Don’t run for the hills just yet but this is some important news. A German encryption guru, Karsten Nohl, decrypted and published the secret codebook for the 21 year old GSM encryption algorithm still used for 80% of GSM calls. This old A5/1 algorithm is a 64-bit binary code which was supposed to be phased out by a new 128-bit encryption code released in 2007. Still most carriers have not upgraded since they are already moving to 3G which has stronger encryption protocols.
This is not the first time that this GSM protocol has been cracked. It was first shown in 2008 that you could crack the encryption in 30 minutes with a $1,000 worth of equipment and in 30 seconds with $100,000 of equipment. (Hat tip to Will Park)
Keep in mind the encryption is only one step of the protection since it just opens up the torrent of information and is hard to snoop on a single conversation. Not sure who would want to listen to my phone calls anyway…
via New York Times