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New Simjacker vulnerability exploited by surveillance companies for espionage operation

AdaptiveMobile Security have uncovered a new and previously undetected vulnerability and associated exploits, called Simjacker. This vulnerability is currently being actively exploited by a specific private company that works with governments to monitor individuals. Simjacker and its associated exploits is a huge jump in complexity and sophistication compared to attacks previously seen over mobile core networks. The main Simjacker attack involves an SMS containing a specific type of spyware-like code being sent to a mobile phone, which then instructs the SIM Card within the phone to ‘take over’ the mobile phone to retrieve and perform sensitive commands. The location information of thousands of devices was obtained over time without the knowledge or consent of the targeted mobile phone users. During the attack, the user is completely unaware that they received the attack, that information was retrieved, and that it was successfully exfiltrated. However the Simjacker attack can, and has been extended further to perform additional types of attacks.

Example of how Simjacker can track mobile phone location of vulnerable subscribers

The Scale of the Simjacker Vulnerability and Attacks

Simjacker has been further exploited to perform many other types of attacks against individuals and mobile operators such as fraud, scam calls, information leakage, denial of service and espionage. AdaptiveMobile Security Threat Intelligence analysts observed the hackers vary their attacks, testing many of these further exploits. In theory, all makes and models of mobile phone are open to attack as the vulnerability is linked to a technology embedded on SIM cards. The Simjacker vulnerability could extend to over 1 billion mobile phone users globally, potentially impacting countries in the Americas, West Africa, Europe, Middle East and indeed any region of the world where this SIM card technology is in use.

Stopping the attacks and building long-term defences

We are quite confident that this exploit has been developed by a specific private company that works with governments to monitor individuals. AdaptiveMobile Security has been working closely with their customers and the wider industry; including both mobile network operators and SIM card manufacturers to protect mobile phone subscribers. We have blocked attacks and are committed to using our global threat intelligence to build defences against these new sophisticated attacks that are circumventing current security measures.