When speaking with 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi about the dangers of cell phone hacking, mobile security expert John Hering says, “In today’s world, there’s really only two types of companies or two types of people which are those who have been hacked and realize it and those who have been hacked and haven’t.”60 Minutes shocked its viewers Sunday evening when it showed a team of hackers listening in on a phone call between a reporter and a congressman. The hack was carried out with the politician’s consent and was meant to demonstrate a security flaw in the global communications grid.
According to Time Magazine, the German-based hackers pulled off the stunt by targeting a system called SS7 which allows phones on various wireless carriers to exchange information with one another, in-turn enabling roaming, cross-carrier billing and other features. The hackers claimed “Everything is hackable” and for well over two years the hackers were challenged to take it to another level and prove their suspicions.
One hacker, Jon Oberheide, showed 60 minutes an app he created which may have looked legitimate, but allowed him to take control of a phone and “suck out the information.” Furthermore, Oberheide demonstrated for Alfonsi how he could instantly locate her contacts, recent purchases and even text messages.
Another hacker, Adam Laurie, uses radio frequency identification to hack phones. For this hack, Laurie didn’t need Alfonsi’s phone number. Instead, he just needed to physically touch her phone. Laurie demonstrated by brushing by her in the lobby of her hotel and using a special hand-held device to push a credential across to her phone so it trusted his Bluetooth and actually called Laurie, allowing him to listen in on anything discussed in the room with Alfonsi’s phone.
While this may all seem creepy, there are in fact ways to protect yourself. Stay tuned for ways to avoid the “60 Minute Hack.”