Simplest Phones Open to 'SMS of Death'
By John Borland December 28, 2010
BERLIN - It's a scene from an as-yet-unmade thriller: Across a country, tens of thousands of cellphones all blink white at the same, and turn themselves off. Calls are lost, phones are rendered useless, and the affected mobile operator is forced to pay a ransom or lose customers.
It hasn't happened yet. But speaking at the Chaos Computer Club Congress here, German researchers showed how vulnerabilities in some the simplest, but most common phones in the world could conceivably lead to just such a scenario.
Mobile phone security has been a growing concern due to the increasing popularity of smartphones, whose web-browsing and app-running capabilities allow attacks similar to those made against computers. Yet more than 85 percent of the world's cellphones are feature phones - simple devices with the ability to play MP3s or browse the web, but without the power of the iPhone or Android-based handsets.
Vulnerabilities have been found in this type of phone before, but new open source tools allowing individuals to set up their own private GSM networks have helped researchers find a host of bugs ranging from pesky to serious in many of the world's most common handsets.