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GSM Cell Phones Called Secure

International Herald Tribune (04/17/98) P. 15

Major European mobile carriers say they do not intend to alter the security formulas employed in their wireless phone services even though two researchers at a U.S. university report that they have cracked the GSM security code.

Arne Foxman, senior engineer at Tele Danmark A/S's Mobile Net, says that he does not view the researchers' accomplishment as a "serious breach of security, but rather as an academic problem." Foxman explains that a GSM card and large computer capacity would be required to crack the code, and that furthermore the code for each individual GSM card would have to be broken.

David Wagner and Ian Goldberg--two researchers at the University of California-Berkeley--revealed this week that they have discovered a way to copy a code that identifies subscribers on a GSM network. They said that it might not be much harder to eavesdrop on encrypted digital calls.

This announcement led Bethesda, Md.-based wireless carrier Omnipoint to alter its code, though the company believes it is basically impossible to listen in on a GSM call.