Israeli researchers crack down on GSM phone encryption

— 4:59 PM on December 6, 1999

Here's a Wired article that reveals that an Israeli team has found flaws in the encryption methods used by GSM cellular phones. The flaws enable a conversation to be cracked and decrypted in less than a second by a computer with as little as 128 MB of RAM. Over 100 million people in Europe and the United States have GSM phones.

The article does point out that picking a transmission out of the air and decrypting it isn't practical at this point, although later on a quote claims that "all GSM ... ciphers used worldwide can be broken ... with just a single PC and some radio hardware." I'm not entirely sure of the distinction between the first statement and the second.

Apparently the flaws in the encryption scheme would only be solved by replacing or updating all the phones themselves, since the encryption takes place within the handset. Between this and the brain tumors, cell phones are looking less attractive all the time.

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