GSM Compromised?

The December issue of IEEE Spectrum had a small lead about the following Open Source attempt to hack the GSM phone system. The full article can be found at http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/wireless/open-source-effort-to-hack-gsm/0.

This is of concern not only on the personal front, (a new iPhone app perhaps?) but also in the industrial arena because a number of manufacturers use GSM based radios as part of their offerings as a way to build an widespread network without having to create the infrastructure – they can ‘piggy back’ on the cellular phone system. Unfortunately, one of the industries that rely on GSM networks is the Water and Wastewater industry considered by most governments’ as a part of the country’s critical infrastructure.

GSM, is the most widely used wireless telephony network in the world which is in large part the reason why manufacturers have selected it as their carrier of choice – one radio can be used anywhere in the world having GSM cellular phone coverage. Fortunately, the next generation of networks are starting to be introduced in the consumer market and as that infrastructure expands (greater distance and bandwidth) it will migrate to the industrial arena.

Hopefully as we migrate to the newer generation of carriers HSPA and similar G3 networks, there will be better security incorporated in the protocol itself – though this does not mean that it will not generate better hackers and hacking tools. Sober thought as we enter the holiday season though forewarned is forearmed.

Merry Christmas to all. More to come on other topics next week.

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