Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

Intelligence Agencies and Other Hackers are Listening to Cell Phones Conversations

A report by CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” broadcast Sunday evening after two years in the making, shows how millions of smartphones users are vulnerable to eavesdropping and surveillance — despite advancements in protections on most phones. The problem is not in the cellphones, it is in the cell phone companies’ switching systems.

It’s done by exploiting a flaw in Signaling System No. 7 (SS7), a little-known but crucial system that brokers information between phone networks. SS7 handles that translation every time you send a text or make a call. By targeting SS7, an attacker can see almost everything that passes through the system.

German security researcher Karsten Nohl, who revealed the flaw more than two years ago at a hacker gathering in Hamburg, said the flaw still exists. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates the cellular space, is said to have done nothing since it first begun looking into the flaw.

The weakness can be avoided by using encrypted voice technology, something that is available for almost all smartphones. However, very few smartphone users have installed such software.

You can

Categories: Cell Phones

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