Deutsche Telekom Tightens GSM Voice Security to Prevent Hacking

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Germany's Deutsche Telekom has upgraded the voice encryption used on its mobile network to the higher A5 3 encryption standard. The mobile network said that the upgrade is currently being rolled out nationwide full implementation is scheduled by the end of 2013.

"Consumer trust in telecommunications and the Internet has taken a heavy hit in recent weeks, due to the NSA revelations," says Thomas Kremer, the Board member responsible for Data Privacy, Legal Affairs and Compliance. "We are doing all we can to provide better security for our customers. Improved encryption of mobile phone conversations is another important step in this direction."

Similar encryption levels are already used in the UMTS and LTE networks.

The GSM network previously implemented the A5/1 encryption standard, which experts have cracked. To implement the new standard, new hardware and software had to be installed at some 30,000 base stations and central network nodes throughout Germany. The new algorithm will be activated in stages by region.

A major challenge during the upgrade is the some 50,000 older mobile phones still in use in throughout the country that do not support the new encryption standard. To ensure that these customers do not suddenly find themselves without reception, Deutsche Telekom developed and tested a custom software solution. As a result, all phone models will remain functional; however, calls on older phone models will still be encrypted with the A5/1 standard. Deutsche Telekom has published a list of devices on the Internet that support the new standard, according to current information.

Telekom is not limiting rollout of the A5/3 encryption standard to Germany, either: the new technology has already been implemented in Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland and the Czech Republic. It said that more countries will follow.

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Tags: deutsche telekom  nsa  Germany 

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