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It was shockingly easy for ’60 Minutes’ to hack a congressman’s iPhone

Published Apr 18th, 2016 10:25AM EDT
60 Minutes Congressman Phone Hack Video

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Mobile security is obviously a major topic these days but it seems very few of us know just how vulnerable our phones are to hacking. 60 Minutes this week decided to give a new iPhone to Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and then challenge researchers at Security Research Labs to hack it. It goes without saying that the hackers were frighteningly successful in this endeavor and managed to retrieve a lot of sensitive information from the congressman’s device after only learning his phone number.

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Seriously, that’s all it took: As soon as they had the device’s phone number, they were able to listen to and record all his phone calls, to read his text messages and to track his location.

The problem here isn’t with Apple’s security policies but the way that mobile networks around the world connect to one another. The team at Security Research Labs have discovered a major flaw in Signaling System 7 (SS7), a series of protocols first developed way back in 1975 to connect phone carriers around the world. This is a vulnerability that literally affects every single person who owns a cellphone, which is why we should hope that knowledge of this flaw with SS7 is not yet widespread.

That said, 60 Minutes also points out that most hackers don’t go through SS7 to hack your device — the program interviews Lookout Security cofounder John Hering, who details some of the other ways that hackers can get access to your phone.

The full 60 Minutes segment is very interesting and can be found at this link.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.