In a new study, researchers show new flaws found in 4G and 5G networks could help hackers intercept phone calls and track users’ locations.
The research was conducted by researchers from Purdue University and the University of Iowa.
Previous studies have shown that cellular networks conserve energy by scanning for incoming calls, texts, and other notifications.
The time periods the device looks for incoming communications are fixed. They are called the paging occasion and designed into the 4G or 5G cellular protocol.
If several calls are placed and canceled in a short time and the device isn’t scanning for incoming messages, it can trigger a paging message without telling the device.
In the current study, the team examined this venerability.
They found it is possible to use this paging message to track a user’s location. Attackers could also inject fake paging messages and stop calls and texts from coming in.
The researchers also demonstrated another two types of attacks.
One attack allows hackers to obtain a mobile device’s international mobile subscriber identity on 4G networks.
Another attack enables hackers to obtain a user’s phone number or Twitter account on 4G and 5G networks.
These attacks could be conducted on the networks of all four major U.S. cellular companies.
The team suggests that 5G networks will be faster than previous generations, but it is more important to ensure they can be more secure.
The industry group that oversees the development of mobile data standards, GSMA, is working to fix these attacks.
The lead author of the study is Syed Rafiul Hussain, a postdoctoral researcher in computer science at Purdue.
The study is presented at the Network and Distributed Security Symposium in San Diego.
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