Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 02/10/2003To lunch with a couple of pals, one old, one new, from the world of mobile phones. There's a wide-ranging discussion over the pasta and salad nicoise, covering stuff like the Israeli hack of the GSM encryption standard, which has proved a durable headache.

Thursday 02/10/2003
To lunch with a couple of pals, one old, one new, from the world of mobile phones. There's a wide-ranging discussion over the pasta and salad nicoise, covering stuff like the Israeli hack of the GSM encryption standard, which has proved a durable headache. It'll take two years to get a hackproof version of GSM flushed through the system, and two years for other technology to advance to the point where the attack becomes a real problem. A bit of a race, and I get the feeling that a lot of people are taking it very seriously: it might, however, be just the thing to get 3G going -- that standard is a lot more secure.

There are other things going on in the exciting world of mobile phones. At one point, the battery pack of a Nokia is slipped off and a small, anonymous black sticker revealed in the battery compartment. "Know what that is?" the Nokia owner says. "It's an RFID tag." Nokia, it transpires have been tagging their phones for a while now - nothing suspicious, just supply chain management. But, naughtily, the tags aren't disabled when the phones are retailed to the customer. It's this sort of leakage that'll cause most problems when people find out about it: do you want Nokia to be able to tell whenever you walk past a scanner?

There's a certain irony -- that word again -- in a mobile phone getting tagged, of course, as the darn things are such good active location reporting devices anyway. If someone had told George Orwell that the citizens of the 21st century would be constantly scanned by a global electronic network that knew their position to a few metres and whom they'd been talking to, he'd have been shocked and impressed. But that this was not only a voluntary state of affairs but people spent considerable sums of their own money for the privilege? I think he'd have refused point blank to believe anything quite as obviously foolish.

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