German academics said they had cracked two encryption systems used to protect satellite phone signals and that anyone with cheap computer equipment and radio could eavesdrop on calls over an entire continent. Hundreds of thousands of satellite phone users are thought to be affected.
“We were able to completely reverse engineer the encryption algorithms employed,” said Benedikt Driessen and Ralf Hund of Ruhr University Bochum as they announced their report, “Don’t Trust Satellite Phones”.
The encryption algorithms are known as GMR-1 and GMR-2, and are standards used across satellite phone operators, including Thuraya, a leading providers. Their technology is widely used in the Middle East and Africa, including in some military applications.