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December 30, 2009

German hacker claims to have broken cell phone encryption

If true, this is scary, very scary, and will cost billions to resolve.

A German hacker claims to have cracked the encryption that protects most cellphone calls, potentially paving the way for others to eavesdrop on conversations.

The claim, if true, could pose a threat to many wireless carriers who have used essentially the same security on their networks for years...

The security aspects are bad enough, but there's undoubtedly a crapload of gear out in the field that has this encryption burned into ROM's and otherwise not easily reconfigured methods.

That's one of the constant worries with embedded encryption tech -- if its easy for YOU to upgrade/change, then its also easier for someone else to do the same. A cheap mask programmed ROM is physically incapable of being altered remotely...which is a good thing...until the time comes that the code it contained exhibits a weakness. Now you gotta physically go out into the field and start swapping ROM's in gear...unless the ROM has been soldered down, in which case, now you're swapping whole boards out...which means you have to make new boards...distribute those boards, etc, etc.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It may just be BS and the German is hoaxing, but if he's not, telecom companies and their customers are going to get hit with some pretty big one-time expenses fairly soon.


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posted by Purp at 02:05 PM

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