SIM cards are the de facto trust anchor of mobile devices worldwide. The cards protect the mobile identity of subscribers, associate devices with phone numbers, and increasingly store payment credentials, for example in NFC-enabled phones with mobile wallets. This attack leverages over-the-air (OTA) updates deployed via cryptographically-secured SMS messages to deliver executable code to the SIM. By cracking the DES key, an attacker can send properly signed binary SMS messages to a device, which are treated as Java applets and are executed on the SIM. These applets are allowed to send SMS, change voicemail numbers, and query the phone location, among many other predefined functions. These capabilities alone provide plenty of potential for abuse.
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
This is a sophisticated attack, but detailed techniques are published in open literature.
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Upgrade the SIM card to use the state-of-the-art AES or the somewhat outdated 3DES algorithm for OTA.
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
September 30, 2019