Standard Digital Code
graphers Crack Cell Phone Code
Given the state of the security of other cellular phone systems, I wasn't terribly, terribly surprised.
Ian Goldberg, student
The Associated Press
B E R K E L E Y, Calif., April 14
It was a challenge a trio of computer
students and professionals could not resist: proving
"tamperproof" digital cellular phones are actually vulnerable.
After about six hours of work, two graduate students at the
University of California at Berkeley and a computer cryptologist
were able to "clone" the phone, allowing them to make
unauthorized calls from another phone.
"Given the state of the security of other cellular phone
systems, I wasn't terribly, terribly surprised," said Ian
Goldberg, one of the students. The three looked at the project as a
USA Today reported the breakthrough on Monday.
Still, the amount of time and effort it took to clone the codes
makes the digital phone security much more difficult to circumvent
than analog cellular phones, which in comparison are easily
GSM Standard Cracked
The three cracked the codes guarding a Global System for Mobile
Communications, or GSM, phone. The GSM digital standard is the most
widely used in the world, with more than 79 million phones in use.
Overcoming the security also revealed a hint that the code may
have been intentionally weakened during its design to allow
government agencies the ability to eavesdrop on telephone
conversations, The New York Times reported today.
Marc Briceno of Smartcard Developers Association, who worked
with Goldberg and student David Wagner, said the weakened code
would let powerful computers available to intelligence agencies
decode a voice conversation relatively quickly.
"I can't think of any other reason for what they did," Briceno
For years, the computer industry has been rife with rumors about
government intrusion or intimidation. Little evidence has ever
emerged to support such speculation, the Times reported, but the
origins of the GSM system are hazy.
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