Hacker Spoofs Cell Phone Tower to Intercept Calls [Telecom]

Whew! As demonstrated yesterday (31-July-2010) at the DEFCON 2010 at the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas (Nevada):

" " A security researcher created a $1,500 cell phone base station " kit (including a laptop and two RF antennas) that tricks cell " phones into routing their outbound calls through his device, " allowing someone to intercept even encrypted calls in the clear. " Most of the price is for the laptop he used to operate the " system. The device tricks the phones into disabling encryption " and records call details and content before they are routed on " their proper way through voice-over-IP. The low-cost, home- " brewed device ... mimics more expensive devices already used " by intelligence and law enforcement agencies ? called IMSI " catchers ? that can capture phone ID data and content. The " devices essentially spoof a legitimate GSM tower and entice " cell phones to send them data by emitting a signal that's " stronger than legitimate towers in the area. Encrypted calls " are not protected from interception because the rogue tower " can simply turn it off. Although the GSM specifications say " that a phone should pop up a warning when it connects to a " station that does not have encryption, SIM cards disable that " setting so that alerts are not displayed. Even though the GSM " spec requires it, this is a deliberate choice on the cell phone " makers, Paget said.

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Thad Floryan
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