New Snowden docs show that in 2010, Top SIM makers were hacked by a specialized NSA & GCHQ Hack team and lost control of their encryption keys
In the continuing series of Snowden leaks revelations, The Intercept has published a new report which states that NSA and GCHQ teamed up together to form a team of hackers codenamed Mobile Handset Exploitation Team (MHET) to hack top SIM card manufacturers.
The Intercept report which was published today provides damning evidence against the National Security Administration (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who formed a team together in April 2010 to crack mobile phone encryption.
The team fromed by NSA and GCHQ was called Mobile Handset Exploitation Team (MHET) and it succeeded in stealing encryption keys from top SIM card makers and mobile networks. The MHET targeted SIM card maker Gemalto who is one of the largest SIM manufacturers in the world with production of 2 billion SIM cards a year.
The NSA and GCHQ targeted SIM cards because, now a days SIM cards store the encryption keys that protect user’s text, voice and data communications in addition to verifying users.
Once these encryption keys are cracked, NSA and GCHQ could snoop on unlimited number of users without the barrier of SPs because it’s antenna’s were directly hooked up with the SIMs cards making the interception and snooping operation independent of the mobile phone operators.
MHET exploited a weakness in the SIM manufacturers delivery mechanism by tapping into the emails or FTPs used to transfer the encryption keys or Ki’s as they are called. Another reason for hacking the SIM cards is that the users SIM generally remains the same unless lost/replaced or stolen throughout the users lifetime and NSA and GCHQ therefore had tailor made backdoors to billions of smartphones without losing a sweat in their brows.
These new revelations are further going to push NSA and GCHQ into a tight corner after the recent leaks which state that NSA had hidden backdoors in hard disks of major manufacturers with the help of a hacker group called Equation Group.