New research finds significant vulnerabilities in mobile phone technology

ccording to new research which will be presented at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on July 31, significant vulnerabilities in mobile phone technology can potentially put at least half a billion handsets at risk of attacks that can be carried out remotely by hackers.

Noting that the bug gives hackers the ability to remotely gain control of, as well as clone, certain mobile SIM cards, Berlin's Security Research Labs - the German firm which has discovered the bug and will describe the vulnerabilities at the forthcoming Black Hat hacking conference - said that compromised SIMs can potentially be used by hackers to either commit financial crimes or engage in electronic spying.

With the use of outdated, 1970s-era cryptography apparently being the reason behind the vulnerabilities, Security Research Labs' expert cryptographer Karsten Nohl said that mobile handsets can be tricked into granting access to the location of the device, SMS functions, and authorizing changes to the voicemail number of the users.

The research has been described as "hugely significant" by United Nation's Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN group which advises countries on cybersecurity issues. The group intends alerting telecom regulators and other government agencies in around 200 countries about the potential threats from the vulnerabilities.

About the research, ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré told Reuters: "These findings show us where we could be heading in terms of cybersecurity risks."