Daily Management Review

New Research Shows that Hackers Are Tapping Into Mobile Networks' Backbone


10/15/2015




New Research Shows that Hackers Are Tapping Into Mobile Networks' Backbone
Tracing out vulnerabilities in an operating system like Android or even in sim cards, hackers have been known to use all manner of remote access tools to break into mobile phones.

However it is not common practice that hackers try and get inside the network infrastructure that route these calls for mobile operators themselves. However recent research has shown that this type of nefarious network surveillance is happening too, across the world.
 
A key signaling protocol for routing cellular calls known as SS7 is being exploited by hackers, a survey of a handful of large mobile operators on each continent found out. The SS7 router is used to track the location of certain mobile users and in some cases, listen in on calls.
 
According to research by Dublin based research firm Adaptive Mobile, hackers were seen to have gained access to 0.08% of SS7 packets being sent across a network in Africa, across a range of operators. In Asia the rate was 0.04% and in the Americas it was 0.025%.
 
These are low percentages they relate to the millions of SS7 packets being sent every day.
“That can add up to tens of thousands a day which can mean someone being tracked or some fraud transactions. These are low-volume, high-impact events,” says Cathal McDaid, a senior researcher at Adaptive Mobile.
 
McDaid says that location tracking is the most popular reason for exploiting the SS7 protocol. His team recorded 1,140 separate SS7 requests to track 23 unique subscribers over a two-day period, with some subscribers tracked many hundreds of times. There are a handful of known players in the market for selling SS7 vulnerabilities.
 
The price of a startup called CleverSig, was recently selling access to their “remote SS7 control system” for $14,000 to $16,000 a month, was divulged when emails from the Italian information surveillance company Hacking Team were posted on the web.  
 
There are also reports of other network surveillance companies with names Circles- based in Bulgaria, according to Adaptive Mobile, and the Rayzone group, also operate within the grey area of selling access to their SS7 exploitation platforms to governments and other surveillance companies like Hacking Team.
 
According to McDaid, advertisements on the dark web quoted the going rate for looking up someone’s physical location through the SS7 network was about $150 about two years ago.
 
Experts are of the opinion that the price has not changed much since.
“A lot of those offers have gone underground.” That is partly due to relatively recent press on SS7.
 
A report in the Washington Post in late 2014 highlighted the security flaws that could let hackers, governments and criminals intercept calls through the global SS7 network.
 
The adaptive Mobile research proved that the report of the Washington Post was not merely theoretical but was actually being carried out by hackers. The research was done through 2015.
 
“The news is yes, we are seeing exploits in every operator in every part of the world,” says McDaid .
 
McDaid says that Africa and the Middle East seemed to have to highest rates of exploitation.
 
(Source:www.forbes.com) 






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