Phone Clone Claim Sparks Furor

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Cellular phone companies have pooh-poohed yesterday’s report on the vulnerability of GSM phones to ‘cloning.’ Omnipoint’s Terry Phillips called the security code crack by a team of California researchers "interesting but not significant." Phillips denied that digital ID ‘sniffing’ could be done over the air, although this contradicts the thinking of eminent cryptographers and security experts. He also insisted that the GSM algorithm had not been cracked. The researchers countered that the formerly-secret algorithm can be viewed at scard.org.

Whether or not this affects your cell phone depends on who might be trying to get access: The New York Times reports today that the researchers found evidence that might suggest the code had been intentionally weakened to allow government surveillance. The good news, though, is that cracking GSM codes had required almost ten hours of high-powered computing -- while that might be all in a day’s work for government security agencies, it’s an inefficient prospect for thieves.