Newsletters
News & Information for Technology Purchasers NewsFactor Sites:       NewsFactor.com     Enterprise Security Today     CRM Daily     Business Report     Sci-Tech Today  
   
This ad will display for the next 20 seconds. Click for more information, or
Home Enterprise I.T. Cloud Computing Applications Hardware More Topics...
Build Apps 5x Faster
For Half the Cost
Enterprise Cloud Computing

On Force.com
Mobile Tech
Tame your scariest paperwork. Find Out How
Average Rating:
Rate this article:  
SIM Card Flaw Leaves 750 Million Phones at Risk
SIM Card Flaw Leaves 750 Million Phones at Risk

By Seth Fitzgerald
July 22, 2013 10:12AM

    Bookmark and Share
Even though a large portion of the phones tested did not accept an SMS message pretending to be from the phone's wireless carrier, many of them did, and in doing so the phone frequently provided the SIM card's cryptographic signature. Because they used weak encryption, the signatures were quickly cracked. That then provided a way to download a virus.
 



A German security researcher has found a major flaw in the type of encryption that many cell phone SIM cards use.

According to researcher Karsten Nohl, the DES (data encryption standard) protocol which has been around since the 1970s is weak against attacks, despite it still being used on half of all SIM cards.

Nohl, who will be presenting his findings at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next week, tested 1,000 SIM cards over a two-year period and has come to the conclusion that as many as 750 million cell phones globally could be vulnerable to these relatively easy attacks.

The two largest carriers in the U.S., Verizon and AT&T, both reportedly have said they have moved away from DES encryption and their SIM cards are not vulnerable to the flaw.

The Attack

By looking at the security features present on the test phones, he discovered that in a quarter of them that use the older encryption standard, a hacker could exploit carrier text messages. Cell phone carriers frequently send out text messages to phones, and Nohl was able to trick devices into seeing him as a carrier. After doing so, the phone accepted a text message and replied with the SIM card's 56-digit key.

Once hackers have access to a SIM card's unique key, they are able to take over the device. Nohl said hackers with a SIM key are able to do practically anything they want with the phone.

"We can remotely install software on a handset that operates completely independently from your phone," Nohl said. "We can spy on you. We know your encryption keys for calls. We can read your SMS's. More than just spying, we can steal data from the SIM card, your mobile identity, and charge to your account."

Even though a large portion of the phones that Nohl tested did not accept the message pretending to be from the carrier, many of them did, and in doing so the phone frequently provided a cryptographic signature. The issue with the signatures used by the SIM cards is that Nohl was able to crack them in under a minute.

Breaking the encryption key gave Nohl access to the phone, allowing him to download a virus onto the SIM card that would eavesdrop on calls, collect data, and send messages or calls.

Fixing the Vulnerability

Nohl has yet to release the specifics of his research to the public but he has already notified the GSM Association about his findings. The International Telecommunications Union, a sub-group of the United Nations, said the research was "hugely significant."

Wireless telecom analyst Jeff Kagan said most people do not add virus protection to their cell phones, and when combined with weak encryption security, phones are vulnerable devices.

When it comes to fixing the problem, which potentially affects more than 750 million devices, Kagan said there were a few things that must be done.

"The solution has to come from many areas," Kagan told us. "One is to continually upgrade SIM cards. Two is to have security protection on the networks, which we do have. Three is to personally protect our devices with protection software like we do on our computers."
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Andreas:

Posted: 2013-07-23 @ 6:30am PT
Can you say fear mongering?



APC has an established a reputation for solid products that virtually pay for themselves upon installation. Who has time to spend worrying about system downtime? APC makes it easy for you to focus on business growth instead of business downtime with reliable data center systems and IT solutions. Learn more here.


 Mobile Tech
1.   LG Unrolls a TV Screen That Rolls Up
2.   Silent Circle Offers Roam-Free Plan
3.   LinkedIn Replaces Contacts Mobile App
4.   Is Apple Dumping iPhones on eBay?
5.   Data Recovered from 'Wiped' Phones


advertisement
Android SMS Worm on the Loose
Malware lets bad actors cash in.
Average Rating:
Review: Microsoft's Surface Pro 3
Is it a tablet and laptop replacement?
Average Rating:
Review: Huawei's Mate2 Impressive
Many features for a reasonable price.
Average Rating:


advertisement
Product Information and Resources for Technology You Can Use To Boost Your Business

Network Security Spotlight
Report: Chinese Hackers Hit U.S. Personnel Networks
Hackers from China broke into the computer networks of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management earlier this year with the intention of accessing the files of tens of thousands of federal employees.
 
Charges: Russian Stole Data from U.S. Restaurants, Zoo
A Russian man arrested on bank fraud and other charges hacked into computers at restaurants in Washington, hundreds of other retail businesses, and even the Phoenix Zoo, authorities say.
 
Another Month, Another IE-Focused Patch Tuesday
Microsoft rolled out 59 vulnerabilities for Internet Explorer in June. But the IE-patching party is not over yet. Redmond published six new security bulletins on Tuesday; two, critical; three, important.
 

Navigation
NewsFactor Network
Home/Top News | Enterprise I.T. | Cloud Computing | Applications | Hardware | Mobile Tech | Big Data | Communications
World Wide Web | Network Security | Data Storage | Small Business | Microsoft/Windows | Apple/Mac | Linux/Open Source | Personal Tech
Press Releases
NewsFactor Network Enterprise I.T. Sites
NewsFactor Technology News | Enterprise Security Today | CRM Daily

NewsFactor Business and Innovation Sites
Sci-Tech Today | NewsFactor Business Report

NewsFactor Services
FreeNewsFeed | Free Newsletters | XML/RSS Feed

About NewsFactor Network | How To Contact Us | Article Reprints | Careers @ NewsFactor | Services for PR Pros | Top Tech Wire | How To Advertise

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
© Copyright 2000-2014 NewsFactor Network. All rights reserved. Article rating technology by Blogowogo. Member of Accuserve Ad Network.