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ROBERT SICILIANO is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds.

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Researchers say your Mobile Carrier’s Network isn’t all that Secure

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Gee, even the tools that update your smartphone’s operating system over the air have holes that hackers can slip into.

5WIt’s estimated that as many as two billion handsets are vulnerable, and in some instances, security patches haven’t even been released.

The open mobile alliance device management (OMA-DM) protocol is used by around a hundred smartphone companies to release software updates and conduct network administration. And that’s what they say where the problem lies.

A hacker must know the handset’s distinct international mobile station equipment identity (IMEI) number, plus a secret token, to take remote control. It’s not difficult to obtain the IMEI number or the secret token of the company, thanks to lax networks and vulnerable operating system versions.

Researchers discovered they could easily upload code to a phone after following a WAP message from a base station, then proceed like a hacker would.

Another experiment showed that a fake femtocell could be used to get into BlackBerry, Android and some iOS devices by using weak security protocols. Participants turned off their smartphones and set the femtocell to its lowest power setting. The researchers still managed to pick up over 70 handsets.

They found that Android was the most vulnerable, along with BlackBerry. iOS was tougher to crack, but some devices that were run by Sprint were vulnerable.

Another flaw was that devices could be tricked into checking on their OMA-DM servers; the connections had http instead of https.

The researchers reported that most of the manufacturers and carriers had fixed the OMA-DM systems—most, not all.

What are the network threats?

Hackers practically have the cyberworld at their fingertips, able to attack in so many ways, using so many methods, from apps to users, users to users, and various machines to machines. Hackers don’t just want to access data; they want to manipulate it.

4G refers to fourth generation network, succeeding 3G to offer the fastest speed for wireless activity. The protocol for 4G, however, is flawed, allowing for weakening of the protection for phones and their networks.

The hacker would go right for mobile networks to get simpler, wider entry points. Networks for mobile devices, thus, need to be toughened up. If a smartphone is infected, it will be able to target and scan other smartphones within its proximity (since 4G is IP based), all while the carrier has no clue.

The hacker could infiltrate a desired network, access the 4G network, then have a nice, easy launching pad for the crime.

If a hacker uses weak wireless APN connections for his activities, this forces the smartphones in use to rely upon an ongoing network connection. This will make batteries wear out faster. Furthermore, jammed-up signals may lead to denial of service.

One way to protect wireless networks is by using Hotspot Shield to override any insecurities of open free WiFi and to help protect from some of 4Gs failings.

With the fast speed that stands to come with 4G are also weak security levels and lame network structures. Users will not appreciate this price, and mobile operators will need to step quite a bit up on security tactics for keeping hackers out.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

About the Author
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.

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