* Group says carriers can easily thwart eavesdroppers
* Researcher recently figured out how to unscramble calls
By Jim Finkle
BOSTON, Jan 7 A wireless industry group said
mobile phone conversations are safe from eavesdropping, even
after a German security expert released the code for
unscrambling calls made using most of the world's cell phones.
Concerns spread last week that cell phone calls could
easily be intercepted after encryption expert Karsten Nohl
unveiled his research at Europe's largest hacking conference,
The London-based GSM Association said on Thursday that it
has spent the past few years figuring out ways to thwart
hackers who might try to tap into wireless calls using Nohl's
research, which it first learned of in 2007.
GSM Association engineers have figured out a short-term
solution to block eavesdroppers, said James Moran, head of
security for the association. It involves making slight changes
to the settings in each wireless operator's network.
Carriers can quickly make those adjustments by tweaking
existing features in the technology, Moran said in an
"Should people be worried? I think no," he said.
Nohl's research applies to GSM technology, which runs about
80 percent of the world's mobile phones, including systems run
by AT&T Inc (T.N), Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) and France
Over the next several years, GSM carriers will adopt a new
standard for encrypting, or scrambling, voice conversations
that will be tougher to crack, according to Moran.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by John Wallace)
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