier in the U.S. and we are like MVNO, so technically we just have a carrier and we only focus on two things: privacy and security. So number one we guarantee that your number will never stop. Number two we guarantee that you will never be sold to criminals, as in your data. We don’t want it to flock, or you know, sell customer data, right? The third thing is it comes with a 500 dollar insurance policy, so if something goes wrong you know, we cover up to 500 dollars in losses and the other part is we have a 24 hour service so if something you need something in the middle of night you can call us and make sure that you will be guided through what helped in a timely manner.
00:12:14:19 – 00:12:15:14
Richard Carthon: Gotcha, okay.
00:12:16:01 – 00:12:20:03
Haseeb Awan: And we are like a boutique cell phone service right. Only for the few percent.
00:12:20:05 – 00:12:44:09
Richard Carthon: Gotcha. All right. And definitely good to know and definitely worth everyone checking out and just even listening to the security tips that see has laid out. Definitely, definitely, look into an implement, but Haseeb you’ve been in the crypto blockchain space for a while. What are some various projects and even if there’s some security ones that you’re looking at, what are the various ones that have your attention right now?
00:12:45:00 – 00:13:37:21
Haseeb Awan: So I frankly, like you know, I am actually, I was in crypto earlier on. I don’t know probably ultimately, but I’ve been very bullish on secure tokens, DeFi. Like how can you basically have this done which is not dependent on special cooperation? I’m pretty bullish on Bitcoin overall as a storage of currency. And then you know, decent had entities. My thinking is that you know, my identity should only be used as required. Like I don’t need to give my information to every bank, every person going to make an account and they should have a unique password, like I log into Facebook, just to give you an example, I have my key, I just put it in, I log into Facebook, I take it out. No one can log into Facebook anymore, just to give you an example. And whatever I need, I can just take away all my information by just one click. So basically with consent I give information as needed.
00:13:38:03 – 00:13:38:18
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:13:38:21 – 00:13:49:14
Haseeb Awan: So I’m very bullish on decent you know, finance and secure tokens are massive for me.
00:13:49:16 – 00:13:50:01
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:13:50:03 – 00:13:56:03
Haseeb Awan: And I think we need to democratize secure token, actually head of course and I’m very super bullish on investment in multiple companies in this space too.
00:13:56:25 – 00:14:49:22
Richard Carthon: Gotcha, yeah. And again going back to the theme of today’s conversation is security. It’s going to be highly important to see how even as things scale up in looking at blockchain because even though you’re on a decentralized ledger with blockchain, you can pretty much follow the trail no matter what. And as you know, you still need to be able to make sure it is extremely secure throughout each of those steps and each of those blocks. So I would agree that having an absolute secure you know, security tokens are going to be very very important and will be interesting to see how all that shapes out. Now there’s been a lot of things going on in the world right now between COVID and you know, even protests in the U.S. and everything else that’s going on right now, you know. What are some things that are coming up either in the near term or the long term in the crypto and blockchain space that you think people should be aware of?
00:14:50:21 – 00:15:23:02
Haseeb Awan: I think DeFi, frankly, like it, something that’s actively growing is DeFi, right? How can you lend money to anyone without you know, taking collateral? So I just believe that we have more digital than physical now or you know, digital assets. I’ll give you an example, you may have a YouTube channel, right? And that and not you can not go to a bank and say, “Hey I need a YouTube channel to be a collateral audio podcast.” And you say, “Hey I want to have my podcast, so take my podcast link and my passport and give me a loan again.”
