Sunday, January 25, 2009

My DECT handset actually wants to encrypt!

I had the opportunity to test some more DECT phones and interception worked great on most of them. A friend’s Siemens Gigaset 4010 and a Panasonic 720 both did not encrypt conversations and were easy to eavesdrop on.

When I got to another friend’s house, it was a different story. He had two DECT handsets, a Profoon (similar to the one without encryption I own) and a Siemens C455 IP. The C455 is very similar to the C475 listed on which uses encryption, so I expected this one to encrypt as well. It did use encryption, the only audio I got was static. I was surprised to see (or hear) however, that his Profoon used encryption as well. It turned out he did not use the base station which came with the Profoon handset, he had instead paired the handset with the C455 base station.

I had brought my own Profoon handset and base station so we decided to pair it with the C455 base station as well to see if it would encrypt. It turns out it did! So what I bought is a handset which does support encryption, but a base station which refuses to encrypt. To confirm this we paired his C455 handset with my base station and as expected, no encryption. I knew to use encryption, both the handset and base station need to support it, but I did not expect they would be selling ‘incompatible’ combinations. It does make sense though, the manufacturers probably just buy the cheapest chipset for both the handset and base station. As there is a standard, they have no problems communicating, but the manufacturer might not even realize they are unable to encrypt.

This fact could make mitigating the vulnerability a bit easier. A large organisation with a lot of DECT handsets may not need to replace their entire DECT system, but may be able to keep either the base stations or the handsets. So in my opinion, the ListOfPhones on could use another column: whether the lack of encryption on certain sold combinations is caused by the phone, the base station or both.

No comments: