Hackers ‘could intercept 4G LTE calls and texts’

Hackers ‘could intercept 4G LTE calls and texts’ [Image: D3Damon via iStock]

According to a Chinese security company, it is possible for hackers to intercept calls and texts sent via 4G LTE networks.

Qihoo 360 security researcher Wanqiao Zhang made the announcement at hacking conference Ruxcon 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.

She said that 4G LTE networks have a fall-back mechanism, which exists to allow for the offload of data to different mobile base stations in case of overloads. Hackers are able to exploit this mechanism to launch attacks.

Ms Zhang said her team looked at Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD) LTE networks, which are used in the UK, the US and Australia.

In order to exploit the LTE network, Ms Zhang explained that a hacker will exchange messages between malicious base stations and devices they want to target. This can allow the attacker to gain what is known as a ‘man in the middle’ position, which then allows them to listen in to calls or read SMS messages.

According to Ms Zhang, hackers using this tactic can also force devices back to 2G GSM mode where voice and basic data services can be intercepted.

She said: “You can create a denial of service attack against cell phones by forcing phones into fake networks with no services.”

Ms Zhang added that hackers can “make malicious calls,” send SMS messages and “eavesdrop on all voice and data traffic”.

When attacks like this are possible against mobile phones, the need for Mobile Device Management (MDM) becomes especially pertinent. This is particularly true for companies that employ a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which allows workers to use their own phones for work purposes.

MDM solutions, like the one Arrow can offer, will go a long way to protecting against an attack like the one detailed by Ms Zhang.