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May - 2009 - issue > Tech Tracker
Hackers Exploit Nokia 1100 to Steal Banking Passwords
Eureka Bharali
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Nokia1100, a basic handset of the mobile manufacturing firm Nokia, has transformed from a simplistic low-end handset into a promising tool for cyber crime. This low-end model with the LED light feature, which is normally priced at Rs.1,200, has lately become an attraction, with cyberpunks buying it for a far-fetched amount of around Rs.15 lakhs.

The vulnerability exists for the 1100 mobiles that were manufactured at a factory in a German city called Bochum and were the very first handsets released in this model. These phones contain Nokia software from 2002, which is vulnerable to tampering. The surging demand is witnessed among cross-border ID theft gangs, who are specialized in card and online banking fraud specifically in the regions like Russia, Morocco, and Europe. The Finland based firm’s 1100 model is ill-equipped technically, which allows the cyber-criminals to manipulate the handset to perform illegal tasks like stealing banking passwords. “It can apparently be reprogrammed to use someone else’s phone number, thus intercepting the transaction authentication number (TAN) code sent by banks via SMS and enabling an illegal money transfer into a criminal’s account,” says Frank Engelsman of Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations. The stolen passwords are used in conjunction with other stolen details of online banking accounts.

The realization of the handset being misused dawned on the authorities as the prices surged beyond Nokia’s official price tag. The 1100 was a low-cost phone released in late 2003 and aimed at developing markets. The prices for the phone began escalating around six months ago to Rs.18,800, Rs.47,000, Rs.61,1000, and then finally a jump to over Rs.15 lakhs. The investigators have taken three German Nokia 1100 handsets for testing, the result of which is yet to be ascertained.
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