The emerging new cellular networking technology, 5G is already saddled with serious flaws that could transform it into a snooping risk, which can be used to intercept phone calls and track the location of mobile devices, according to reports by a group of academic researchers.
While the vulnerabilities mark the first time such flaws have been discovered to affect both 5G and the most widely used wireless cellular technology at the moment, 4G which hitherto has been hailed as a super-speed and more secure technology.
The three-pronged attacks scenario recorded by the researchers is described in details in the paper presented at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS 2019) which is holding in San Diego, starting from February 24-27, 2019. With the first attack, called Torpedo, which exploit is tied to weakness in the standards' paging protocol used in notifying phones of an incoming call or messages; while the researchers attempted multiple calls in a short duration which allowed them to pinpoint the device and send fake text messages.
They were also able to mount a denial-of-service attack, and Torpedo facilitated two other additional exploits, making it possible for any attacker to access a device's ISMI, that is, the unique identifying number for the GSM subscriber's device, using IMSI-Cracking brute-force attack.
And the third attack, called Piercer, tend to pair the ISMI with the target's phone number, allowing full location tracking, with all attacks haven been evaluated and validated using commodity hardware and software, as claimed by the researchers in their paper.
The 5G cellular protocol is even vulnerable to Stingrays, the surveillance tools used by the FBI to surreptitiously track the locations of targets' mobile devices.
The emerging cellular technology, 5G is supposed to enable supercharged speeds for mobile devices, with low latency, and perhaps opens door for more technological innovations such as self-driving cars, mixed and virtual realities, and also deliver a higher level of security.