00:15:23:14 – 00:16:52:04
Haseeb Awan: So I think they’ll be like oracles who will basically allow you to assess asset value and that would be massive. So you can go to like, I’ll give you an example, like I have a username on Twitter, which is verified. We have like 60, 70 thousand followers, I believe. There’s no way for a bank to understand or like you know, to do underwriting on that asset so there will be oracles who would be able to underwrite those assets and then someone in a different part of the world will understand that this oracle is good at what he does cause it’s all his loans that he did in the past, but not defaulted. So he’ll give a lot more confidence on underwriting and issue a loan. So all of this will go online, rather than going through a bank because right now what happened is if you go to a bank, the underwriter, the lender and the borrower they’re all under the same roof, so all of them have to work together. But my question if these three people did not have to be under the same umbrella and they don’t have to fight with each other, so underwriter could be a third party and the borrower could be a third party and the person who is giving a debt should also be like not connected, so they could be all that far, like you’re not connected to each other, but still working for the same interest and that will reduce the cost of lending and you would be able to issue loans to someone in Kenya for a farm by sitting here, cause somewhere in Kenya would be able to understand like how much is the return on this investment. It may be better than investing in a lot of companies locally.
00:16:52:06 – 00:17:17:16
Richard Carthon: Yeah and that’s a really interesting concept in that’s being developed even more, but the whole idea of microlending but then also just like you said everything doesn’t have to be under the same umbrella, there’s creative ways that you can finance a thing and DeFi is definitely a way that those opportunities are being exposed to the greater world. So I agree that that is something that should be on people’s radar and people should be looking out for as it develops even further.
00:17:18:17 – 00:17:41:24
Haseeb Awan: 100 percent, 100 percent, I think that’s like you know, cause finance is something that attracts most of the people like Bitcoin was not, normally Bitcoin price would not have increased. It is good for technology, but the money part is what keeps everyone attracted, so as long as we are doing innovation and it comes with a financial advantage, we will get a lot of benefits. The financial incentive has to be aligned with that innovation.
00:17:42:21 – 00:18:23:12
Richard Carthon: Absolutely. And this is being tested against, I mean everything that’s going on in the world right now, with the global economy and in response to COVID and everything else like crypto is the reason why it was made in the first place is holding strong right now, right? In response to a global recession and right now even with that happening being over and just more eyes being brought to the crypto space that’s like oh this could be like a good hedge. And I think people are becoming more and more receptive to that concept and idea and that could just blow everything out of the water in the crypto world a lot sooner than what was probably anticipated.
00:18:24:10 – 00:19:14:22
Haseeb Awan: Yes, certainly like frankly, crypto moves like in just a blink of an eye. I could not even remember. I was thinking like yesterday that we were building a Bitcoin ATM and I was buying my first crypto and you know, things have changed a lot. Usually I move quicker than I anticipated, but I think the economy was strong, so we didn’t had a problem of inflation and then everyone was getting jobs, but now we have tens of millions of Americans that have lost their jobs and the economy, it’s in tough time right now, so I think this is a moment for crypto to shine. And we can understand how one asset is not like inflation once deflation, cause people don’t get it or understand, they believe everything is fine. Like you know until something goes wrong. And the time we live in frankly, these are times that we never experienced, at least in our lifetime.
00:19:14:24 – 00:19:15:09
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:19:15:13 – 00:19:37:08
Haseeb Awan: And people who are like I learned that even in world wars, these are crazy times, you know, we have riots going on right now, we have like inflation and the stocks are up almost all time high again, airlines are going almost bankrupt, no one wants to leave the house, crazy times, you know? So I think this is the time for crypto to shine, frankly.
00:19:37:26 – 00:19:53:13
Richard Carthon: Absolutely, absolutely. And so I mean, Haseeb, I really appreciate you spending time with us. Thank you for you know, dropping all the knowledge that you have and definitely keeping us more aware, making sure that we’re being secure and being aware of SIM swaps. But you know what is a final thought that you want to leave with all of our listeners here today?
00:19:54:09 – 00:20:29:03
Haseeb Awan: I think the only thing you know a lot of people would say, “I can’t afford crypto, like it’s the same knowledge. If you’re going to afford education, you definitely can’t afford being uneducated, right? Similarly with security, if you believe that you cannot afford security, you definitely cannot afford, so regardless if you use Efani or not, like you know, you should be very careful. Like don’t turn a blind eye, don’t like you know, just ignore the fact that it’ll never happen, it will happen. The only thing is it would take you 10 minutes literally, instead of like two factor authentication and literally 10 minutes and don’t delay tomorrow.
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