GSM is Easily Broken - The UpStream

GSM is Easily Broken

posted Saturday Aug 7, 2010 by Scott Ertz

GSM is Easily Broken

Chris Paget is not a name you probably know, but you should. He has spent the last few years trying to show the world the vulnerabilities of some of the technology we take for granted. Last year, he demonstrated how easy it is to snag the information off of "secure RFIDs" such as the ones used in US passports. He was able to download the information from the passports without even having to leave his car.

This year at DefCon, an annual security conference, the hacker showed off his latest feat - stealing cellular phone calls. With a setup that cost him about $1,500 he was able to intercept and record phone calls from unsuspecting phones.

Want to know how he did it? Hit the break!

His setup was able to convince local GSM phones that it was a legitimate 2G GSM tower. Most phones are told in their software to connect to the closest and strongest tower, regardless of source, and in this case, it was his setup in his car. At the conference, Chris said,

As far as your cell phones are concerned, I'm now indistinguishable from AT&T... GSM is broken. The primary solution is to turn it off altogether.

Now, of course, this probably won't happen, as most of the world is dependent on GSM technology and AT&T and T-Mobile are nowhere near ready to launch their LTE networks. That being said, it is like WEP - still out there despite being completely useless.

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