|Mobile & Cell Phone Information|
Security of GSM System
Every day millions of people use cellular phones over radio links. With the increasing features, the mobile phone is gradually becoming a handheld computer. In the early 1980's, when most of the mobile telephone system was analog, the inefficiency in managing the growing demands in a cost-effective manner led to the opening of the door for digital technology (Huynh & Nguyen, 2003). According to Margrave (n.d), "With the older analog-based cellular telephone systems such as the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) and the Total Access Communication System (TACS)", cellular fraud is extensive. It's very simple for a radio hobbyist to tune in and hear cellular telephone conversations since without encryption, the voice and user data of the subscriber is sent to the network (Peng, 2000). Margrave (n.d) states that apart from this, cellular fraud can be committed by using complex equipment to receive the Electronic Serial Number so as to clone another mobile phone and place calls with that. To counteract the aforementioned cellular fraud and to make mobile phone traffic secure to a certain extent, GSM (Global System for Mobile communication or Group Special Mobile) is one of the many solutions now out there. According to GSM-tutorials, formed in 1982, GSM is a worldwide accepted standard for digital cellular communication. GSM operates in the 900MHz, 1800MHz, or 1900Mhz frequency bands by "digitizing and compressing data and then sending it down a channel with two other streams of user data, each in its own time slot." GSM provides a secure and confidential method of communication.
Security provided by GSM
The limitation of security in cellular communication is a result of the fact that all cellular communication is sent over the air, which then gives rise to threats from eavesdroppers with suitable receivers. Keeping this in account, security controls were integrated into GSM to make the system as secure as public switched telephone networks. The security functions are:
1. Anonymity: It implies that it is not simple and easy to track the user of the system. According to Srinivas (2001), when a new GSM subscriber switches on his/her phone for the first time, its International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), i.e. real identity is used and a Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity (TMSI) is issued to the subscriber, which from that time forward is always used. Use of this TMSI, prevents the recognition of a GSM user by the potential eavesdropper.
2. Authentication: It checks the identity of the holder of the smart card and then decides whether the mobile station is allowed on a particular network. The authentication by the network is done by a response and challenge method. A random 128-bit number (RAND) is generated by the network and sent to the mobile. The mobile uses this RAND as an input and through A3 algorithm using a secret key Ki (128 bits) assigned to that mobile, encrypts the RAND and sends the signed response (SRES-32 bits) back. Network performs the same SRES process and compares its value with the response it has received from the mobile so as to check whether the mobile really has the secret key (Margrave, n.d). Authentication becomes successful when the two values of SRES matches which enables the subscriber to join the network. Since every time a new random number is generated, eavesdroppers don't get any relevant information by listening to the channel. (Srinivas, 2001)
3. User Data and Signalling Protection: Srinivas (2001) states that to protect both user data and signalling, GSM uses a cipher key. After the authentication of the user, the A8 ciphering key generating algorithm (stored in the SIM card) is used. Taking the RAND and Ki as inputs, it results in the ciphering key Kc which is sent through. To encipher or decipher the data, this Kc (54 bits) is used with the A5 ciphering algorithm. This algorithm is contained within the hardware of the mobile phone so as to encrypt and decrypt the data while roaming. Algorithms used to make mobile traffic secure
Authentication Algorithm A3: One way function, A3 is an operator-dependent stream cipher. To compute the output SRES by using A3 is easy but it is very difficult to discover the input (RAND and Ki) from the output. To cover the issue of international roaming, it was mandatory that each operator may choose to use A3 independently. The basis of GSM's security is to keep Ki secret (Srinivas, 2001)
Ciphering Algorithm A5: In recent times, many series of A5 exists but the most common ones are A5/0(unencrypted), A5/1 and A5/2. Because of the export regulations of encryption technologies there is the existence of a series of A5 algorithms (Brookson, 1994).
A8 (Ciphering Key Generating Algorithm): Like A3, it is also operator-dependent. Most providers combine A3 and A8 algorithms into a single hash function known as COMP128. The COMP128 creates KC and SRES, in a single instance (Huynh & Nguyen, 2003).
GSM security flaws
Time to time, people have tried to decode GSM algorithms. For instance, according to Issac press release (1998) in April 1998, the SDA (Smartcard Developer Association) along with two U.C Berkeley researchers alleged that they have cracked the COMP128 algorithm, which is stored on the SIM. They claimed that within several hours they were able to deduce the Ki by sending immense numbers of challenges to the authorization module. They also said that out of 64 bits, Kc uses only 54 bits with zeros padding out the other 10, which makes the cipher key purposefully weaker. They felt government interference might be the reason behind this, as this would allow them to monitor conversations. However, they were unable to confirm their assertion since it is illegal to use equipment to carry out such an attack in the US. In reply to this assertion, the GSM alliance stated that since the GSM network allows only one call from any phone number at any one time it is of no relevant use even if a SIM could be cloned. GSM has the ability to detect and shut down duplicate SIM codes found on multiple phones (Business press release, 1998).
