2010 might just be the year that the cellular phone calls become open to any hacker with the wherewithal to listen in. German hacker Karsten Nohl said this week that he has fulfilled his promise of cracking the GSM encryption code that protects phone calls from eavesdroppers while they traverse the airwaves. And while Nohl claims his publishing of the GSM codebook is purely academic, his project could significantly lower barriers for those with more malevolent intent.
IDG News’ Robert McMillian provides a good explanation of what exactly Nohl and his research team have done: cracking the 64-bit cipher called A5/A1 used to mask most GSM calls and SMS, Nohl has compiled a database of codes which can be used like a reverse phonebook to decrypt conversations and text messages. Using the codebook, antennas, some specialized software and about $30,000 worth of computing equipment, a hacker can crack a call in real-time, allowing him or her to listen in on live conversations. If that hacker is willing to wait a few minutes, a recorded call could be cracked in a few minutes using off-the-shelf computing equipment, according to Nohl.
The ability to listen in on cellular conversations isn’t new–it’s been available to law enforcement (and presumably criminals) for years–but the cost of the specialize equipment have made it prohibitive, according to PC World. Nohl’s codes make those capabilities available to just about anybody.
Interesting and provocative quote from IBM CEO Sam Palmisano (from a Barron’s interview via ReadWriteWeb.com, essentially claiming that Google — in particular Google cloud services — have no chance to win in the enterprise.
Mobile operators, like their wireline brethren beside them, live in fear of one thing: being relegated to network pipes while others — device makers, OS providers, app makers — collect money working “over-the-top.” This certainly appears to be happening in the case of AT&T and Apple with the iPhone, but some interesting research emerged today that could tell a different story on Android devices. more…
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may not be saying anything about its top-secret smartphone, but a lot of other people are. Clandestinely shot photos and videos of the Nexus One have begun appearing on blogs, and Google employee tweets are buzzing about the device across the Web. Gizmodo’s Jason Chen has apparently even gotten a sneak peak at the HTC-built device, facilitated by some modern day tech deep throat. Most astonishing, though, is that actual specs for the Nexus have begun emerging, and they reveal that Google may be eschewing AT&T’s (NYSE:T) big audience in favor of its old partner T-Mobile (NYSE:DT).
Genband’s bid for Nortel’s carrier VoIP equipment business — if it succeeds — could give the vendor a more direct relationship with the world’s largest carriers than it currently enjoys through its major vendor partners. But the deal could also be seen as further solidification of the VOIP equipment space as the domain of specialist suppliers, according to Elisabeth Rainge, IDC’s director of NGN operations.
“Clearly, given Genband’s acquisitions of assets from NSN, Alcatel-Lucent and others in the past few years, it makes sense that those larger players wouldn’t have a strong interest in taking on the Nortel CVAS VoIP asset,” Rainge said in an email. “For better or for worse, what we’re seeing with this move — assuming it goes through — is that VoIP infrastructure is a market for experts. No longer is it the expertise or possibly even the bread and butter, of the traditional telecom network equipment vendors. This is partly an acknowledgement that voice is an application and partly an outcome of the state of voice infrastructure for the largest operators. In a nutshell, the IP transformation is not only underway but today’s reality. To build on IP networks means treating voice as an application.”
Acquiring assets from major vendors and using them to create products that major vendors want has been key to Genband’s success, though the novel strategy is not an easy one to pull off. Likewise, integrating Nortel’s products with its own will be no small task for Genband, Rainge said, especially since the latter’s existing portfolio is already packed with gear from previous acquisitions.
“Genband has a continuing, and now expanding challenge in product portfolio management. I don’t envy their sales team with so many acquired product lines in the fold, especially for long-lived investments such as we see in the TDM-VoIP space,” Rainge said. “There is no doubt that Genband already offers and supports many voice infrastructure solutions. In taking on the Nortel assets, Genband will need to work to position itself as a product company with its own mission rather than a caretaker of a variety of products.”
One bright side for Genband: The shedding of similar assets from major vendors means the company is unlikely to enter a bidding war for Nortel’s business with much larger rivals.