News From Telecom World

Archive for April 2009

In a presentation today at Black Hat Europe, a computer-security conference in Amsterdam, a group of researchers claimed to have found a way to hijack the data sent to and from mobile phones. The researchers say that the attack might be used to glean passwords or to inject malicious software onto a device.

Mobile phones are becoming ever more useful for transmitting data in addition to making voice calls, and they’re increasingly being used for sensitive activities such as online banking, as well as for searching the Internet and downloading mobile games.

The new attack relies on a protocol that allows mobile operators to give a device the proper settings for sending data via text message, according to Roberto Gassira, Cristofaro Mune, and Roberto Piccirillo, security researchers for Mobile Security Lab, a consulting firm based in Italy. By faking this type of text message, according to the protocol an attacker can create his own settings for the victim’s device. This would allow him to, for example, reroute data sent from the phone via a server that he controls. The researchers say that the technique should work on any handset that supports the protocol, as long as the attacker knows which network the victim belongs to and the network does not block this kind of message.

Some trickery is required to make the attack work, however. Ordinarily, to transfer settings to a device remotely, a mobile operator will first send a text message containing a PIN code. The operator will then send the message to reconfigure the phone. In order to install the new settings, the user must first enter the PIN.

So an attacker would need to convince a victim to enter a PIN and accept the malicious settings sent to the phone. But Gassira, Mune and Piccirillo believe that this shouldn’t be too difficult. The attacker could send text messages from a name such as “service provider” or “message configuration,” suggesting that changes to the device’s settings are needed due to a network error. For many handsets, they say, the results of the configuration aren’t shown to the user, giving the victim little chance to notice that anything is amiss.

Once a phone has been configured to route data through the attacker’s server, this could reveal the user’s login credentials or cookies. The researchers say that it may also be possible for an attacker to add unwanted content, such as unsolicited advertisements, to the Web pages that a user views on her phone. By combining this technique with other vulnerabilities, they say that an attacker might even be able to use the mobile device to target resources normally protected within the carrier’s network.

David Wagner, an associate professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied wireless security, cautions that more work needs to be done to identify what conditions are required to exploit the vulnerability and how widespread the problem may be. “I did see in the paper a number of caveats that raised questions in my mind about the degree to which this vulnerability would affect consumers, even if the vulnerability can be exploited,” Wagner says. In particular, he notes, it is unclear whether some cell-phone providers may block fake messages or if others would stop an attacker from redirecting Internet traffic. Also, many users may not be fooled by the attack. “If any of these conditions are not met, the attack might be blocked,” Wagner says.

The researchers concede that mobile operators could prevent the attack by implementing proper security measures. For example, operators could watch for text messages that show telltale signs of a configuration protocol and check that they originate from an authorized source. Other measures, such as showing the user how her device has been adjusted or monitoring Internet traffic that’s being directed out of the carrier’s network, might also help.

Mune says that the attack “could be feasible on quite a large number of networks and handsets,” and that his team has successfully tested it with a variety of common handsets on large networks in Europe. Although the researchers aren’t working with any mobile operators to resolve the vulnerability, they say that they have given notice to relevant parties and are open to helping with the issue if needed.

Source: Technology Review MIT


The sale of the mobile phone’s SIMs has slowed down remarkably as the major operators withdrew the subsidy on the SIM tax considerably.

Leading operators Grameen Phone and Banglalink, enjoying more than 50 per cent share of the country’s cellular phone market together, have already withdrawn major portion of the subsidy on the SIM tax in recent months.

A Grameen Phone official on condition of anonymity told New Age that most of the cell phone operators were struggling to minimise their operational cost.

‘Nowadays, they (operators) are targeting the rural areas to tap new subscribers as the cell phone users in the urban areas have reached the saturation point,’ he said.

It is difficult to provide subsidy on the SIM tax to tap new rural subscribers as additional investment is needed to expand infrastructure in the rural areas, he added.

An official of the Warid said his company was taking Tk 300 from a subscriber and providing subsidy of Tk 500 on sale of new SIM.

