|Cell Phones Reveal Locations|
Using a cheap phone, readily available equipment, and no direct help from a service provider, hackers can listen in on unencrypted broadcast messages from cell phone towers.
Computer scientists in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering have discovered that cellular networks are leaking the locations of cell phone users, allowing a third party to easily track the location of the cell phone user without the user's knowledge.
This communication is not unlike a CB radio. Further, it is possible for a hacker to force those messages to go out and hang up before the victim is able to hear their phone ring.
Cellular service providers need to access location information to provide service. In addition, law enforcement agencies have the ability to subpoena location information from service providers. The University of Minnesota group has demonstrated that access to a cell phone user's location information is easily accessible to another group—possible hackers.
"It has a low entry barrier," Foo Kune said. "Being attainable through open source projects running on commodity software."
The implications of this research highlight possible personal safety issues.
"Agents from an oppressive regime may no longer require cooperation from reluctant service providers to determine if dissidents are at a protest location," the researchers wrote in a research paper presented at presented at the 19th Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium.
Source: "Location Leaks on the GSM Air Interface," presented at the 19th Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium in San Diego, California.
Ph.D. student Denis Foo Kune, associate professors Nick Hopper and Yongdae Kim, and undergraduate student John Koelndorfer.
Exploding the Phone
The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell
by Phil Lapsley
This is a work of technological history as profound as the invention of gunpowder, Watts' steam engine and the first telegraph. It tells the story of the early-day (1960s and 1970s) geeks who figured out how to exploit vulnerabilities in the world's telephone networks and, as a consequence, brought down the largest technology monopoly of its time and gave rise to the digital communications revolution that we experience today.
The story includes two prominent characters, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who developed and sold a "blue box" device as teenagers in 1972 that hacked into the phone system and allowed users to place calls for free. "If we hadn't made blue boxes, there would have been no Apple," Jobs recalled. The collaboration that gave rise to PCs and iPods and iPads began with a digital blue box made up of the chips used to build computers rather than the conventional analog components of the time. "I swear to this day" said Wozniak, who designed the revolutionary Apple computers, "I have never designed a circuit I was prouder of."