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Leaky Cellphone Nets Can Give Attackers Your Location 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-you-are dept.
alphadogg writes "GSM cellular networks leak enough location data to give third-parties secret access to cellphone users' whereabouts, according to new University of Minnesota research. 'We have shown that there is enough information leaking from the lower layers of the GSM communication stack to enable an attacker to perform location tests on a victim's device. We have shown that those tests can be performed silently without a user being aware by aborting PSTN calls before they complete,' write the authors, from the College of Science and Engineering, in a paper titled 'Location Leaks on the GSM Air Interface' (Pdf). The researchers are working with carriers and equipment makers, including AT&T and Nokia, to address the security issues."
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Leaky Cellphone Nets Can Give Attackers Your Location

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  • Isn't GSM geolocation limited to an accuracy of 500m?
    • by slack_justyb (862874) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:58AM (#39097261)
      That's only a search area of 195 acres. Also depending on the area and direction/speed of movement (if any) it would be easy for someone to start eliminating some of the places you could be hiding in. Also depending on the environment, it would not be that hard to cover that large an area with enough people.

      Just because it doesn't pinpoint you, doesn't mean you need to be giving anyone a general direction to be looking in.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by atari2600a (1892574)
        If you're HIDING you wouldn't be using [your own, non-prepaid] cellphone AT ALL. Mitnick was once chased by a helicopter [pre-GSM] because of this mistake.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Unless you call someone, in which case it is reduced to a few meters.

  • I have to ask, did anyone who commented even read this? I spent 20 minutes reading this technical paper, i by no means claim to have understood any of it, and i looked forward to reading the comments because I figured the comments would make some sense out of all this. Yah, that didnt happen.

  • Yes, GSM system needs to know the cell you are using during a call.
    This seems to be known issue: How come phone exchange knows with whom I am talking?
    It seems a bit silly to me, really. If cell is not known, connection can not be established.

    On top of it: GSM is TDMA system, so it measures distance to the terminal in cca 550m steps.
    It is called Timing Advance, it is needed in order to allign all incomming frames on cell receiver.

    Now... Somebody looks at Abis (protocol between cell and Base Station Controlle

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is much easier to get my location using different methods, like asking me politely ;-)

      BR
      s52d

      Can you, please, tell us where you currently are, preferably within 550m accuracy?

      • by s52d (1049172)

        It is much easier to get my location using different methods, like asking me politely ;-)

        BR
        s52d

        Can you, please, tell us where you currently are, preferably within 550m accuracy?

        At home, 1m from my PC.
        And you have my home address from elsewhere, of course.

        BR
        s52d

  • How they can track me [slashdot.org] during my mall wherwabouts!
    And you can bet this is not happening by mistake!!!

  • I thought there were Foursquare for that...

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