NSA and British Governments Break Into Billions of SIM Cards

gemalto_logoU.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have reportedly hacked into the computer network of giant SIM card maker Gemalto and taken smartphone encryption keys potentially used by customers of hundreds of mobile phone carriers worldwide.

The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), allowed the two spy agencies to monitor a large portion of the world’s mobile phone voice and data traffic, according to a story in The Intercept.

The hack was detailed in a 2010 GCHQ document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the story said. About 450 mobile carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint, use the company’s SIM cards.

With the compromised encryption keys, the surveillance agencies would be able to monitor mobile communications without the approval of the carriers or foreign governments, The Intercept story said. The encryption keys would allow the agencies to intercept mobile traffic without court-ordered warrants or wiretaps, the story said.

GCHQ also said it had access to billing servers of mobile carriers, allowing it to manipulate customer charges in an effort to hide surveillance on phones, the story said.

Representatives of the NSA and Gemalto did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the story.

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Smart Devices Monitoring Us and Predicting Our Needs

Our smart phones can tell not only when they’re being used, but how you’re holding them, if you’re walking, how many steps you take a day and obviously know your phone call patterns and even your calendar.  How far are we going?

Now, developers are looking at including biometrics and cameras to monitor us even more.  This will let these devices provide us with what we need, when we need it — kind of like a butler of years past.

But, what does it mean to our privacy?  Do we really want a machine that can be monitored by who-knows-who to keep track of every part of our lives?

For more, read Smart gadgets may one day anticipate our needs.

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Bad Cell Coverage No More!

Who hasn’t had trouble with cell phone reception?  There’s a new cell phone being developed that will also use your WiFi, but did you know that you can get your own “Micro Site” from the major carriers that will get rid of those dead zones in your home or office?

If you’ve got Verizon, here’s the inside scoop on the hardware from Tom’s Guide.  This device specifically provides a signal for your Verizon Wireless cell phone when there’s no signal at all.

Sprint/Nextel has a similar device with a different payment plan (what else is new?).  If you’ve got one or more Sprint phones and little or no signal, you can buy the Sprint Home Booster (Airwave) and plug it into your Internet connection.  It does a pretty decent signal for your phones.

When there’s a big storm, such as what we’ve recently seen in Haiti and in Indonesia, and the cell phone networks go down most people are out of luck.  Same problem when you’re in a remote area of any country, but if there’s Wifi available there’s a new cell phone being designed that provides the connectivity you need: Scientists develop mobile phone that doesn’t need reception.

If you’ve got a signal from your wireless provider, but it just isn’t strong enough there’s a generic solution you can use at your home.  There are quite a few of them out there, and here’s one that we found on Amazon.com that seems pretty good.

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Apple’s iPhone 4 Connection Problems: Thoroughly Reviewed

Apple‘s iPhone 4 has problems with dropped calls and slow data rates.  The blame’s been cast on everything from left-handed users holding the phone incorrectly through the signal strength display not being correct.  (They’ve got to be kidding, right?  How can the signal strength meter on a digital phone cause the phone’s modems to mess up?)

Well, I’ve found a great reference, photos included, as to what is actually happening and why.  Bottom-line?  You know that cool stainless-steel band that goes around the outside of the phone?  Turns out Apple placed two different antennas on the outside of the phone and didn’t protect them from your hands!  (Why bother, after all, who would hold a cell phone with their hands?)

When you hold the phone around the lower left side you’re actually shorting out (RF-wise) the two antennas and causing a measured 24dB drop in signal strength.  Ouch!

Read on for a great explanation, photos and tests:  Apple’s iPhone 4: Thoroughly Reviewed

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