Feeds

Snooptastic US CELL TOWERS pose man-in-the-middle THREAT

Not likely to happen in UK, says expert

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A significant number of cell towers in the US are not what they seem to be. In fact, at least according to a recent report, it’s likely they are snooping on your calls.

One of the impressive things about GSM is that despite being a standard that was devised nearly a quarter of a century ago, it’s still pretty secure. If you're looking to listen into calls, it’s actually much easier to just switch off the encryption. Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, which sells a security-hardened phone, says he has found a number of cell sites which do exactly this.

Goldsmith told the US publication Popular Science that he knew of 17 mobile phone towers which forced his phone to 2G and then switched off the encryption. He dubs these as “interceptors” on the basis that they might be running man-in-the-middle attacks where the rogue tower takes a call, siphons it off for interception and also passes it on to the legitimate network.

One (American) expert who works in the field told El Reg: “The Americans can be very melodramatic about things. It is highly unlikely that this 'interceptor' stuff will become common in the UK due to licensing and call charges.

"It is most probable that these sites are to allow coverage to groups of people that are not in a conventional coverage area (such as paying customers in a casino, or military groups). I would suggest that university campus areas may do the same. It does allow "man in the middle" attacks to be carried out on standard users if that were the purpose of the towers... which I doubt!”

Another very senior expert told us: “False base stations are always possible on GSM. It does not surprise me. Of course, encryption can be turned off by the operator, or by the State such as China or India. It does not happen on 3G or LTE if you are using mutual authentication.”

In the past, network planners have told us about interesting anomalies in coverage around some London embassies.

It’s also worth noting that many phones – even feature phones – will notify you if they are connected to a network without encryption. And in some cases this might be because the country you are in cannot get the export licences necessary to install encrypted infrastructure. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
Surprise: if you work from home you need the Internet
Buffer-rage sends Aussies out to experience road rage
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
MOST iPhone strokers SPURN iOS 8: iOS 7 'un-updatening' in 5...4...
Guess they don't like our battery-draining update?
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.