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How to crash a phone by SMS

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Black Hat Europe So now you can send an SMS and crash a mobile phone, so that the user is locked out.

Job de Haas, a security researcher at ITSX, has adapted a program called sms_client, which sends an SMS message from an Internet-connected PC, in which the User Data Header is broken.

During a presentation during the Black Hat conference last week, he demonstrated how a malformed message crashes a Nokia 6210 phone on its receipt. Once the message is received it is impossible to turn on an infected phone again.

The vulnerability is tied to the software used by a phone. The flaw affects Nokia 6210, 3310 and 3330 phones, de Haas has discovered, but not a Siemens phone he tried. Phones from other manufacturers are yet to be tested.

To fix the problem users have to put a SIM card into a phone without the bug. Alternatively if the SMS message is registered in a user's In-box this could be deleted with a SMS management tool on a PC.

To repeat the exploit requires knowledge of SS7 signalling and telco protocols to adapt sms_client into an attack tool. But given the power of the attack security through obscurity doesn't appeal. The kicker is that the modified sms_client makes it trivial to spoof the source of any attack.

Nokia told us that sending a message which freezes a phone is "something it encountered" before. The company is unfamiliar with the exploit uncovered by ITSX, which comes as a new twist even to clued-up Black Hat attendees. It promises to get us a more detailed technical response, and we'll update you when this becomes available. ®

Related stories:
Nokia 7650: smart phone, shame about the price
Nokia 3330
Microsoft and Vodafone launch mobile Outlook app
SMS pumps up Vodafone sales

Business drives the Wireless Web
GSM Association launches new standard for next-gen mobiles
SMS in action: road killer and life saver
SMS Me (email is Pants!)

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