T-Mobile quietly upgrading its network with more secure encryption


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

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  • Chimphappyhour

    Excellent! Now the NSA will never be able to hear me talk on the phone and plan…. to go over to my parents’ place and have dinner.

    • Or going to protest the powers at be. There was a reason why the internet was shut down in Egypt during the Tahir Sq. protests and mobile phone users were text by the Ukrainian security forces in the area of protests in Kiev. Hilary Clinton is on record that the US government should be able to shut down the Internet as it pleases. Of course, it already arrogates itself the divine right of assassinating its enemies because it says so.

      • bullet7

        I believe the United States government probably knows about things like this shorty there after. Its the people that stay in the dark, never know because main stream news is no longer news but propaganda. Further more it is the fault of the American people for not paying attention and making politicians accountable, we have the power to fire them and send them packing but most Americans are only concerned with ‘their’ day to day world. Sad. Anyway…
        Great job T-Mobile, this is big! The American people deserve this and this is one more thing that sets T-Mobile above the rest!

        • Wayne

          This does nothing. There won’t be an encryption that government couldn’t crack, tap, etc

        • You over estimate the people working at the DMV…

      • Chimphappyhour

        Do you really think some network installing encryption is going to stop the US gov’t (or any major superpower for that matter) from listening in if they really want?

        • I’ll let you in a secret: government people are DMV people. Our freedoms are safeguarded by the sheer incompetence and ineptitude of those who couldn’t get a decent paying job in the private sector.

        • Douglas Quaid

          First off, I’ve never had a problem with DMV. However, do you grasp the notion of you get what you pay for? You do realize that while underpaying Chinamart, other decent to great paying stores have excellent service.

          Not to mention, have you used a DMV overseas where they, wait for it, pay folks well? Service is as fast or on par with Apple.

        • bob90210

          The NSA probably has enough computing power to decrypt any particular message. They do not have enough computing power to decrypt all messages.

        • Loganopolis Jammyjamjamjam Bop

          but can they see why kids love cinnamon toast crunch?

        • Douglas Quaid

          Or the biggest issue, who really gives two hoots. OMG, they heard our dominos order..

        • Chimphappyhour

          Yeah, that’s pretty much my thoughts. I’ve always said that the only crime I’ll be arrested for that an intelligence officer died of boredom trying to eavesdrop on my life. (Or most peoples’ for that matter.)

  • mingkee

    Data does matter.
    I am sure more and more users are doing e-commerce over smartphone than on the PC even laptops.
    Better encryption = less chance to get intercepted.

  • You see the reason why these so-called security measures will never work is, this world is too damn open-mouthed! If you’re going to implement security, why are you talking about it? From the media outlets, etc. It’s SECURITY, and doesn’t need to be divulged every chance you get. We’ll never be secure if people keep spouting every measure on every turn. Companies need to shut their mouths and do their thing without everyone knowing it. It should be on a need to know basis That’s security. JUST LIKE THE NSA!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Everyone doesn’t need to know everything!

    • Logan S

      Get real. Security by obfuscation is not that. Plus, someone wanting to find out what T-Mo uses for their 2G network doesn’t need to get it from some insider talking to the media.

  • “Edward Snowden’s now FAMOUS report outing the NSA.” There, fixed it for you.

    • Cam Bunton

      lol :-)

  • steveb944

    So Big Blue pretty much doesn’t care, 2017 is far away considering security. More than likely they’ll miss their target, I know at my current job we all have dumbphones from them, that surely doesn’t tap into the new network.

  • Ben

    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the NSA listen in on my boring calls in exchange for security. Tracking for marketing purposes (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.) on the other hand, is a no-go for me.

    • So, you fear not those who can throw you in jail for dissenting from the state but instead fear those who advertise to you? I sure hope that you’re not a registered voter.