According to Srinivas (2001), one of the other claims was made by the ISAAC security research group. They asserted that a fake base station could be built for around $10,000, which would allow a "man-in-the-middle" attack. As a result of this, the real base station can get deluged which would compel a mobile station to connect to the fake station. Consequently, the base station could eavesdrop on the conversation by informing the phone to use A5/0, which is without encryption.
One of the other possible scenarios is of insider attack. In the GSM system, communication is encrypted only between the Mobile station and the Base Transceiver station but within the provider's network, all signals are transmitted in plain text, which could give a chance for a hacker to step inside (Li, Chen & Ma).
Measures taken to tackle these flaws
According to Quirke (2004), since the emergence of these, attacks, GSM have been revising its standard to add newer technologies to patch up the possible security holes, e.g. GSM1800, HSCSD, GPRS and EDGE. In the last year, two significant patches have been implemented. Firstly, patches for COMP 128-2 and COMP128-3 hash function have been developed to address the security hole with COMP 128 function. COMP128-3 fixes the issue where the remaining 10 bits of the Session Key (Kc) were replaced by zeroes. Secondly, it has been decided that a new A5/3 algorithm, which is created as part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) will replace the old and weak A5/2. But this replacement would result in releasing new versions of the software and hardware in order to implement this new algorithm and it requires the co-operation of the hardware and software manufacturers.
GSM is coming out of their "security by obscurity" ideology, which is actually a flaw by making their 3GPP algorithms available to security researchers and scientists (Srinivas, 2001).
To provide security for mobile phone traffic is one the goals described in GSM 02.09 specification, GSM has failed in achieving it in past (Quirke, 2004). Until a certain point GSM did provide strong subscriber authentication and over-the-air transmission encryption but different parts of an operator's network became vulnerable to attacks (Li, Chen, Ma). The reason behind this was the secrecy of designing algorithms and use of weakened algorithms like A5/2 and COMP 128. One of other vulnerability is that of inside attack. In order to achieve its stated goals, GSM is revising its standards and it is bringing in new technologies so as to counteract these security holes. While no human-made technology is perfect, GSM is the most secure, globally accepted, wireless, public standard to date and it can be made more secure by taking appropriate security measures in certain areas.
Business Wire Press release (1998). GSM Alliance Clarifies False & Misleading Reports of Digital Phone Cloning. Retrieved October 26th, 2004 Web site: http://jya.com/gsm042098.txt
Brookson (1994). Gsmdoc Retrieved October 24th, 2004 from gsm Web site: http://www.brookson.com/gsm/gsmdoc.pdf
Chengyuan Peng (2000). GSM and GPRS security. Retrieved October 24th, 2004 from Telecommunications Software and Multimedia Laboratory Helsinki University of Technology Web site: http://www.tml.hut.fi/Opinnot/Tik-110.501/2000/papers/peng.pdf Epoker Retrieved October 27th, 2004 from Department of Mathematics Boise State University, Mathematics 124,Fall 2004 Web site:http://math.boisestate.edu/~marion/teaching/m124f04/epoker.htm Huynh & Nguyen (2003). Overview of GSM and GSM security. Retrieved October 25th, 2004 from Oregon State university, project Web site: http://islab.oregonstate.edu/koc/ece478/project/2003RP/huynh_nguyen_gsm.doc
Li, Chen & Ma (n.d). Security in gsm. Retrieved October 24th, 2004 from gsm-security Web site: http://www.gsm-security.net/papers/securityingsm.pdf
Quirke (2004). Security in the GSM system. Retrieved October 25th, 2004 from Security Website:http://www.ausmobile.com/downloads/technical/Security in the GSM system 01052004.pdf
Margrave (n.d). GSM system and Encryption. Retrieved October 25th, 2004 from gsm-secur Web site: http://www.hackcanada.com/blackcrawl/cell/gsm/gsm-secur/gsm-secur.html
Press release (1998). Smartcard Developer Association Clones Digital GSM 1998). Retrieved October 26th, 2004 from is sac Web site: http://www.isaac.cs.berkeley.edu/isaac/gsm.html
Srinivas (2001). The GSM Standard (An overview of its security) Retrieved October 25th, 2004 from papers Web site:http://www.sans.org/rr/papers/index.php?id=317
Stallings (2003). Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and practices. USA: Prentice Hall.
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T-Mobile and Sprint Sunday unveiled a deal to merge in a bid to better compete with AT&T and Verizon, a move that also would shrink the number of major ...
T-Mobile, Sprint customers will be fine if the deals keep coming USA TODAY
Competition was great for this reporter's cell phone bill. A T-Mobile-Sprint deal would take one big carrier out of the mix.
