US News mobile radio: Voltage gap detected in encryption mechanism

18:50  16 june  2021
18:50  16 june  2021 Source:   t3n.de

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researchers have apparently found a clearly open vulnerability in an obsolete encryption mechanism for mobile traffic. Many mobile phones still use the algorithm today.

Alte Geräte können in Gegenden mit schlechter Netzabdeckung auf GPRS und damit den unsicheren Algorithmus zurückfallen. © Candbedone / Shutterstock Old devices can fall back to GPRS and thus the insecure algorithm in areas with poor network coverage.

IT security researchers of Ruhr-Uni Bochum have found in collaboration with researchers from Norway, France and the University of Paris-Saclay that in common mobile phones until at least 2020, an old vulnerability gaped from the 90s over which the traffic was listened to. Her findings about the previously secret GEA-1 algorithm you have published in a paper . Now manufacturers and mobile standard organizations need to retrofit the mobile phones.

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rear door apparently intentionally installed

The researchers assume that the back door was intentionally built - to spy mobile phone users. Governments and companies revealed the mobile network in the early phase of mobile radio. The weaknesses in GEA-1 are attributable to export control rules applicable in 1998, which regulated the strength of encryption algorithms. Disputes around the topic of encryption between companies, data protects and governments already existed in the 90s. States wanted to install back doors in communication systems to intercept the new traffic.

The GEA-1 algorithm is an encryption mechanism that should protect the traffic in the mobile Internet in the now outdated GPRS standard. He should encrypt data so they would not be to decipher themselves even if spies they fug. Without a cryptographic key, the digit and letter generated by algorithm from the traffic should not be deciphered. The analysis of the researchers now publicly shows that so encrypted e-mails, search engine inquiries or traffic via Facebook easily decrypt.

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Less than 1 percent traffic over 2G

that the gap is still exploited today, according to the researchers is unlikely. Today there are other mechanisms to protect traffic. But especially in Germany, the network coverage is bad. So it can happen that very old devices fall back into GPRS mode. According to the mobile service provider Telefónica runs less than one percent of today's traffic over 2G, where data traffic is encrypted via GEA-1. But the researchers can not be careful: then attackers could intercept traffic data and find out which websites visited the victim. GEA-1 should therefore be avoided. The encryption technique of the algorithm is "like [...] a bicycle lock, from which they believe it is safe," said David Rupprecht, one of the researchers involved from the Ruhr-Uni Bochum, towards Journalists of the South German newspaper .

Apple, Samsung, OnePlus equip to

Actually, the algorithm should be a thing of the past. As early as 2011, IT experts had demonstrated that he is cracking. In 2013, smartphone manufacturers from the European Institute for Telecommunications Standards did not use the statement to use GEA-1 anymore. Nevertheless, the researchers also found the algorithm in newer mobile phones until the year 2018. Among them the iPhone Models XR and 8, Samsung Galaxy S9 , Nokia 3.1, Huawei P9 Lite and OnePlus 6T .

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GEA-2, the successor of GEA-1, can also be cracked according to the research team. This week, the consortium of standard organizations, short 3GPP decides, as with the unsafe algorithms. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung is expected that GEA-1 and -2 are finally removed from older devices. The manufacturers already work to remove GEA-1 from their systems. Samsung wants to gradually lift the support for the algorithm in all Galaxy devices with the update published in April. Apple and OnePlus pull with. According to the manufacturer, GEA-1 has been deactivated for the device series OnePlus 7 , 8, 9 and Nord in the Telekom network since April 2021, since the beginning of June also for all other networks. Apple has ended with iOS 14.5 the support for the algorithm in the iPhone series 7 to 11, the models SE and 6 should follow with iOS 15 . The version is expected in autumn 2021.

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