29 December 2009. GSM A5 Files Published on Cryptome

15 September 2003



To: TSCM-L Mailing List <TSCM-L@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 00:20:02 +0200

I live in Yugoslavia (now called Serbia & Montenegro though), a country rich with political scandals. The latest one is rather interesting from a technical view. It concerns a government official that (allegedly) eavesdropped on political adversaries and Mafia.

It is stated in the media that he used "GSM Passive 900/1800" device to eavesdrop on 200 conversations simultaneously at a 11km distance, that the device costs US$300,000 and weighs 11kg. He listened without problems to one GSM operator because it uses only A5/2 cipher, but for the other he had to get more information from the operator in order to break A5/1.

Had your laugh? Ok :) I know this is a load of crap, but anyway I went to the sites which sell GSM Passive, and got very confused. It looks like a P1 laptop with a Winradio scanner attached to it (actually, the photo IS from www.winradio.com). They also talk about RECEIVERS (in plural) so there have to be two Winradios, one for each channel. Specifications are rather blurry and meaningless. Also, not a word about cipher cracking module. I'm not very good with GSM technology, but I'm pretty sure that P1 CANNOT beak A5 in real time. Even if it could, WHY would it cost $300,000?

I'm wondering if the GSM Passive a real device or just a hoax? Can it do any of the stuff they say? How? I want to write a letter to the newspaper that published that story, but I need to be sure that I got it all right. Can you help me?


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