Security flaws in 4G and 5G networks could expose your phone calls and location

5g capable phones manufacturers feat getty
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

A group of academics from the University of Iowa has discovered three flaws in both 4G and 5G networks which could allow attackers to intercept phone calls and track the location of smartphones. Published in a report picked up by TechCrunch, this is believed to be the first major vulnerability in 4G and 5G networks identified in recent times.

The first of the flaws open up the possibility for an attack known as “Torpedo.” This takes advantage of a protocol that is used by major cellular networks whenever a phone is pinged before a call or text message is sent to it. According to the report, placing several phone calls and canceling them over a short a short period can lead to a paging message that can be exploited to track back the location of a smartphone. This also could allow an attacker to, in turn, leverage the paging channel and generate fake messages or block SMS messages altogether.

“Additionally, for a targeted attack, if the attacker is aware of the victim’s often visited locations, then the attacker can set up sniffers on those locations to create the victim’s cell level mobility profile. Torpedo can also enable the attacker to detect the connection status of the victim’s device leading to privacy issues,” explains the report.

Torpedo is the prerequisite for the second and third attacks. Known as “Piecer,” the second attack allows attackers to uncover the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) or network identity of a cellphone attached to a 4G network. The final of the attacks is known as an IMSI cracking attack, which forces and unencrypts an ISMI number on either a 4G or 5G network.

According to TechCrunch, these types of attacks also show that even new 5G devices are at risk from the use of stingrays, the devices which authorities often leverage to track down the location of a specific cell phone. T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are all impacted by these three attacks, including their networks in both Europe and Asia. All of the flaws were reported to GSMA, a group which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Fixes for Torpedo are the responsibility of the GSMA, and Piecer attack will have to be addressed by individual carriers.


5G is going to cost you a few bucks more, at least on Verizon

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.

Free yourself! How to unlock a phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Do you want to know how to unlock a phone through your carrier or a third-party service like DoctorSIM? Regardless of which way you want to go, we've compiled a list of requirements and methods for doing so.

Here are the best affordable monitors for your budget desktop

Looking for the best budget monitors? These monitors are affordable, but still provide the features you need for gaming, work, home or other plans! Take a look at the displays and your wallet will thank you.

This limited-time Dell deal cuts $330 off the price of the XPS 15

Dell is currently running a limited-time sale that is cutting the pricing on the XPS 15 down by $330, but only through Thursday, March 21, and with the use of a special coupon code. 
Product Review

The Lenovo Legion Y740 brings RTX 2080 graphics power for under $2,500

Coming with the Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, the Legion Y740 one big beast. But priced at under $2,500 how does Lenovo’s Legion stand up against the crowd?

Google hit with another fine by the EU, this time for $1.7 billion

Google has been fined for the third time by the EU, this time for breaching antitrust laws by requiring third-party websites using its search function to prioritize its ads over competitors.

If you have $5,200, Apple has 256GB of RAM for your iMac Pro

Professionals looking to run intensive applications will be able to push their work a bit further with Apple's latest iMac Pro, which holds 256GB of DD4 ECC RAM for $5,200. Here's why it costs so much to upgrade your iMac Pro to the top.

Don’t be fooled! Study exposes most popular phishing email subject lines

Phishing emails are on the rise and a new study out by the cybersecurity company Barracuda has exposed some of the most common phishing email subject lines used to exploit businesses. 

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for March 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.

Oculus shows off the Rift S, plans to phase out its original VR headset

Oculus plans to phase out its flagship Rift VR headset for its newly created Rift S. The Rift S made its debut this week at the 2019 Game Developers Conference and is expected to be released in spring 2019.

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.

Get the best of both worlds by sharing your data on MacOS and Windows

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.