The most widely used mobile-phone technology — Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) — has been cracked. The more than 20-year-old encryption, which protects mobile-phone calls and texts from being intercepted, was cracked by a computer hacking group called the Chaos Computer Club.
The encryption based on the A5/1 and A5/2 algorithm offers over-the-air privacy by scrambling the communications link between a handset and a radio base station. Serious weaknesses were discovered in both algorithms.
In February 2008, Pico Computing announced plans to commercialize devices that allow A5/1 to be broken. In 2007 a hacking group claimed to be building an attack on A5/1 by constructing a large look-up table of approximately two terabytes — equivalent to the data contained in a 20-kilometer-high pile of books. Another group announced similar plans this year.