Phone phreaking makes a comeback on Android VoLTE

Phone phreaking makes a comeback on Android VoLTE
Who out there remembers phone phreaking? Or, who out there happened to watch "Hackers" recently and saw a character (aptly named Phreak) play tones into a pay phone to trick the carrier into thinking that money had been deposited? ... Actually, who out there remembers payphones? Anyway, now that we're done feeling super old, researchers have found an interesting way for that old hack to make a comeback. 

The origins of the old hack went back to the days of Steve Wozniak using a whistle from a cereal box to mimic the tones payphones used to signal the carrier that money had been deposited, but the new version is based on some flaws in how voice over LTE (VoLTE) has been designed as well as a flaw in the Android operating system.  

South Korean researchers say that because of flaws in how VoLTE has been designed, it is possible to spoof phone calls, conduct denial-of-service attacks and wrack up charges on a customer's bill. And, it is also possible for a Android app to make secret phone calls in the background due to a flaw in the way Android handles permissions for VoLTE compared to regular voice calls. Google is already working on a patch that is planned to be released as part of the November security update. 

The problems with VoLTE stem partially from the fact that American carriers have not implemented LTE technology in a standardized way, so it has caused security holes. It also means that each carrier has to do different things in order to fix the issues. The problems were reported to Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile back in May, but none have released statements on the matter. 

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9 Comments

1. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Huh...

2. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Well crap, now I have to go rewatch Hackers for the first time in over 15 years. Thank you Michael H.

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Such a great movie! Long live the 90's!

9. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

LOL, it must have been a long time sense I've seen it, I just realized that Angelina Jolie is in the film... last time I saw it must have been before I knew who she was.

3. RandysBuddy

Posts: 12; Member since: Jul 08, 2015

All this is very unfortunate because T-Mobile's Chief Technology Officer is also the head of 4G Americas who developed the standard. They better stop building coverage and issue a fix quick.

4. p51d007

Posts: 705; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

Time to dig around in some old shoe boxes for an old "Captain Crunch" whistle. ;)

5. 99nights

Posts: 1152; Member since: Mar 10, 2015

At least google is doing something about it, having someone rack up you're phone bill without you even knowing isn't something you'd want.

6. OrigPhoneGeek

Posts: 27; Member since: Jun 11, 2014

Watched that with my kids just last week and they thought it was weird. People actually used telephones connected to computers??? Loving it!

8. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Looks like Michael H's making a comeback too... And Hackers happens to be a fav movie of mine. A young Angelina Jolie before she was Angelina Jolie...so much hotness.

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