Karsten Nohl, a PhD from the University of Virginia, looking dreamy above, has broken A5/1, an algorithm to encrypt G.S.M. cellphone conversation. The hack follows a few steps including the use of a distributed key-gathering sytem to capture and decoding of a number of G.S.M. 64-bit encryption keys, the kind of keys that most cellular operators still use.
The hack could be negated by upgrading to the 128-bit A5/3 algorithm, although when cellular providers are cite copyright and the illegality of cellphone intercepts as reasons to ignore Nohl’s work, as they do in this NY Times piece, you have to wonder if they’re not actually scared pantsless.
The Tech Herald has much more info on the hack, which began in August, 2009.