Fake GSM base station trick targets iPhones

While his Black Hat DC Conference demonstration was not flawless, a University of Luxembourg student on Wednesday did show that it's possible to trick iPhone users into joining a fake GSM network.

BLACK HAT NEWS: Mobile device makers react differently to attack info, researcher says

Ralf-Philipp Weinmann showed how to cobble together a laptop using open-source software OpenBTS and other low-cost gear to create a fake GSM transmitter base station to locate iPhones in order to send their owners a message. A number of iPhone users in the room expressed surprise that they had gotten a message asking them to join the network.

Weinmann, who is researching vulnerabilities in cellular networks, said that with the right equipment, the range for the rogue GSM station he built can be 35 kilometers.

"You want to get phones not just used by the teenage crowd but executives," said Weinmann, adding that it is possible to "have complete control of the phone." Part of the reason these fake GSM network attacks are possible is because the code base used in smartphones such as the iPhone, which is Infineon-based, goes back to the 1990s. A little sleuthing allowed Weinmann to discover vulnerabilities that can be exploited. For instance, he got help by finding that an Italian company that went bankrupt in the 1990s put up some code for GSM stacks in Sourceforge for four years before taking it down.

Weinmann's attack would allow him to take advantage of iPhones lured into his rogue base station to "enable and disable auto-answer on the iPhone" he said, or with an attack payload to record the audio on the iPhone, store it in RAM and then transmit the data that was sniffed.

Weinmann said he doesn't want to encourage data theft, but he does want to get carriers and vendors to improve security in the wireless networks. He adds that technology such as femtocells could be used to replace the OpenBTS software, which would only amplify the types of attacks he's investigating.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicsBTNetworkingsecuritywirelesssmartphonesiPhonePhones

More about InfineonLAN

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ellen Messmer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts