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Wiretapping on CDMA Cellular Phones Is Possible

Posted September. 23, 2003 23:11,   


It has officially turned out that CDMA cell phones can be wiretapped. Until now, the Ministry of Information and communication and the National Intelligence Service have said that it is practically impossible to bug cell phones.

The Ministry of Information and Communication announced on Tuesday that it had verified that cell phone conversations can be listened to in a wiretapping test held at the ministry building at Sejongno, downtown Seoul, on September 18.

In the test, the Ministry and Radio Research Laboratory found that a person with a cell phone that cloned another legitimate cell phone`s factory-set electronic serial number (ESN) can listen to conversations on the legitimate cell phone within a 20-meter radius from a base station.

The person with the fraudulent cell phone could listen to what the legitimate cell phone user hears on the phone, text messages and voice mails that arrives on the phone. However, he could not bug what the legitimate cell phone user says and text messages and voice mails that he sends.

During an inspection session for the Ministry of Information and Communication, Rep. Kwon Young-se of the Grand National Party disclosed the results of the Ministry test and said that even 100% bugging is possible within a 50-meter radius unless there are obstacles. And he raised the possibility that investigative institutions might have participated in wiretapping systematically.

The telecommunications industry acknowledged the possibility of wiretapping.

Until now, it has been said that to wiretap cellular phone conversations, a base station that connects the caller and the person answering the phone, should intercept the radio wave and decode and that the equipment cost a lot of money, making people think that wiretapping is very difficult.

The Ministry of Information and Communication said that after conducting the test, it had instructed mobile phone service providers to take action to prevent such wiretappings, including installment of `cut-off` programs in base stations.

Seong-Yub Ra cpu@donga.com