T-Mobile, Sprint agree to merge as America's national wireless carriers shrink from 4 to 3 - USA TODAY
T-Mobile, Sprint agree to merge as America's national wireless carriers shrink from 4 to 3 USA TODAY
T-Mobile and Sprint are combining in a deal that would create a bigger No. 3 cellular carrier in the U.S., but could also signal the end of an era of aggressive ...
World’s Largest Mobile Phone Factory Opens in India Bloomberg
Samsung Electronics Co. opened the world's largest mobile phone factory in India, in a win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship program to lure investors ...
Smartphones - Beyond Voice to Information and Entertainment
Investments in shares of wireless technology companies and wireless service providers have been particularly profitable in the post-dot com era. The wireless industry is in a sweet spot of the technology space.
Cell Phone Batteries, Money Saving Tips
It's hard to imagine what the world did before the use of cell phones! We have become so dependent on having a cell phone that we tend to panic if we forget it at home or if the battery dies. Cell phones are an important part of most everyone's life that allows them to be reachable 24/7 for family, friends and business associates to contact them.
Some Tips For The Safe Use of Cell Phones And Batteries
1. Increase the life span of your cell phone and battery by following the manufacturer's directions for using the phone and charging the battery.
Cell Phones Endanger Children
If your child uses a cell phone, take note. A recent news report has prompted renewed concerns about the safety of cell phone use, especially by children.
Cell Phones Revealed
The cellphone is truly a marvelous invention. It has had such a major in pact on how our world has come to be today.
Defeating Crime With Digital Camera Cell Phones
The newest techno gadget, which is reshaping the way teenagers interact is the Digital Picture Camera 3G Cell Phone. As more and more people have these and as higher bandwidth and video compression technologies are introduced we will see a whole new realm of communication.
Best Cell Phone Service Plans - Choosing The Best Wireless Service Plans
Once upon a time, decisions about telephone service were easy - you either wanted it or you didn't. Those fairy-tale days are gone for good since the advent of the cell phone.
Should Your Teenage Have A Cellular Phone?
The time has come and your teenager has asked for one but you're not sure if you should supply one or not. No were not talking about a car.
Location Sensitivity - Cell Phone GPS
This is basically a system to locate the handheld when making a call to 911. In the mid to late 1990's, many people got cell phones just for the emergency use of being able to call for help almost anywhere.
Mobile Devices Security
As this security solution is not such a great idea, other companies have researched, and finally found a new way to prevent cell phones and PDAs theft. This method permits to remotely disable up to four different tasks of a stolen cell phone or PDA, rendering it inoperable.
Small Business Phone Systems - A Brief Explanation
How a business presents itself to its customers has to be the single most important factor in its potential success. In days gone by usually your first contact with new customers would have been through your storefront or through word of mouth, passed on by other satisfied customers.
Taking Care of Your Cell Phone Batteries
Picking a new cell phone model and pricing plan is more confusing now then ever with all the different offers available to you! Having a dependable cell phone battery is crucial so your family, friends and business associates can reach you. After all these are the reasons that most of us carry a cell phone everyday!Below are some tips for getting the most out of your cell phone batteries:If you take the time to care for your cell phone battery properly, your battery can last between 350-400 charge cycles.
In the eyes of a teenage girl cellular phones are the best invention since boys. My daughter has had a cell phone for awhile now but it wasy a prepaid one.
SMS 101 - Short Message Service Explained
Short Message Service (SMS) is a quick and simple way to communicate short messages via mobile phones, handheld devices, and increasingly even landline telephones. Commonly known as text messages, SMSes, or even texts the practice has spread rapidly throughout the world, evident by the fact that 500 billion such messages were sent in the last year alone.
Customize Your Cell Phone With Ringtones and Wallpaper
As an important part of your daily life, your cell phone should reflect your personality. At one time, the only way to personalize your phone was to get one in your favorite color.
Mobile Content: An Expression of Individuality
Cell phones were created with the purpose of facilitating communication on the go. With the advancement of technology, cell phones matured into devices that are able to send text messages, surf the internet and even play games.
Negotiating a Cell Tower Lease: Getting Help
A recent survey of the FCC's antenna structure registration database showed that in 2001 there were roughly 89,000 antenna sites registered with the FCC. Today, there are over 109,000 registered sites.
Best Camera Cell Phone
Best camera cell phone - description.Best camera cell phone is a title that many camera cell phones have the right to claim.
Cell Phone Safety - Am I Really At Risk
It's a sad commentary on the way of the world today, when you stop to think about the fact that people will go out of their way to avoid radiation exposure - such as in the case of x-ray technicians who shield themselves within a protective booth or by donning lead aprons - and, yet, those same people will walk around, day after day, with a cell phone attached to their ears without concern. Cell phones, cellular phones, mobile phones, wireless phones.
Is That Your Cell Phone Ringing or Mine?
The newest technology is incredible and getting better. The newest 3G technologies have the ability now to find your exact position and with a little work and multiple sites with in a region can also figure your speed in real time.
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