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A German security expert announced that the encryption technology protecting certain cell phone calls from interception has been cracked. The tools necessary to intercept cell phone calls are available free of charge on the Internet and information detailing the vulnerability of cell phone voice call and data (such as text messages) encryption has been released.
The newly raised concern affects only GSM networks, which are used by about 4 billion cell phone users around the globe and by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. There were previous reports indicating that GSM might be insecure, but no one was able to show evidence for that claim until now.
It is widely assumed that any encryption can be broken with the right tools and enough computing horsepower. It appears that especially recent advances in accelerating common computers with graphic chips were key to break GSM security. Computer security expert Karsten Nohl said that the complex GSM encryption was successfully cracked within three months using 40 computers. He initially expected that it would take about twice as long, but mentioned that “incredible errors within the GSM encryption” technology unexpectedly accelerated the hacking process.
Given the current advances in computer technology, it is likely that very few computers will be able to hack into cell phone within a few weeks and begin eavesdropping on any voice and data transmissions.
Nohl claims that a complete cell phone eavesdropping system can be built for less than $1000. Nohl and other security experts recommend that GSM cell phone technology needs to be updated or entirely changed as soon as possible.
Hacking into Facebook and Email accounts to eavesdrop on ex-spouses during a divorce is so yesterday. Cell phone hacking may be one of the next topics attorneys and courts will have to deal with.