Feeds

Dutch get wound up over invisible SMS

Smoking a little too much?

High performance access to file storage

Dutch tabloid De Telegraaf reports that 12 Somalis picked up in Amsterdam over Christmas were located using secret SMS messages, apparently bouncing back their GPS coordinates for the authorities.

The 12 suspects were arrested on Christmas eve following a tip-off that they were planning some sort of terrorist attack, but now De Telegraaf reveals that in order to make those arrests the local security forces relied on a hitherto secret capability to track mobile phones through the use of silent SMS messages.

Using the still-secret capability apparently required special permission – provided to the Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (Intelligence and Security Department) – and enabled the security forces to send out SMS messages to the suspects' phones, which helpfully reported back with their GPS coordinates and enabled swift arrest. But while that capability may worry some, it is really limited compared to what the security forces can really do.

Silent SMS messages are indeed part of the GSM standard, and they can be directed to the handset or SIM without alerting the user. Handset-targeted messages are used to alert the phone that an MMS message is waiting for it, among other things, while those addressed to the SIM often contain changes to preferred roaming partners, but could conceivably contain a request for location information – if the SIM had previously been configured to respond to such a request.

But there would be no point; network operators already know where every phone is – they have to in order to deliver the phone calls. In Europe network operators are also required to store that data, enabling the Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst – or any similar organisation – to find out not just where their suspects are, but everywhere their suspects have been for the last 12 months.

Providing that information in real time isn't hard, though UK operators are permitted to bill the security forces for the effort involved, so there's really no need to muck about sending secret SMS messages or relying on handsets equipped with GPS, when a text to the network operator would be so much more effective. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.