5G shortcuts expose mobile phones to Stingray surveillance


In North America And many other places in the world, high-speed 5G mobile data network Hanging out of reach for many years. But as 5G coverage becomes ubiquitous, there is an important issue to be aware of when launching.Even if your phone says it is connected to the next-generation wireless standard, you may not actually get all the features promised by 5G-including Defense of so-called stingray surveillance equipment.

In order to make 5G popular rapidly, most operators around the world have deployed it in a “non-independent mode” or “non-independent architecture”. This approach essentially uses the existing 4G network infrastructure as a starting point, and rolls out 5G data speeds before building a separate “standalone” 5G core. It’s like starting your cake decoration business from your cousin’s ice cream shop while you renovate a new storefront three blocks away.

You may see what is going on.As long as your 5G connection is in non-standalone mode, a lot of what you get is actually 4G, and there are security and privacy weaknesses Actual 5G aims to solve.

“This is a false sense of security,” said Ravishankar Borgaonkar, a research scientist at SINTEF Digital, a Norwegian technical analysis company. “Currently, many 5G deployed around the world do not actually have the protection mechanisms designed in 5G. You get a high-speed connection, but the security level you have is still 4G.

In practice, this means that one of the most important privacy advantages of 5G—the ability to prevent stingray surveillance—has not yet applied to most people. Also known as “IMSI catcher”, it is used to assign the “International Mobile Subscriber Identity” number to each mobile phone. The stingray acts like a legal cell phone tower to trick devices into connecting. From there, these tools use IMSI numbers or other identifiers to track devices and even monitor calls.Stingray is a popular choice U.S. law enforcement; they are Reported to be ubiquitous During the many anti-police brutality protests last summer. To prevent this monitoring, 5G aims to encrypt IMSI numbers.

Borgaonkar and Altaf Shaik, a senior research scientist at the Technical University of Berlin, discovered that major operators in Norway and Germany are still launching 5G in a non-standalone mode, which means that these connections are still vulnerable to stingrays. The two gave speeches at the Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas last week.

In the United States, T-Mobile has gone the farthest roll out Its independent network. The company is the first company to begin large-scale deployment in August 2020. Verizon and AT&T took longer to transition and are still working on Switch to high-speed 5G Generally speaking. Verizon told WIRED that it was working on “Fully commercialized“A 5G stand-alone model will be achieved by the end of 2021. AT&T stated that it will start “limited SA deployment” at the end of last year and will expand the scale “when the ecosystem is ready.”

A month learn OpenSignal, a mobile network analysis company, found that in early 2021, US mobile users will spend approximately 27% of their time on non-standalone mode 5G, and less than 6% of their time on independent mode connections.

Although the distinction between 5G types is important, there is no easy way to tell if you are on an independent network by looking at your phone. Android users can download an application that analyzes the device’s network connection and can mark the non-independent mode, but this is a onerous extra step. Due to Apple’s application restrictions, these tools are not very common on iOS.

The security benefits you miss on non-independent 5G networks are not limited to stingrays. You may be vulnerable to stalking, eavesdropping and so-called “Downgrade attack“, push target devices to older and more vulnerable data networks, such as 3G. Although enhanced security features are a key selling point of 5G, these are not communicated to mobile data users.


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