Billions of mobile phone users around the world have been exposed to data theft, voice call bugging and location tracking after the discovery of a massive security hole in telecommunications.
According to research, fraudsters, rogue governments, and commercial operators using online portals are exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile phone signalling architecture System Signalling Number 7 (SS7).
SS7 is the signalling system between different phone companies, which allows a mobile phone to roam from one country to another.
All telecommunications providers have to provide details of their subscribers automatically via the SS7 system when requested for from another provider.
Using the information from an SS7 request, a determined hacker is able to listen to any mobile phone conversation by forwarding all calls on a particular number to an online recording device. The information also allows the movements of a mobile phone user to be geo-tracked on an application such as Google maps.
The investigation to discover the flaw was put together on Australian TV show 60 Minutes where hackers from Berlin were able to intercept and record a mobile phone conversation between 60 Minutes reporter Ross Coulthart in the UK and Australian senator Nick Xenophon in Australia's Parliament House.
The hackers in Berlin first warned of the vulnerability in 2008 when they were able to intercept and read the senator's SMS from Australia to Coulhart in London as well as monitor the senator's movements as he travelled to Japan on official business, tracking him around Tokyo and Narita.
Since discovering the risk, Nick Xeonphon has called for an immediate full public inquiry.
When speaking to the TV show 60 Minutes he said: "This is actually quite shocking because it affects everyone. It means anyone with a mobile phone can be hacked, can be bugged, can be harassed. The implications of it are enormous and what we find is shocking is that the security services, the intelligence services, they know about this vulnerability."
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