Are your mobile phone bills unexpectedly high? There’s a chance you are the victim of ”mobile cloning”. It is also known as cell phone piracy and has been taking place throughout the world for decades. Recently this crime has come to India
Mobile communication has been readily available for several years and is major business today. It provides a valuable service to its users who are willing to pay a considerable premium over a fixed line phone, to be able to walk and talk freely. Because of its usefulness and the money involved in the business, it is subject to fraud. Unfortunately, the advance of security standards has not kept pace with the dissemination of mobile communication.
Some of the features of mobile communication make it an alluring target for criminals. It is a relatively new invention, so not all people are quite familiar with its possibilities, in good or in bad.
1. CELL PHONE CLONING
Cell phone cloning is copying the identity of one mobile telephone to another mobile telephone. Usually, this is done for the purpose of making fraudulent telephone calls. The bills for the calls go to the legitimate subscriber. The cloner is also able to make effectively anonymous calls, which attracts another group of interested users. Cloning is the process of taking the programmed information that is stored in a legitimate mobile phone and illegally programming the identical information into another mobile phone.
The result is that the “cloned” phone can make and receive calls and the charges for those calls are billed to the legitimate subscriber. The service provider network does not have a way to differentiate between the legitimate phone and the “cloned” phone.
1.1 From where the cell phone cloning started
Cell phone cloning started with Motorola “bag” phones and reached its peak in the mid 90’s with a commonly available modification for Motorola “brick” phones such as the Classic, the Ultra Classic, and the Model 8000.
Fig 1: Showing Cellular Cloning
Cloning involved modifying or replacing the EPROM in the phone with a new chip, which would allow one to configure an ESN (Electronic Serial Number) via software. The
MIN (Mobile Identification Number) would also have to be changed.
Cloning still works under the AMPS/NAMPS system but has fallen in popularity as older phones that can be cloned are more difficult to find and newer phones have not been successfully reverse engineered.
Cloning has been successfully demonstrated under GSM, but the process is not easy and currently remains in the realm of serious hobbyists and researchers.
Fig 2: Hacker Cloning the Phone
2. THE CELL PHONE FRAUD
Cellular fraud is defined as the unauthorized use, tampering or manipulation of a cellular phone or service. Two main types are cloning and subscriber fraud, which is both illegal under the Wireless Telephone Protection Act.
2.1 Cell phone cloning fraud
Every cell phone should have a unique factory-set electronic serial number and telephone number. A cloned cell phone is one that has been reprogrammed to transmit the ESN and MIN belonging to another legitimate cell phone. Unscrupulous people can obtain valid ESN/MIN combinations by illegally monitoring the radio wave transmissions from the cell phones of legitimate subscribers. After cloning, both the legitimate and the fraudulent cell phones have the same ESN/MIN combination and cellular systems cannot distinguish the cloned cell phone from the legitimate one. The legitimate phone user then gets billed for the cloned phone’s calls. Call your service provider if you think you have been a victim of cloning.
2.2 How big of a problem is cloning a phone?
Each year, the mobile phone industry loses millions of dollars in revenue because of the criminal actions of persons who are able to reconfigure mobile phones so that their calls are billed to other phones owned by innocent third persons. Many criminals use cloned cellular telephones for illegal activities, because their calls are not billed to them, and are therefore much more difficult to trace. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in drug crimes. Drug dealers need to be in constant contact with their sources of supply and their confederates on the streets. Traffickers acquire cloned phones at a minimum cost, make dozens of calls, and then throw the phone away after as little as a days’ use. In the same way, criminals who pose a threat to our
national security, such as terrorists, have been known to use cloned phones to thwart law enforcement efforts aimed at tracking their where about.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) estimates that financial losses due to cloning fraud are between $600 million and $900 million in the United States. Some subscribers of Reliance had to suffer because their phone was cloned. Mobile Cloning is in initial stages in India so preventive steps should be taken by the network provider and the Government.
Fig 3: Selection of mobile phones that can be cloned
2.2 cloning detection
Unfortunately, there is no way the subscriber can detect cloning. Events like call dropping or anomalies in monthly bills can act as tickers. But some points mentioned below can help you.
• Frequent wrong number phone calls to your phone, or hang-ups.
• Difficulty in placing outgoing calls.
• Difficulty in retrieving voice mail messages.
