This Is How Easily Hackers Can Access Your Smartphone – Just Scary!
The breach was exposed nearly two years ago but little to nothing has been done to protect cell phone users. In fact, most people have no idea just how easily their phones are used to spy on them.
According to Ars Technica, the US Department of Homeland Security recently warned that malicious hackers may have targeted US phone users by exploiting a four-decades-old networking protocol used by cell phone providers around the world, according to a spokesman for US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Meanwhile, the spokesman said, one of the nation’s major cellular carriers recently experienced a breach of that same protocol that exposed customer data.
Short for Signalling System No. 7, SS7 is the routing protocol that allows cell phone users to connect seamlessly from network to network as they travel throughout the world. With little built-in security and no way for carriers to verify one another, SS7 has always posed a potential hole that people with access could exploit to track the real-time location of individual users. In recent years, the threat has expanded almost exponentially, in part because the number of companies with access to SS7 has grown from a handful to thousands. Another key reason: hackers can now abuse the routing protocol not just to geolocate people but, in many cases, to intercept text messages and voice calls.
As Written By Washington Post:
Surveillance systems that track the locations of cellphone users and spy on their calls, texts and data streams are being turned against Americans as they roam the country and the world, say security experts and U.S. officials.
Federal officials acknowledged the privacy risk to Americans in a previously undisclosed letter from the Department of Homeland Security to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week, saying they had received reports that “nefarious actors may have exploited” global cellular networks “to target the communications of American citizens.”
The letter, dated May 22 and obtained by The Washington Post, described surveillance systems that tap into a global messaging system that allows cellular customers to move from network to network as they travel. The decades-old messaging system, called SS7, has little security, allowing intelligence agencies and some criminal gangs to spy on unwitting targets — based on nothing more than their cellphone numbers.
“I don’t think most Americans realize how insecure U.S. telephone networks are,” Wyden said in a statement. “If more consumers knew how easy it is for bad guys to track or hack their mobile phones, they would demand the FCC and wireless companies do something about it. These aren’t just hypotheticals.”
Wyden also revealed in a separate letter Tuesday that a major American cellular carrier has referred an “SS7 breach” involving customer data to federal law enforcement officials for investigation. He chastised the Federal Communications Commission in the letter, saying it had “failed to address this ongoing threat to national security.”
The FCC declined to comment on the letter, which was addressed to Chairman Ajit Pai.
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