2G's security weaknesses are still a problem, even for modern phones

Google recently added an option to switch off insecure 2G connectivity in Android smartphone modems, a move that has been welcomed by digital civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

It applauded Google for adding the new setting in Android 12 and has now called on Apple to implement the feature, too. 

2G is an early digital cellular network standard that emerged in the early 1990s, when Nokia still ruled mobile. As EFF notes, 2G was developed when standards bodies didn’t account for threats like rogue cell towers or the need for strong encryption. 

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“There are two main problems with 2G. First, it uses weak encryption between the tower and device that can be cracked in real time by an attacker to intercept calls or text messages. In fact, the attacker can do this passively without ever transmitting a single packet,” EFF notes

“The second problem with 2G is that there is no authentication of the tower to the phone, which means that anyone can seamlessly impersonate a real 2G tower and a phone using the 2G protocol will never be the wiser.”

Also known as IMSI

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