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4G has permanent security holes

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When long-term evolution appeared ( Oth ), came with the promise of much faster download and upload speeds than the 3G standard, as well as solving security holes in previous generation mobile networks. But nothing is completely immune to violations: a group of researchers has discovered a set of vulnerabilities that can direct users to malicious websites.

Called AMEND – a pun on the name of fourth generation technology and the fact that it is possible to «switch» a user’s connection, failures should not be exploited on a large scale just because they require expensive equipment (although readily available up to $ 4,000) In addition, the victim must be at a relatively close distance from the attacker: about 1.5 km.

Once these conditions are met, the hacker can redirect the victims’ connections, paving the way for a series of attacks – the target can correctly enter the address of the bank’s website in smartphone and fall on a fake page designed to capture passwords; and a malicious person can find out what websites a person is accessing via the mobile internet.

This video shows the attack running on Outlook.com:

This is because LTE specifications do not fully protect the integrity of information, allowing a data packet to change its contents: you can modify a packet DNS to direct a user to a fake site. And by analyzing traffic metadata, a victim can determine their browsing history – the researchers obtained an accuracy of 89% in a controlled environment.

And who can be affected? «We believe that, in particular, people of special interest (politicians, journalists, ambassadors, senior executives) should be concerned about such attacks (see, for example, the attacks on politicians discovered through the Snowden leaks). The main consequences of our attacks are that an attacker could use them to direct network traffic, to determine the site visited or to use that attack as a springboard for other attacks, «say the researchers.

The flaw is in 4G and there is no definitive solution to the current technology problem. The 5G it is still in its infancy and should not reach Brazil before 2020. And even the next generation of mobile networks should not solve everything: researchers say the feature that mitigates the defect is optional and requires operators to purchase specific equipment. Ideally, it should make the feature mandatory, they say.

GSMA, which represents mobile operators around the world, says it «does not believe that the specific technique demonstrated by researchers has been used to attack users in the past and will not be used in the near future.»

With information: Ars Technica, later.

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