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Gemalto Confirms Hack, Downplays Damage

25
Feb
2015
Gemalto Confirms Hack, Downplays Damage

SIM-maker says yes, it was hacked by GCHQ and NSA. But not that badly…

Last week, leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed what appeared to be a major hacking operation against the world’s largest manufactuer, orchestrated by the NSA and UK’s GCHQ intelligence agencies in 2010 and 2011.

According to a report in The Intercept, Gemalto, whose customers include 450 mobile telecom operators around the globe, was hacked in a sophisticated attack, in order to steal “to monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments.”

gemalto-gchq-slide

Such a hack, if true, sounds deeply troubling. Gemalto manufactures two billion SIM cards a year, and the of encryption keys would potentially allow intelligence agencies to decrypt cell phone signals and intercept communications.

But today, Gemalto – which also produces ID chips for passports and other technologies – provided details to the press about its investigation into the alleged hacking, concluding that it believed its SIM cards were secure.

Yes, Gemalto says, it has “reasonable grounds to believe that an operation by NSA and GCHQ probably happened”. But it hasn’t found any evidence which makes it think that there was a massive theft of encryption keys.

Gemalto claims that its IT team noticed suspicious activity at one of its French sites in June 2010, caused by a “third party” trying to spy on the office network. Gemalto says that action was immediately taken to counter the threat.

The following month, July 2010, another security issue was identified by Gemalto’s security team, after forged emails were sent to one of its mobile operator customers, pretending to come from Gemalto. The emails contained a malicious attachment designed to infect the operator.

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