Newly discovered vulnerability allows Hackers to steal user data via hacking 4G and 5G protocols

By : |July 2, 2018 0
Newly discovered vulnerability allows Hackers to steal user data via hacking 4G and 5G protocols

Security researchers have recently discovered a critical vulnerability in the LTE mobile devices that can allow attackers to get the information from a cellular network, modify the contents of their communication and can even reroute them to malicious websites.


The researchers have shown three different attacks that can be done on the data link layer to LTE i.e the second layer of the LTE network. The attackers can perform identity mapping, website fingerprinting and DNS spoofing.


The first two attacks are passive attacks i.e the hacker can only listen to the communication going through the network. However, the third attack i.e DNS spoofing is an active attack that can be done using the aLTEr attack.

aLTEr attack allows an attacker to perform man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept communications and redirect the victim to a malicious website.


What is the vulnerability? Are 5G networks also vulnerable?

According to the researchers, the aLTEr attack exploits the fact that LTE user data is encrypted in counter mode (AES-CTR) but not integrity protected, which allows the hackers to modify the message payload: the encryption algorithm is malleable, and an adversary can modify a ciphertext into another ciphertext which later decrypts to a related plaintext.

In simpler words, in this attack a hacker pretends to be a cell tower to the users and also pretends to be the user to the real network, thus intercepting the communications between them.

Although the attacks are very critical, it requires the use of a custom-built cell tower which would cost a few thousand dollars to make and usually works within a 1-mile radius of the attacker.

Besides this, 5G networks may also be vulnerable to these attacks. Although 5G supports authenticated encryption, the feature is optional, which means that most carriers might not implement it, potentially making 5G vulnerable as well.

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