Gemalto pledges to probe claims of NSA, GCHQ SIM encryption breaches

Gemalto pledged to investigate claims by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the U.S. security agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ hacked its SIM card encryption.

The Netherlands-headquartered digital security company said it will probe a report by The Intercept regarding the latest revelation by Snowden; namely that the U.S. and UK security agencies in 2010 cracked the encryption keys used to ensure mobile phone calls remain private. According to the report, the move gave the security agencies the ability to monitor voice and data usage on a global scale.

Gemalto promised to "devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques," in a statement responding to the news report.

The company noted the alleged security breach was not "targeted at Gemalto per se", with other SIM makers also in the frame. Gemalto said the security breach "was an attempt to try and cast the widest net possible to reach as many mobile phones as possible, with the aim to monitor mobile communications without mobile network operators and users consent."

Breaching SIM card encryption also gave security agencies the ability to circumvent the need for a warrant to tap into users' communications, and also to decrypt existing recordings, The Intercept noted.

However, Gemalto added that it is too soon to "verify the findings" of The Intercept's report, while also noting that it "had no prior knowledge that these agencies were conducting this operation."

The company concluded by noting there has recently been "many reported state sponsored attacks" that "truly emphasises how serious cyber security is in this day and age."

Revelations by Snowden regarding widespread communications snooping by the NSA and GCHQ sparked calls for a European communications network that would prevent spying by overseas agencies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly discussed the move with French president Francois Hollande a year ago, after claims her mobile phone had been hacked as part of the U.S. and UK operation.

In September, the German government opened a probe into Snowden's claims that the NSA and GCHQ had open access to communications data from major operators including Deutsche Telekom.

The former German incumbent, along with Vodafone and TeliaSonera, have begun publishing details of the number of requests for access to user information they receive from governments around the world.

For more:
- read Gemalto's statement
- view The Intercept's report

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