The subsidy is expected to be reduced in the coming months as it is struggling hard to maintain the subscribers, he added.

Only 5,70,000 new cell phone subscribers were added in the last three months till February, according to officials of the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission.

The National Board of Revenue had fixed Tk 800 as tax on the sale of a new SIM for the last three years, which was initially Tk 1,300.

The growth in sale of SIMs was over 100 per cent in the last two years as the number of mobile connections reached at 44.46 million in 2008 from 21.88 million in 2006.

The growth will decline further in the coming months as the small operators including, the state-owned Taletalk, which are still providing more than 50 per cent subsidy on the SIM tax, are set to follow the major operators, sources said.

‘The SIM tax is a burden for the operators,’ said Fazlur Rahman, president of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operator in Bangladesh.

He said an additional 30 million subscribers could still be tapped if the NBR withdrew SIM tax and the association had already urged the NBR for this.

Admitting the fact that the revenue generation from the SIM tax has declined substantially due to slow growth in installing new mobile phone connections, the NBR chairman, Abdul Mazid, said they were reviewing the proposal of the mobile operators.

The NBR chief said there might be other reasons besides the SIM tax for the slow growth in sale.

Source: New Age

Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Post and Telecommunications Hasanul Huq Inu on Thursday (26 Mar ‘09) said the government is considering reducing value added tax (VAT) on internet users and lowering tax on internet bandwidth.

Mentioning that access to computer with internet connectivity leads a society to the super highway of development, he said all obstacles to the passage of growth of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should be removed.

“ICT has given birth to a new civilization across the globe and the country would be disconnected from rest of the world if we cannot adapt to this changes,” he said while addressing as the chief guest a seminar on “Role of WiMAX for Digital Bangladesh.” Bangla Lion Communications Ltd arranged the seminar on the second day of a four-day BCS Digital Expo 2009 organized jointly by the Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS), Ministry of Science and ICT, and ICT Business Promotion Council at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre here.

Chairman of Bangla Lion Communications Ltd Major (Retd) Abdul Mannan presided over the seminar. President of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and Editor of the Bangladesh Observer Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, eminent journalist and columnist Abed Khan and President of BCS Mostafa Jabbar addressed the function as special guests.

Managing Director of Bangla Lion ANM Golam Sarwar also spoke. Parvez Ahmed, expert of Bangla Lion presented two video presentations while GM Faruq Khan moderated the function.

In order to build a Digital Bangladesh, it is needed to digitalize the government first, Hasanul Huq Inu said adding that a huge internal market for ICT sector could be opened through establishing connectivity among all departments of the government that would created employment for youths with ICT skills.

Mostafa Jabbar demanded that the government reduce tax on bandwidth and also lower VAT on internet users.

He said WiMAX would enable internet users using quality internet service at much higher speed, which would open new avenue for trade and commerce and generate income to a large number of youths with skills on ICT.

Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury underscored the need for breaking monopoly in the internet service and ICT business so that people get their desired service from the providers for what they pay.

He said the electricity is the backbone of all technologies, as unless there is uninterrupted supply of power all these facilities would not give actual benefits to the people.

Chowdhury urged the policy makers in the government for increasing production of electricity and also for formulating policies on ICT sector so that these facilities are provided to the users at competitive prices.

Abed Khan said the government should create the scope of integrating the people with modern technology and ensure that the people get proper service from the providers.

Source: New Nation

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has blocked over one lakh SIM cards on allegations of illegal VoIP usage since June 2008.

Among these 18,826 were of the country’s leading mobile operator GrameenPhone, BTRC said in a press release on Wednesday (25 Mar ‘09).

Banglalink had the highest number of SIMs blocked, at 44,026. Warid saw 29,760 blocked SIMs.

Some 6,002 of Aktel, 467 of Citycell, 9,525 of PSTN operator Rankstel, 23 of Dhaka Phone and 14 of Onetel were also blocked by BTRC.

The telecom regulator said it also recovered illegal VoIP equipment from Askona on Tuesday night (24 Mar ‘09).

