ITU warns on global mobile cyber security




The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has expressed its concern over the increasing vulnerabilities on mobile devices, saying close to 500 million devices could be at risk of being penetrated by hackers.

The ITU, which is backed by the United Nations (UN), has further warned that hackers have already managed to create a bug that can remotely access and control mobile devices as well as duplicate SIM cards as discovered by German Berlin’s Security Research Labs.Citing this research, organisation’s secretary general Hamadoun Toure told Reuters: “These findings show us where we could be heading in terms of cyber security risks.”

Already the ITU is in contact with telecommunication regulators and government agencies from about 200 agencies to whom it seeks to raise the level of awareness of the emerging threats as well as collaborate with industry experts, academia and network providers to neutralise them.This is given the research reveals that hackers who clone SIM cards could engage in espionage and financial crimes.

Claire Cranton, spokeswoman for mobile operators association GSMA, said the association has already warned vulnerable operators and vendors and the world’s largest SIM card maker Gemalto saying it backed the GSMA’s response.

The risk to users of SIM cards however largely exists in SIM cards using old encryption, known as DES, with cloned SIM cards performing all the functions of an original genuine card.

Among users that were found to be at most danger of these crimes are those in Africa where mobile banking is well established and where related information is stored in SIM cards.This research is part of the vulnerabilities expected to be discussed at the Black Hat Hacking Conference set to open in Las Vegas starting July 31.

by Kamau Mbote


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