Security researchers theoretically crack 3G encryption

Security researchers from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel said they have developed a theoretical attack that hacks the encryption used to protect 3G phone calls.

The researchers said the attack can crack the A5/3 encryption system in two hours using the processing power of one PC. According to the research notes, the "unoptimized implementation on a single PC recovered about 96 key bits in a few minutes and the complete 128 bit key in less than two hours."

The news comes days after German engineers made similar claims pertaining to the A5/1 encryption method used on 2G GSM handsets.

While these encryption cracks are theoretical in nature, the news does pose questions about the approach being taken with 3G encryption. The A5/3 encryption system--known as Kasumi and a derivative of the Misty crypto method--was modified for use with 3G handsets.

The A5/3 algorithm is already implemented in about 40 percent of three billion available handsets. Once fully adopted, the algorithm will becoming one of the most widely used cryptosystems in the world.

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