What was considered an innovative move a decade ago on SIM card’s development, today holds repercussion to many users
For those unfamiliar with the term SIM jacking also known as SIM swap scam, refers to the fraudulent activity of taking over one’s phone, unveiling personal information, and even tracking your location mainly through text messages commonly included in two-factor authentication methods.
The worst part of it all is that you might already be a victim of SIMjacking without even noticing.
Nevertheless, we have got good news for you as we have reached out to all our carrier associates to make sure all SIMs utilized by SKY ECC mobile phones are not powerless against this abuse. On the other hand, we have got some bad news regardless of your device or mobile operating system of choice they still remain vulnerable to SIMjacking since it deeply relies on the SIM card provided by your carrier rather than the device itself.
Consequences of a neglected software
Ars Technica and Adaptive Mobility have successfully identified that the issue actually comes from the software hosted by your SIM. A software that at first seemed convenient for your mobile carrier given it was created to access, store, and send data of your account balance facilitating communications between operator and subscriber. As they continued improving and updating frameworks within the software they forgot to retire the old ones, causing fraudsters to jump on the bandwagon and spot opportunities.
The issue at hand falls on a small fragment of the software known as S@T browser or simply pronounced SAT which was buried and forgotten on our phones since 2009 with no updates. This specific fragment at the time enabled the carrier to send out different commands through coded messages, today it is a weakness exploited by phishers.
As mobile carriers’ intention when constructing this framework was to easily communicate with their subscribers, a SIMjacker out there was already plotting how to take advantage of this flaw. Adaptive Mobility states SIMjackers initially found another use for it allowing the government to keep close tabs on their citizens by extracting personal information to be used for their benefit and control.
And yes for the matter we are referring to a violation of our right to privacy by government institutions.
With all the above mentioned because this assault centers on a commonly under looked feature when using a mobile device, a SIM card, almost all devices and OS can be victims of this scheme. All they need is access to your phone number that can be easily found online.
This is what you need to know on SIMjacking
Illustrated below by The Hacker News find a clear outline of how the SIMjacking scam comes to be:
You still don’t have a clue of what that means. Allow me to explain it in 3 easy steps:
- First, the attacker sends a coded SMS message to the victim’s phone
- A locating tracking command is sent through that SMS which requests a unique number knows as Cell-ID
- Once the attacker has got a hold of your Cell-ID he sends the information to an accomplice device
In order to select someone to scam, the attacker usually sends a couple of commands over a period of time to the victim’s phone to track the mobile phone signal tower that receives the commands sent. Through this process, it allows the phisher to identify and map your location with a margin error of 100 meters. It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that it only gets worst, here is a list of commands that scammers are able to sent to your phone number through S@T:
- Send SMS
- Make calls
- Send information from your phone
- Send Unstructured Supplementary Service Data’ which allows forwarding information through mobile networks
- Send socket statistics
- Ask for your GPS location
- Manage network connection
- Request phone setting information
- Send Dual Tone Multi-frequency used to decode analog signals onto digital ones
- Take control of your phone as pleased
- Request service data
- Open search browsers
- Open programs
This translates to the following actions being possible:
- Send out texts you did not write or sent yourself from your phone number without you knowing
- Spy on you by calling your phone number and listening to everything you say
- Being able to power on or off your phone network, this is particularly useful to control political protestors
- Do other commands that might be a threat for the attacker if carried out through his own device
CEO of Trail of Bits, Dan Guido holds his position on the issue stating:
“Pretty f***ing bad”
“This attack is platform-agnostic, affects nearly every phone, and there is little anyone except your cell carrier can do about it.”
Want more information? Watch this.
SKY ECC to the rescue
We have now clearly understood the threat that SIMjacking poses to our privacy and safety and how easy it is to be targeted.
As we mapped onto these and many other software weaknesses and blind spots when building SKY ECC we are confident to inform the probability of these scenarios affecting SKY ECC devices are null since:
- SKY ECC does not show any phone number whatsoever since nor us or the other users can get a hold of them, so there is no possibility of unknowingly exposing it.
- Our administration framework does not use mobile numbers to identify our users.
- It is impossible for us to identify SIMs even If we had the user’s phone numbers following our pledge to hold our user’s rights to anonymity and privacy. Even though your SKY ECC ID has a linked to your SIM, we have no idea who the SIM card belongs to. So If we are ever confronted telling us “We need the ECC ID, SIM number, and phone number for John Smith” … there really is no way for us to provide this information, we genuinely do not have it.
Finally, for you to rest assured that SKY ECC is the best solution to avoid SIMjacking as we stated previously our partner carriers have indeed confirmed they do not use SAT on SIM cards. Unfortunately, even though it is clear SIMjacking activities are bad and not to mention illegal there is only much so much we can do for the thousands of unprotected devices out there. Hopefully, we spark conversation on this flaw in S@T system and carriers do something about it.