US & UK Spies accused of hacking SIM firm Gemalto

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Reports in US claim intelligence agencies stole codes from sim cards to facilitate eavesdropping on mobiles

US and UK intelligence agencies have been accused of hacking Dutch-based SIM-card maker Gemalto in order to steal codes that allowed them to eavesdrop on mobile phones.

According to reports from US website The Intercept, spies stole encryption keys used to protect the privacy of mobile communications across the globe.

The Intercept said it had seen top secret documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden that showed the National Security Agency and GCHQ had worked together on the hack, which allegedly took place in 2010.

Gemalto is a multi-national firm based in the Netherlands and counts US operators AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon among its 450 clients worldwide. Gemalto produces around two billion SIM cards a year.

The Intercept says that “the great Sim heist” gave US and British surveillance agencies “the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data”.

A Gemalto spokeswoman told the BBC that the company was unable to verify whether there had been a breach, and highlighted that other Sim manufacturers could also have been targeted in the alleged attack.

The spokesperson added: “We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such highly sophisticated techniques to try to obtain Sim card data.”

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