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Intercepting SMS messages is possible because of vulnerabilities in a set of telephony signaling protocols referred to by a common name — SS7 (aka Signaling System 7, aka Common Channel Signaling System 7).
These signaling protocols are the backbone of the contemporary telephone communication system; they are designed to transmit all of the service information within a telephone network.
Tracking and wiretapping may seem like a specialization of intelligence agencies only, being a quite complicated and expensive process, but because of the insecurity of SS7 it is accessible by any technical person.
To attack subscribers, no specific equipment is needed, one doesn’t need to be a genius or work in security service. After fulfilling the main task of connecting to SS7 – a technical person finds out an IMSI number using specific software.
This is an authenticator that is assigned to every mobile subscriber (it carries the country code, operator code, and inner unique SIM-card code).Additionally, a technical person receives MSC/VLR parameters (calls and locations commutator), depending on which subscriber is in the network.
This information is needed to “cheat” the home network of the subscriber and forward it to the “fake” one.For the home network it will look as if the subscriber is roaming, i.e. operator receives a signal that his subscriber is now served by another operator.In reality, the “fake” network is now serving the subscriber, and a technical person, using specific software, intercepts SMS, listens to calls, and tracks location. And subscriber would never guess they have been compromised.
One of the first vulnerabilities in SIM cards that was ever discovered was the possibility of cloning. In this case, cloning means reading the contents of a SIM card and writing them into the memory of another SIM card.
It is quite understandable, given the fact that a SIM card, from the hardware perspective, is just an ordinary smart card, the likes of which are available anywhere and are cheap as chips.
If a cloned SIM card is active during the time when the legitimate subscriber is registered in the mobile network, the latter would get its connection cut off and still remain totally unaware of it.In that case, all inbound calls and messages will be directed to the adversary, and they, in turn, would be able to make calls, send messages and browse the Internet on the victim’s behalf.
The unsuspecting victim would even see the normal network indicators and the name of the carrier on the screen, which would create the illusion of connection, however, the targeted subscriber would not be able to make calls until the handset is rebooted or the mobile network obligatory refreshes the registration status — this typically happens automatically once every few hours.
- Software has 100% success rate since you own the SIM card
- You can receive and make as many SMS/Calls/Voicemails
- Additional hardware is needed
- Original SIM is disconnected from the network
- No hardware needed
- Number is disconnected for 1-3 seconds from the network
- You can receive and make as many SMS/Calls you want
- Location Tracking
- Original phone can be turned off
- Software has 90% success rate depending on the network
- Limits to prevent network abuse