Last updated on April 23, 2015
New insight reveals that both British and US intelligence agencies have spent the past several years listening in on private phone calls and text messages through hacked sim cards.
The information came from top-secret documents that were provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
It’s alleged that Gemalto, the targed sim card company that operates in more than 40 manufacturing companies in 85 countries, is taking the new allegations “very seriously”.
According to a report from The Intercept, they say that “the great Sim heist” gave US and British surveillance agencies “the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.”
They say that among clients of the Dutch-based Gemalto company are Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, along with “some 450 wireless network providers around the world.”
A Gemalto spokeswoman said the company was unable to verify if there’s been a breach and added, “We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such highly sophisticated techniques to try to obtain Sim card data.”
Each and every sim card manufactured has its own special encryption key, which is installed by the manufacture. This key is what secures communications between the handset and other mobile devices. Generally, if an anonymous person where to try and snoop on text messages or conversation, they’d get nothing more than garbled data.
Anyone with the encryption key can decrypt personal information by decoding the data that passed between a mobile phone and a cell tower, including previously intercepted communication. This form of decryption does not work, however, with mobile applications such as iMessenger and Whats App.
The report claims that the hacks began back in 2010 and were organized by the US National Security Agency and Britian’s GCHQ, in operative called, the “Mobile Handset Exploitation Team”.
Although GCHQ did say that all their activities were “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate”, either agency has made direct comments about the allegations.
Germalot maunfactures approximately 30 percent of sim cards worldwide and also manufactures chips for passports and bank cards.