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NSA and GCHQ Stole Keys to SIM Cards

Topics: Users Discussion
Feb 20, 2015 at 2:28 PM
According to new documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA and its UK counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), hacked into the computers of Gemalto, a company that manufactures SIM cards for a large number of carriers around the world. In doing so, the intelligence agencies acquired encryption keys that would allow them to intercept communications from customers of all four major U.S. carriers, along with 450 others around the world.
Feb 25, 2015 at 12:15 AM
Feb 25, 2015 at 1:28 PM
Gemalto presents the findings of its investigations into the alleged hacking of SIM card encryption keys located here.

  • The investigation into the intrusion methods described in the document and the sophisticated attacks that Gemalto detected in 2010 and 2011 give us reasonable grounds to believe that an operation by NSA and GCHQ probably happened
  • The attacks against Gemalto only breached its office networks and could not have resulted in a massive theft of SIM encryption keys
  • The operation aimed to intercept the encryption keys as they were exchanged between mobile operators and their suppliers globally. By 2010, Gemalto had already widely deployed a secure transfer system with its customers and only rare exceptions to this scheme could have led to theft
  • In the case of an eventual key theft, the intelligence services would only be able to spy on communications on second generation 2G mobile networks. 3G and 4G networks are not vulnerable to this type of attack
  • None of our other products were impacted by this attack
  • The best counter-measures to these type of attacks are the systematic encryption of data when stored and in transit, the use of the latest SIM cards and customized algorithms for each operator
Feb 25, 2015 at 8:23 PM
Today's Gemalto press conference in Paris was the first of its kind: a multinational corporation acknowledging a cyber attack from western democratic countries. Its CEO Olivier Piou said that he feels confused knowing thet US/UK were behind these sophisticated attacks and that French authorities were informed of these on 2010/2011 but until now there is no official statement from the government about this.

Anyway, this event will serve as a remainder to all companies and businesses that they should urgently upgrade their security to fight state-sponsored hacking which is now taking the lead of hacking activities.