      • Ben

        I am in fact a registered voter (not a D or R). I’m a millennial, a college grad, and a uniform service member. Throw one in jail for dissenting from the state? This isn’t N. Korea or China. Are you referring to Mr. Snowden? I’m afraid you’re a little less informed than you think, Augustine. The agency targets select individuals and uses an automated system to listen for key words in the conversation as it simply cannot listen and record every phone call originating from this country 365 days/year.
        Your advertisers on the other hand, do more harm than the NSA. I’m assuming you’re not aware of what they do so you won’t complain about it. In other words, you’ve come to prefer them over your national security since they’ve managed to keep their deeds in the dark. Do some reading, Augustine, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.
        How good is your security system if everyone knows it’s capabilities? Some things are not supposed to go public, and your national defense capabilities is one of them. Should we publicize our stealth capabilities because of the public’s quest to know everything? You must be a Snowden sympathizer. If you only knew the level of damage he has caused this country, you’ll think twice before sending him that Christmas card.

        • You’re woefully poorly informed. It’s clear that the NSA is not listening to individuals when it has gathered information on millions of Americans. Then again, you’re a millennial. As Aristotle said, it takes 40 years to make a man mature.

        • Ben

          Wake up, Mr, it’s now 2014. I don’t have to be 40 years old in order to be informed. Your use of Aristotle’s quote further tells me how resistant you are to change. The reality is times have changed and so must we. Ask Canada if they’re going to leave their doors wide opened to everyone and you’ll get an answer different from what you would have likely gotten two days ago. You need to do some reading, Augustine. FYI, I’m not your “typical” millennial so take your faulty argument to someone less informed than you are.

        • No, you are the typical utopian millennial. Your optimism and naivete are charming, but arrogant and harmful as well. Your choice of speaking through cliches betrays your development and preconceptions typical of your age. Carry on, another decade or two and you’ll be fine as wine.

        • Ben

          Augustine, I hope you understand that I have no interest in continuing this back and forth with you. You’re obviously set in your old ways and are not willing to consider anything not in line with your ideals. I admire your nostalgia, but the times have changed, my friend, adaptability is now the key to sustainability. ” The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” A. Einstein.

        • And here’s proof positive why only men older than 35 are eligible to be president of the US…

        • Ben

          Instead of work, this must be what you do to pass the time. Your attitude, though laughable, is also pitiful. You speak as if wisdom unmatched by anyone on the planet has been bestowed upon you. Yet you use my age as strength for your faulty argument. Were you always this age? I may be younger than you today but guess what? By the time I’m your age, I will have accomplished more than you will in your entire life. Don’t forget to check your mailbox today, your AARP card just arrived.

        • The day you read these posts by yourself and realize the shallow assumptions you stood on you’ll know that you are then a man, and not an overgrown adolescent anymore.

        • Ben

          You’re funny, Augustine. I like the humor. But seriously, though, try to read those articles. You’ll be surprised at what you find. Privacy isn’t what it used to be.

        • “If there is one thing I hate more than not be taken seriously is to be taken too seriously.” (Billy Wilder)

        • thepanttherlady


        • Chris

          I like how thepantherlady said “Enough.” and both did stopped. lol

        • Cam Bunton

          Don’t mess with the panther lady.. ;-)

        • thepanttherlady

          I didn’t even have to sharpen my claws this time. :)

        • nycplayboy78

          I loves me some PantherLady :)

        • Stone Cold


        • nycplayboy78

          AMEN!!!! Also Ben stop quoting Enemy of The State…Great movie with Gene Hackman and Will Smith :)

    • edfranco1

      I agree…. nothing to hide here and I don’t care If you call it giving up my freedom.

  • Irfan

    encryption is not important , just don’t give access to NSA and intelligence agencies , because ( my name is Khan and i am not terrorist ) ……PLEASE

    • Chris

      ugh what? Encryption is just as important. You do realize your phone calls, data, text messages goes in the massive airwaves to get to T-mobile towers right? Someone can theoretically sit there and get as much traffic as it can get. And if the hacker happens to have a lot of time in the world and a lot of super computers, they can analyze all the data they pulled and build a decryption key.

    • Alex Zapata

      I dunno…. I saw you on King of the Hill……

      • nycplayboy78

        Ohhhh I saw what you just did there :p

  • edfranco1

    You guys do know that the FCC might make it harder for t-mobile to obtain more spectrum after this.

  • George Hollier

    “a real effort by companies everywhere to sure up their security” — verb should be shore, not “sure”