German hackers crack GSM encryption
The Chaos Computer Club has told the FT that in the couple of months it will be releasing code capable of cracking GSM with just a laptop and an antenna.
In comments made to the German edition of the Financial Times, the hacking group claims that governments, and criminals, are already using the technique which can break the encryption used to protect 2G GSM calls in near-real time using existing systems. The group says a public exposure of the technique will take place in the next month or two and allow anyone equipped with a laptop and an antenna to listen in to GSM phone calls.
GSM has been cracked before, the early algorithms used were weak and kept secret (and thus not exposed to public scrutiny), a situation made worse by network operators padding the keys with zeros to reduce the cost of SIM cards. This made a weak algorithm that relied on obscurity even weaker. But since then, the standard has proved surprisingly secure, and even today specialist equipment will take half an hour to break a call, so real-time listening to GSM calls has been restricted to James-Bond types with unlimited budgets.
But the Chaos Computer Club reckons they've found a way to share those super-spy eavesdropping capabilities with anyone, which should have implications for celebrities using mobile phones, but will probably have a more immediate impact on low-level drug dealers who've long relied on the security of GSM for their business.