Following Edward Snowden’s now-infamous report outing the NSA and its excessive monitoring of people’s communication, there’s been a real effort by companies everywhere to sure up their security. Whether it’s Apple’s locally-stored Touch ID, or recent Pay service, Samsung’s Knox, or BlackBerry’s recent push to upgrade its own security; more is being done to ensure you cannot be tracked in an invasive manner.
T-Mobile is quietly doing its bit too. Washington Post reports that that T-Mobile has been quietly upgrading its network to make it harder for surveillance equipment to check in on your phone calls, or text messages.
The upgrade involves switching to a new encryption standard, called A5/3, that is harder to crack than older forms of encryption. Testing by The Washington Post has found T-Mobile networks using A5/3 in New York, Washington and Boulder, Colorado, instead of the older A5/1 that long has been standard for second-generation (2G) GSM networks in the United States. More advanced technologies, such as 3G and 4G, already use stronger encryption.
Deutsche Telekom made a similar move in Germany following the reports that the country’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was the subject of NSA eavesdropping.
A5/3 technology is could still be vulnerable to active attacks on specific devices. The report claims that these active attacks using an “IMSI catcher” could still be able to eavesdrop on individual calls by messing with a phone’s security settings directly. However, it is very difficult to listen in on A5/3 calls using mass surveillance commonly used by the NSA. This is because “equipment that passively collects cellular signals from the air often cannot decode calls.”
And, although 3G and 4G is already more encrypted, it’s still nice to see that T-Mobile is doing its bit to make calls made on 2G networks more secure and far harder to eavesdrop on. AT&T, according to the Post, is still using the A5/1 encryption in the tested locations. But “Big Blue” plans on switching off its 2G network in 2017.
Source: Washington Post