Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ZUMBEEL | Femtocell security

Can you extract the mobile number of any user connected to a wireless network? Yes. Is it possible to do so with a Wi-Fi network? Yes. How about Bluetooth? Absolutely.

But were not about to discuss (or disclose) that here. It is for big retailers to figure out how to keep track of their customers and map out their spending habits as research for better sales. Here, we will talk about one technology that is quite secure with regards to mobile number extraction. The wireless technology that is mobile snoop proof is femtocell technology.

There are certain reasons why femtocell prove to be a secure tech as compared to other wireless networks. Firstly, your phone number is never transmitted to the femtocell. It is the IMSI (International Mobile Subscribers Identification) that is required to be transmitted and it only uniquely identifies your SIM card. When you place a call, the IMSI gets transmitted to the femtocall, your mobile operator (who will also be specific to the femtocell or rather, the femtocell will be specific to the operator), will match this IMSI with the record they have, obtain your phone number from the HLR (Home Location Register) and place the call.
Another reason is that femtocells are specific to a mobile network operator. Users are scattered all over the region, and they may not remain under one femtocell all the time. Various different femtocells (by the same operator) have to be engaged for a roaming user. So tracking becomes a lot more difficult, since one is limited to users of a single operator at a time. Also, the user may enter a femtocell region for a very short amount of time. Transient passer-byes may not even be registered, hence are secure from any tracking.

These are some of the reasons behind femtocells being one of the most secure 3G wireless technology that is coming up. An alternate view argues with the fact that if the femtocell itself ever gets into the hands of criminals, all the records can be sniffed out. The IMSI, if tracked, can give serious trouble to the user, because it can lead to SIM card duplication and resulting fraud. Even with the risk, femtocells offer a more secure solution than open Wi-Fi and unsafe usage of Bluetooth in public places.

ZUMBEEL | Femtocell security

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