By Max Clarke

A hackers’ group has exposed a new vulnerability in Vodafone’s mobile phone network security, allowing attackers to listen to Vodafone calls.

Attackers can gain access to the latest ‘most secure’ call standard: 3G/UMTS/WCDMA.

The problem lies within Vodafone’s ‘Sure Signal/ Femto’ signal booster. By reverse engineering the device, members of The Hackers’ Choice (THC) claim they can turn the device into a 3G/UMTS/WCDMA interceptor.

"The Femto can only be used by the person who purchased the femto. At least that is what Vodafone tells you," Senior Security Researcher, Eduart Steiner explained on THC’s blog.

"THC found a way to circumvent this and to allow any subscriber - even those not registered with the Femto - to use the Femto. They turned it into an IMSI grabber. The attacker has to be within 50m range of the UK Vodafone customer to make the customer's phone use the attacker's femto."

Vodafone issued the following statement about the breach:

We have identified just a handful of devices running software which pre-dates the patch we issued to fix this vulnerability (originally issued in February 2010).

These devices will no longer access our network unless they are carrying the most recent software update. Devices will automatically poll for this update upon being powered up.
The only time a customer could theoretically have been at risk was if they were registered on, and within 50 metres of, a box which the owner had tampered with.

This would have required that person to dismantle the device and solder additional components onto it, as well as taking the conscious decision to prevent the device from receiving our automatic software updates.

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