NSA, UK's GCHQ reportedly hacked encryption of SIM card maker

The surveillance agencies reportedly were able to monitor a large portion of the world's mobile traffic

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have reportedly hacked into the computer network of giant SIM card maker Gemalto and taken smartphone encryption keys potentially used by customers of hundreds of mobile phone carriers worldwide.

The Gemalto hack, by the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), allowed the two spy agencies to monitor a large portion of the world's mobile phone voice and data traffic, according to a story in The Intercept.

The hack was detailed in a 2010 GCHQ document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the story said.

It's unclear how much mobile traffic the two agencies intercepted after the reported hack.

Gemalto, based in the Netherlands, produces about 2 billion SIM cards a year. About 450 mobile carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint, use the company's SIM cards.

With the compromised encryption keys, the surveillance agencies would be able to monitor mobile communications without the approval of the carriers or foreign governments, The Intercept story said. The encryption keys would allow the agencies to intercept mobile traffic without court-ordered warrants or wiretaps, the story said.

Representatives of the NSA and Gemalto did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the story. Gemalto's website was down Thursday afternoon.

Gemalto was unaware of the penetration of its systems, the company told The Intercept. The company is "disturbed" about the possibility, Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, told the publication.

GCHQ compromised Gemalto's computer networks and installed malware on several computers, The Intercept story said, quoting a slide from the U.K. intelligence agency provided by Snowden. At the time GCHQ believed it had access to the company's "entire network," the slide said.

GCHQ also said it had access to billing servers of mobile carriers, allowing it to manipulate customer charges in an effort to hide surveillance on phones, the story said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentsecurityprivacymobileintrusionU.S. National Security AgencyGemaltoEdward SnowdenU.K. Government Communications HeadquartersPaul Beverly

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?