Tag Archives: Cell phone

The Unhackable Cellphone

Gold Line Group’s Hacker Challenge has a cartoonish James Bond aspect to it that begs a bunch of hard questions, but it also has a deadly serious side.
The Israeli company invited hackers, cyber spooks, and industrial espionage geeks to try breaking its new Gold Lock 3G cell phone encryption system. Anyone who succeeds wins a cool quarter million dollars in gold ingots.
The software, launched in mid-2009, is already used by the Israeli military to scramble field communications. South American moguls are using it to prevent kidnap gangs eavesdropping on their conversations. Life and death stuff.
But Gold Lock 3G, which the company launched in North America late last year, can also be used by organizations just looking to protect trade secrets from prying ears.
Cyber spooks
The software encrypts voice conversations, SMS messages, instant message conversations and file transfers to and from Nokia, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and iPhone mobile devices.
Phones at both ends have to be running Gold Lock 3G. List prices start from about $35 a month per device, or $1,700 for a perpetual license.
The software does introduce a level of latency in voice conversations – typically about a second – but the company’s North American channel manager, Douglas Haskins, insists users barely notice or, if they do, adjust easily.
Software such as Gold Line’s takes on added significance now with recent news that a German encryption expert succeeded in breaking the native 64-bit protocols used by GSM carriers to encrypt cell calls.
In the past, says Haskins, industrial spies would have to spend $80,000 or more on specialized equipment to intercept and decrypt cell phone conversations.
Now they can use a laptop and $100 worth of software.
“It could be somebody sitting outside your business or your house – they can be a couple of hundred of yards away, or in a nearby cubicle,” Haskins says. “So it’s very serious. If you’re talking about sensitive information – it’s wide open now.”
Gold Line claims that between 2,000 and 3,000 hackers, including security organizations, have taken a crack at breaking its system. The company bumped the prize from $100,000 to $250,000 in November, and renewed the challenge recently.

Final deadline for breaking the Gold Lock 3G system: February 1, 2010.

All hackers have to do is unscramble a Gold Lock-encrypted conversation that the company intercepted and recorded using commonly available call sniffer technology and posted at its Web site.
(To find out how to participate, see this page at the company’s site.)
On the line
There’s more at stake here than cash, of course. There’s also Gold Line’s reputation.
If someone does decrypt the conversation, the company will have egg on its face – although Haskins tries to spin it otherwise.
“If it happens, [it means] there’s one really smart guy out there – and a lot of hackers are really smart,” he concedes.
“I think if it does happen, the way we look at it is that it gives us the opportunity to make [Gold Lock 3G] that much better. We already have by far the best product out there. We not only have the confidence to issue this challenge, but we’re prepared to take [it] even a step higher.”
Haskins says Gold Lock 3G is superior to comparable products from competitors, such as Cellcrypt because it uses a unique three-layer system.
It starts with automatic handshaking between devices using Diffie–Hellman key exchange protocols. Then the software uses the same AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard) used by the U.S. government for top secret communications. Finally, it re-encrypts the already encrypted data using 384-bit Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC).
“It’s just off the charts,” Haskins says of the effort that would be required to break the system. “Even if you could break AES-256, then you’d have to work on the 384-bit [ECC].”
The company claims an independent auditor estimated it would take hundreds of years to break the system using brute strength methods. But encryption systems have been broken before using cleverer techniques.
Are hacker challenges like Gold Line’s anything more than flimsy publicity stunts? How legitimate are they really?
For example, to what extent does putting a four-month time limit on the challenge tilt the board in the developer’s favor. After all, if some cyber snoop breaks the system on February 2, the implications for users relying on the product are just as dire – but with no negative publicity.
And notwithstanding the very attractive prize, has the challenge really brought all the best talent out of the woodwork? Would criminal hackers, for example, risk registering with Gold Line to participate?
And then too, how would we ever know if somebody actually succeeded in breaking the Gold Lock system? Isn’t it possible Gold Line would decide to just pay off the winner and keep it quiet while it fixed the vulnerability?
Certainly the company wouldn’t be stupid enough to stiff a successful hacker, Haskins says. For one thing, participants in effect enter into a contract with the company. Besides, it would be too easy for the person to go public with the information and embarrass Gold Line even more.
“It would cause more damage to try and hide the fact than it would to admit it and fix the product,” he says.
But couldn’t Gold Line make them sign a non-disclosure agreement to get their loot and keep it all on the QT?

Yet another scary thought: if a criminal hacker did participate and succeed, might they decide the information was more valuable on the black market? How much would Al-Qaeda or the Iranian secret service pay to be able to eavesdrop on the Israeli military?

Gerry Blackwell is a veteran technology journalist who writes from Canada, Italy, and Spain

Swipe Your Credit Card on a Cell Phone


By plugging a small piece of hardware into a phone’s audio jack, users can swipe credit cards and transfer money without the need for an additional machine.

With a small card reader that attaches to a cell phone, a new company is making it easier for small businesses and even individuals to accept credit card payments. The San Francisco start-up, called Square, which opened just last week, is headed by Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey.

