Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Satellite telephony is unsafe: RUB scientists break security standards

08.02.2012
Encryption algorithms have security gaps

Satellite telephony was thought to be secure against eavesdropping. Researchers at the Horst Görtz Institute for IT-Security (HGI) at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) have cracked the encryption algorithms of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which is used globally for satellite telephones, and revealed significant weaknesses.

In less than an hour, and with simple equipment, they found the crypto key which is needed to intercept telephone conversations. Using open-source software and building on their previous research results, they were able to exploit the security weaknesses.

Telephoning via satellite

In some regions of the world standard cell phone communication is still not available. In war zones, developing countries and on the high seas, satellite phones are used instead. Here, the telephone is connected via radio directly to a satellite. This passes the incoming call to a station on the ground. From there, the call is fed into the public telephone network. So far this method, with the ETSI’s encryption algorithms A5-GMR-1 and A5-GMR-2, was considered secure.

Simple equipment – fast decryption
For their project, the interdisciplinary group of researchers from the areas of Embedded Security and System Security used commercially available equipment, and randomly selected two widely used satellite phones. A simple firmware update was then loaded from the provider’s website for each phone and the encryption mechanism reconstructed. Based on the analysis, the encryption of the GMR-1 standard demonstrated similarities to the one used in GSM, the most common mobile phone system. “Since the GSM cipher had already been cracked, we were able to adopt the method and use it for our attack”, explained Benedikt Driessen, of the Chair for Embedded Security at the RUB. To verify the results in practice, the research group recorded their own satellite telephone conversations and developed a new attack based on the analysis. „We were surprised by the total lack of protection measures, which would have complicated our work drastically”, said Carsten Willems of the Chair for System Security at the RUB.

Invasion of privacy

Encryption algorithms are implemented to protect the privacy of the user. “Our results show that the use of satellite phones harbours dangers and the current encryption algorithms are not sufficient”, emphasized Ralf Hund of the Chair for System Security at the RUB. There is, as yet, no alternative to the current standards. Since users cannot rely on their security against interception, similar to the security of standard cell phones, they will have to wait for the development of new technologies and standards, or make use of other means of communication for confidential calls.

Further information

Dipl.-Ing. Benedikt Driessen, Chair of Embedded Security, Horst Görtz Institute for IT-Security, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, Ruhr University Bochum, Tel. +49 (0)234/32-26186, E-Mail: benedikt.driessen@rub.de

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://gmr.crypto.rub.de/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Bursting the clouds for better communication
18.10.2018 | Université de Genève

nachricht Research on light-matter interaction could improve electronic and optoelectronic devices
11.10.2018 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury

19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

App-App-Hooray! - Innovative Kits for AR Applications

19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>