• Incoming calls constantly receiving busy signals or wrong numbers. Unusual calls appearing on your phone bills
3. TYPES OF CLONING
3.1) CDMA cloning
Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) mobile telephone cloning involves gaining access to the device’s embedded file system / nvm/num directory via specialized software or placing a modified EEPROM into the target mobile telephone, allowing the Electronic serial number(ESN) and/or Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) of the mobile phone to be changed. To obtain the MEID of your phone,
simply open your phone’s dialer and type *#06# to get its MEID number.
The ESN or MEID is typically transmitted to the cellular company’s Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) in order to authenticate a device onto the mobile network. Modifying these, as well as the phone’s Preferred Roaming List (PRL) and the mobile identification number, or MIN can pave the way for fraudulent calls, as the target telephone is now a clone of the telephone from which the original ESN and MIN data were obtained.
Fig 4: Basic CDMA cloning system
Patagonia is software available in the market which is used to clone CDMA phone. Using this software a cloner can take over the control of a CDMA phone i.e. cloning of phone. There are other Software’s available in the market to clone GSM phone. This software’s are easily available in the market. A SIM can be cloned again and again and they can be used at different places. Messages and calls sent by cloned phones can be tracked.
However, if the accused manages to also clone the IMEI number of the handset, for which software’s are available, there is no way he can be traced.
3.2) GSM cloning
Cloning has been shown to be successful on CDMA, but rare on GSM. However, cloning of a GSM phone is achieved by cloning the SIM card contained within, but not necessarily any of the phone’s internal data. GSM phones do not have ESN or MIN, only an International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. There are various methods used to obtain the IMEI. The most common methods are to hack into the cellular company or to eavesdrop on the cellular network.
A GSM SIM card is copied by removing the SIM card and placing a device between the handset and the SIM card and allowing it to operate for a few minutes and extracting the Ki, or secret code. This is normally done with handsets that have the option of an “extended battery” by placing the normal size battery in the handset and the Ki in the now vacant extra space. This is done by allowing the device to log the interaction between the mobile telephone switching office and the handset.
Fig 5: Process of GSM cloning: how a phone is cloned
4. REAL LIFE CASE
Recently the Delhi (India) police arrested a person with 20 cell- phones, a laptop, a SIM scanner, and a writer. The accused was running an exchange illegally wherein he cloned CDMA based cell phones. He used software named Patagonia for the cloning and provided cheap international calls to Indian immigrants in West Asia. So it’s illegal to clone phone!
5. PREVENTIVE MEASURES AND EFFECTIVENESS
Authentication is the only industry standard way of avoiding cell phone cloning fraud. It is considered one of the most robust and reliable methods for eliminating phone cloning. Every cell phone contains a radio fingerprint in its transmission signal and the identity of the cell phone is checked by matching the fingerprint at the service provider end while making a call. This fingerprint remains unique to the mobile phone despite any change to the phone’s ESN, IMEI, or MIN numbers. Therefore, when any discrepancies between the fingerprint and the ESN, IMEI, or MIN numbers are found, the cellular companies easily trace cloned phones.
Service providers have adopted certain measures to prevent cellular fraud. These include encryption, blocking, blacklisting, user verification, and traffic analysis.
Blacklisting of stolen phones is another mechanism to prevent unauthorized use. An Equipment Identity Register enables network operators to disable stolen cellular phones on networks around the world.
User verification using Personal Identification Number (PIN) codes is one method for customer protection against cellular phone fraud.
Mobile phones have become a major part of our everyday life. On the one hand, India’s mobile phone market has grown rapidly in the last few years on the back of falling phone tariffs and handset prices, making it one of the fastest growing markets globally. On the other, the number of mobile phone subscribers is exceeding that of fixed-line users. The mobile phone subscriber base has already crossed the 50 million mark. Today millions of mobile phones users, be it Global System for Mobile communication
Presently the cellular phone industry relies on common law (fraud and theft) and in-house countermeasures to address cellular phone fraud. Mobile Cloning is in initial stages in India so preventive steps should be taken by the network provider and the Government the enactment of legislation to prosecute crimes related to cellular phones is not viewed as a priority, however. It is essential that intended mobile crime legislation be comprehensive enough to incorporate cellular phone fraud, in particular, “cloning fraud” as a specific crime.
The cloning of CDMA mobile phones was possible because there was no protection to the identification information. So, it is crucial that business and staff take mobile security seriously.
1. https://www.seminarsonly.com/Labels/Mobile- Phone-Cloning
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_cloning3. https://fraud.laws.com/cellular-phone-fraud/cell-phone-cloning4.. HYPERLINK “https://www.phone.instantcheckmate.com/dialed-in/prevent-cell-phone-cloning/” https://www.phone.instantcheckmate.com/dialed-in/prevent-cell-phone-cloning/