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One Hack to Rule Them All: 80 Percent of Cellphones Could Be Exposed to This Hack


"We can do it to hundreds of thousands of phones in a short timeframe."

A recent study revealed that cellphones running on a GSM network system, which is about 80 percent of phones worldwide, have lax security standards that makes them vulnerable to hackers.

While the phones evaluated in the study were not in the United States, the lead researcher said similar security issues could exist on U.S. network operating systems.

The Daily Mail reports that Karsten Nohl with Germany's Security Research Labs found a way to hack into phones on any GSM network that could allow them to be controlled all at once:

The attack allows hackers complete control over the handsets, and could be used to make or send texts to premium phone and messaging services - a typical fraudster attack which can leave victims with enormous bills.

Nohl said that although he refused to lay out details of how the attack worked, it was inevitable that hackers would reproduce it "within weeks".

"We can do it to hundreds of thousands of phones in a short timeframe," Nohl said in advance of a presentation at a hacking convention in Berlin on Tuesday.

The Daily Mail states that more than 4 million phones run on this network worldwide and that the vulnerability is due to security standards that haven't been updated since the 1990s. According to the Daily Mail, cellphone users don't usually know they've been hacked until they get an exorbitantly high bill.

The New York Times reports that the hack was exposed in a study of 31 mobile operators. The Times reports Nohl stating he was able to gain access to text messages and other conversations on phones in 11 countries using a cheap, 7-year-old phone and free software on the Internet.

The Times reports Nohl as saying the vulnerability is found in 2G networks used in cellphones and smartphones and can be fixed with a "simple software patch." The Times states that only T-Mobile in Germany and Swisscom in Switzerland were using improved security.

Nohl reviewed phones in Europe, Morocco and Thailand. The Times reports Nohl as saying that the security on phones operated by U.S. networks are probably similar to that of the countries he evaluated and should consider updating if necessary.

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