Dem wants Congress to investigate mobile network security
By CORY BENNETT
A House Democrat is pressing for a congressional investigation into a mobile network flaw that could allow hackers to eavesdrop on phone conversations all over the world. The security defect was dramatically illustrated in a “60 Minutes” segment Sunday night, where Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) allowed hackers to tap into his iPhone using a vulnerability in the global network that connects phone carriers.
The digital intruders were able to listen to and record Lieu’s calls, view his contacts and track his movements. Now, Lieu wants the House Oversight Committee to look into the issue, which he believes could have “serious ramifications.”
“The applications for this vulnerability are seemingly limitless, from criminals monitoring individual targets to foreign entities conducting economic espionage on American companies to nation states monitoring U.S. government officials,” Lieu said in a letter to Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
The flaw exists in the widely used protocols that direct mobile communications to their intended destinations. The majority of telephone companies around the world rely on these protocols, known as Signaling System No. 7, or SS7. The widespread dependence on SS7 makes the flaw especially troubling, said Lieu, who holds a computer science degree.
“The implications for such a vulnerability are widespread and threaten personal privacy, economic competitiveness and U.S. national security,” he wrote. In his first term on Capitol Hill, Lieu has quickly become one of Congress’s most prominent voices on cybersecurity. The California lawmaker in February introduced a bill that would prevent states from adopting encryption-related legislation. Lieu was also critical of the FBI’s recent efforts to get Apple to help unlock a secure iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters.