3 Security Flaws in 4G, 5G That Could Affect iPhones

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Three security flaws found in 4G and 5G networks could be used to intercept phone calls and track peoples’ location (via TechCrunch).

[5G T-Mobile Won’t Launch Until Later This Year]

Torpedo, Piercer, IMSI

Three security researchers from Purdue University wrote a paper [PDF] on the flaws. The first flaw—Torpedo—takes advantage of a weakness in the paging protocol that carriers use to notify a phone before a call or text message comes through.

image of torpedo attack
Fig. 3: Distribution of paging delay i.e., the time between the event of initiating a phone call or SMS and the event of reaching a paging message to the receiver for that phone call/SMS.

The research team found that if you place and cancel several phone calls in a short period of time, it can trigger a paging message without alerting the target’s phone of the incoming calls. This can be used to track the person’s location and spoof messages like Amber alerts.

Torpedo enables the two other attacks. One is called Piercer, and it lets the attacker find an International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) on 4G. Then, the IMSI-Cracking attack can brute force that number on 4G and 5G networks.

All four major carriers in the U.S. are affected by Torpedo, which can be carried out by equipment as cheap as US$200.

[Apple News Has Problems But Privacy Isn’t One of Them]

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Lee Dronick
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Lee Dronick

I assume that the carriers can fix it.