A Long Term Evolution (LTE) (also known as 4G) flaw leaves devices on all versions running Android on Verizon Wireless and AT&T vulnerable to “several issues,” according to an independent advisory posted by the Carnegie Mellon University CERT database.
A new vulnerability affects android devices on LTE wireless networks of two U.S. carriers, namely AT&T and Verizon Wireless. If exploited, an attacker could gain access to a victim’s device by circumventing the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a feature used for voice calls and instant messaging, ZDNet reports.
Furthermore, accessing the victim’s network via the exploit could also lead to the bypass of VoLTE’s accounting system which would give access to an attacker to use the user’s bandwidth and even listen in on the unsuspecting victim’s phone calls and messages.
The ACM researchers wrote:
“We considered security issues and possible attacks related to VoLTE call service after legitimate IMS registration. However, an attacker can also utilize a SIP REGISTER message to perform other attacks. If there are vulnerabilities in the registration phase, an attacker can control all access to a victim’s VoLTE service. For example, she can carry out an imposter attack or even wiretapping.”
The LTE Vulnerability
Fundamentally, the vulnerability exists due to the way in which the carriers have implemented LTE technology in their networks.
In contrast to older technology infrastructure wherein circuit switching was used to transfer data on the internet, LTE uses packet switching instead. Not only is the latter more cost-efficient, it is also more reliable. Additionally, it automatically resolves any network connectivity issues to find another route to communicate or transmit the data.
The advisory noted multiple issues inherent in each network and further adds that there is no known practical fix or patch for the issues. The advisory also points to the possibility of a peer-to-peer network within the carrier’s network that would, in essence, grant an attacker the means to siphon off data by directly retrieving it from it from the phone.
A malicious application, if inserted onto a victim’s device could also lead to initiating phone calls without the victim knowing about it and could lead to substantial fees by dialing into premium-lines and more.