Currently, in order to accept credit cards, a business usually has a stationary machine attached to a computerized cash register. For most medium and large businesses, the set-up works fine. But smaller businesses, such as street vendors, farmers markets, and even individuals having garage sales, often don’t accept credit cards. Square hopes that these types of sellers may find its new system to be simple enough to incorporate in their micro businesses.

Square’s system consists of a small card reader that plugs into a phone’s audio jack. The reader is currently compatible only with the , but the company plans to make versions for and , as well. To make a payment, a buyer swipes a credit card through the reader, provides a signature on the touchscreen, and has the option of receiving a receipt via email.

Only the person receiving the payment needs to have an account with Square. The company hasn’t yet set account prices, but says there will be different levels for individuals who rarely use the system and for small businesses that use it more frequently. If the person paying with their credit card has a Square account, they can also enjoy extra features such as receiving a when their card is swiped, and customizing their swipe with an image that displays to the seller.

As for security, the system uses encrypted protocols to send transaction information to credit card companies, and the device is subject to the same regulations as other payment systems. Credit card information is not stored on the seller’s phone.

As noted in a recent article in MIT’s Technology Review, some people question how useful Square’s system will be. Issues such as fraud protection, robustness of the , widespread ATMs, and a small potential market for the device could pose challenges for the new company.

Nevertheless, Square is currently conducting pilot tests in major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis. The company plans to release a commercialized system in early 2010.

Me & My Cell phone

My cell phone .. .dropped into water man …  And I stood there watching… like a meak spectator … as if I am watching my near and dear one killed in front of me.. I looked at it again .. my mind filled with thousands thoughts entering …

How can I save my phone .. no I don’t want it to die … thinking about saving hundreds of people, businesses ….

I picked it up from water immediately .. opened it.. separating the battery and the parts..  quick and Swinged it fast , so that the water can move out … from each pore.. of my phone .. Water that  was smelling like it’s touched each part of my phone , each circuits of my phone ..  Each one touched by water, No not touched but wounded…

I patted it with a towel and with teary eyes .. I was thinking and trying to figure out .. is it alive..  Thinking that do I have to arrange a demise ceremony for my phone.. or an obituary. …. I dried it as much as I cud …myself…. But I cud realize water called much  harm…

Without losing time ..I rushed to a hair dryer .. holding it in my hand for atleast 30 min or more .. and thinking this would work miracle … prayers coming out of my mind ..more and more .. God save my phone ..  

With crossed my fingers … and switched it on .. Nopes.. did not work… L

I Rushed to  my car and drove as fast as I cud …  went to one of the renowned shop and gave it to them … immediate measures were taken in front of me .. and I was a one percent relxed .. just 1 %. . I went home as they said it would take 2 days ..

I was back home and feeling low…

At times I feel Technology is too much … I Want to get disconnected from facebook , twitter, orkut , gtalk , hotmail, yahoo . ..( thought this is just a momentary feeling).

At times when my cell phone rings all day and I feel like .. Man .. gimme some peace man!!!. 

But today I had No phone. Just been an hour and I cud see the feeling ..  But losing contact with technology is like losing contact with a best friend…. One day when my cell phone NokiaE63 , had to go for a repair . I lost touch with my friends. I was feeling soo imcomplete whole day… I had lost contact with 450 people.  In few seconds , I felt like earthquake and my life going topsy turvy. I was feeling as if I was in  a middle of a presentation and the battery of my laptop has discharged.

My mind thinking abt my phone .. my beautiful phone … My most lovely possession .. my people , my contact list , my sms!!!! My online twitter , skype … I started missing everything soo much .. I was unable to live without my cell phone… M I really soo addicted..  my fingers feel like .. I need to text .. type… my fingers felt like typing and I wanted my phone.. in my palm…

I can hear the ringtone of my phone… even if it was not ringing…

What have we done to ourself … Technology has made us soo crippled.. Can’t we stay without a phone for few hours??? …… Yes I have to say .. we have became dependent too much .. on technology .. Cant remember birthday’s , we feed in, alarm , sms , photo , navigation ,songs , video ,bill payment, everything  we can think of under the Sun.

Can I feel complete ever without my Cell phone??? As if m dying and my soul is coming out from my body.. trying to unleash .. and fly…

I was turning low and sinking into it .. and getting desperate about my phone .. when would I get it back . I was right there standing at the same place where my phone fell . The water … was same… ad there I could see my own reflection.. the effects were all on my face…

As if I my dear one has gone into Coma!, and doctor says the recovery might be possible. Might , this again struck my brain cells with millions and nano questions.. We get soo attached to objects so much!. An object merely dead!, a non living thing, and I got soo fond of it ..

I was staying in a fear, I might get my prized possession back or not…

With this feeling I opened my diary to check what contacts and other details I have saved… and realized it’s not updated from an year…

I lost it .. again from scratch ..

I got a lesson of my life.. Technology is good, but keep backups ( mayb2) , technology made me feel crippled..  But yes.. I got my lesson …

This time if my phone comes back , I would try to remember b’day of my friends myself , few important numbers as well. Not just blindly depend on technology…

I tried to smile again .. and felt how would I keep my phone away from me…

I knew I would try .. this time .. dunnoo it would be fruitful or not.. But I will give it a shot…