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Warning: Hackers can remotely gain access and control your simcard

sim cardA German firm has discovered a bug that allows hackers to remotely gain control of and also clone certain mobile SIM cards.

Millions of mobile phones may be vulnerable to spying due to the use of an outdated 1970-era cryptography technique,

Hackers could use compromised SIMs to commit financial crimes or engage in electronic espionage, according to Berlin’s Security Research Labs, which will describe the vulnerabilities at the Black Hat hacking conference that opens in Las Vegas on July 31.

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The U.N.’s Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, which has reviewed the research, described it as “hugely significant.”

“These findings show us where we could be heading in terms of cyber-security risks,” ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré said.

He added that the agency would notify telecommunications regulators and other government agencies in nearly 200 countries about the potential threat and also reach out to hundreds of mobile companies, academics and other industry experts.

GSMA, which represents nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, said it also reviewed the research.

“We have been able to consider the implications and provide guidance to those network operators and SIM vendors that may be impacted,” said GSMA spokeswoman Claire Cranton.

Nicole Smith, a spokeswoman for Gemalto NV, the world’s biggest maker of SIM cards, said her company supported GSMA’s response.

“Our policy is to refrain from commenting on details relating to our customers’ operations,” she said.

Cracking SIM cards has long been the Holy Grail of hackers because the tiny devices are located in phones and allow operators to identify and authenticate subscribers as they use networks.

The hacking only works on SIMs that use an old encryption technology known as DES.  At least 500 million phones are vulnerable to the attacks and the number could grow if other researchers start looking into the issue and find other ways to exploit the same class of vulnerabilities.

The ITU estimates some 6 billion mobile phones are in use worldwide. It plans to work with the industry to identify how to protect vulnerable devices from attack, Touré said.

Once a hacker copies a SIM, it can be used to make calls and send text messages impersonating the owner of the phone

The newly identified attack method only grants access to data stored on the SIM, which means payment applications that store their secrets outside of the SIM card are not vulnerable to this particular hacking approach.

Security Research Labs found mobile operators in many countries whose phones were vulnerable, but declined to identify them. He said mobile phone users in Africa could be among the most vulnerable because banking is widely done via mobile payment systems with credentials stored on SIMs.

All types of phones are vulnerable, including iPhones from Apple Inc, phones that run Google Inc’s Android software and BlackBerry Ltd smartphones.

Source: NDTV Gadgets

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Ephraim Batambuze III

Digital guy, Web developer, Tech blogger, Gadgets Reviews, Geeky dad. Email:ebatambuze@gmail.com Twitter:@batambuze WhatsApp/Telegram:+256781665128 Skype:ebatambuze
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