February 23, 2015 / 12:32 PM / 5 years ago

Japan carrier NTT DoCoMo says probing reported SIM hack

A woman uses a mobile phone under the logo of Japan's biggest mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo Inc. at its shop in Tokyo February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s biggest mobile phone service provider NTT DoCoMo Inc said it is investigating whether its customers were affected by a reported hack of a key mobile phone component supplied by Gemalto NV.

News website The Intercept reported on Friday that the U.S. National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters hacked into Gemalto’s systems to steal encryption keys that could unlock security settings on billions of mobile phones.

The website cited documents provided by American whistleblower Edward Snowden as the basis for its report.

The Japanese company began using SIM cards produced by Gemalto in 2001, DoCoMo spokesman Takashi Itou said in an email in response to questions from Reuters. He declined to say what share of DoCoMo mobile phones use SIM cards supplied by the Franco-Dutch supplier.

“We will consider any necessary steps based on the results of our investigation,” Itou said.

Gemalto said it was conducting its own investigation of the reported hack by American and British spies that it would announce on Wednesday.

The SIM, short for subscriber identity module, is a chip that acts as an electronic ID for the mobile phone and makes it identifiable to the mobile network operator.

Gemalto competes with several European and Chinese SIM card suppliers. It produces around 2 billion SIM cards a year and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among its customers.

Reporting by Teppei Kasai, editing by Louise Heavens

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