Major telecom service providers in the US have quickly fixed the bug that could possibly enable cyber criminals to hack SIM cards used in mobile phones. This is according to Karsten Nohl, the German cryptographer from the Security Research Labs that discovered that bug.
Last week, no less than the United Nations issued warnings to mobile carriers worldwide about the possibility of SIM cards being compromised. Nohl first made his discovery public last July 21. He admitted that he spent the last three years finding ways to hack SIM cards. He is a ‘white hat’ hacker, a hacker that identifies possible weaknesses in systems long before criminals discover and use those for their own advantage.
At the recent Black Hat conference held in Las Vegas, Nohl was supposed to demonstrate how he managed to hack a SIM card. But at the start of his presentation, he revealed that five major wireless carriers in the country have rushed to make updates so that the problem could be patched instantly.
Those network fixes, he explained, would make it impossible for him to hack the SIM cards. Thus, he opted to just demonstrate several parts of the hacking process. When asked by the media to name those carriers, Nohl politely declined.
He disclosed that he was able to hack the SIM cards just through exploiting flaws in encryption keys and later on sending hidden SMS text messages. While mobile phones could be susceptible to security attacks and issues, SIM cards used to be considered safe until this hacking discovery. This surprised everyone because there is too much data that can be stored and accessed through those small plastic cards like personal information of users and payment details.
Physical replacements of millions of hacked or compromised SIM cards worldwide could have cost all carriers so much. Phone owners could have been exposed to greater security threats. Fortunately, major carriers could now create their own solution to fix the possible bugs.
If a hacker accesses a SIM card, he could stage various types of attacks to exploit information. He could possibly incur greater phone bill charges, intercept important phone calls, track locations of the user, remotely control the handset, and access key financial information saved on the phone. Nohl said the same bug would incur greatest damage in Africa because phones in that continent are heavily used for mobile banking transactions.
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