BTRC over the past two years has awarded hefty fines, running into hundreds of crores of taka, to most of the country’s leading mobile operators in its drive against illegal VoIP activities.

GP, Aktel, Banglalink and Citycell have been fined a total of Tk 631 crore between them.

The then BTTB, now BTCL, launched the drive against illegal VoIP in December 2006. A committee with representatives from BTRC, RAB state-run mobile operator Teletalk and BTCL have continued the drive.

Source: bdnews24

Starent Networks has announced its XT30 Service Convergence Platform allowing operators to tap into existing mobile core networks in order to deploy new multimedia services on next generation Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) networks. This platform provides innovative voice and messaging solutions that bridge devices between legacy and next generation networks, and supports applications such as converged VoIP, Femtocells, messaging and presence solutions.

The Starent XT30 Service Convergence Platform has already been selected by Cellcom, a regional US mobile network operator, as part of its end-to-end femtocell solution. Starent’s XT30 Service Convergence Platform will enable Cellcom to migrate its current voice services to a VoIP solution.

Additionally, the platform is being deployed by an unnamed tier-one North American carrier for presence-based instant messaging services.

“Our XT30 Service Convergence Platform allows operators to keep up with technology advances in fixed mobile convergence services by evolving the network in a cost-effective manner,” said Ashraf Dahod, president and CEO of Starent Networks. “Consumers and enterprises will realize the simplicity of a single service offering and begin benefitting from new data-services based on 3G and 4G technologies.”

The platform supports interfaces from 3GPP, 3GPP2 and IETF to interface with mobile access networks, mobile core networks, SIP/IMS Core Networks, and broadband IP access networks.

Source: cellular news

Police in Brazil have intercepted two homing pigeons which had been trained to carry parts of mobile phones to prison cells, where the handsets were later assembled by the prisoners. The trick of training pigeons to carry contraband into prisons is not a new idea in Brazil and has been used several times in the past few years.

In the last case, the pigeons were found near the prison with cloth sacks tied to their backs containing the electronics components, as shown by police representatives to Globo television after they were caught outside Danilo Pinheiro prison.

The pigeons are also thought to have been trained to carry drugs into the prison.

Source: cellular news

Nokia has dismissed WiMAX as a failed idea and likened it to the Betamax video format which lost the video tape war in the 1980s. Nokia’s head of sales and manufacturing, Anssi Vanjoki told the Financial Times that he doesn’t “see that WiMax is taking hold anywhere in a big way,”

“I don’t think the future is very promising [for WiMax]. This is a classic example of industry standards clashing, and somebody comes out as the winner and somebody has to lose. Betamax was there for a long time, but VHS dominated the market. I see exactly the same thing happening here,” Mr Vanjoki added.

Nokia is a long term backer of LTE as an upgrade path to higher speed mobile data services, although it does maintain a position within the WiMAX trade association.

“It’s my prediction that by 2015, we will have an LTE network that will cover most of the important places in the world and that will give us the coverage and capacity we need,” said Mr Vanjoki.

Vanjoki’s view echoes that of IMS Research in a report published last October. According to IMS Research Analyst Bob Perez,“The truth is that WiMAX is a very robust technology that has been quite successful in many parts of the world as a fixed broadband solution and will continue to do so, especially in underserved markets.” He continued by saying that, “although mobile WiMAX networks are already going live thanks to Sprint/Clearwire and Korea Telecom the prospect of additional mobile WiMAX networks from Tier 1 operators are looking pretty grim.”

However, Clearwire is bullish about the prospects for WiMAX networks and is predicting that it’s early mover advantage compared to LTE networks will push it to over 30 million subscribers by 2017 and annual revenues of over $17.5 billion. The forecasts were outlined by Clearwire CEO, Benjamin Wolf at an investor presentation last June when the firm outlined its merger with Sprint’s WiMAX network.

As a final thought, while Betamax failed as a consumer product, its commercial derivative, Betacam eventually dominated as the de facto videotape format for broadcast television services. Maybe Vanjoki’s comment will foretell a similar fate for WiMAX as the dominant technology for commercial users and fixed wireless services.

Source: Cellular News


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