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Britain lobbied to weaken security on GSM phones

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Britain lobbied to weaken security on GSM phones
Thomas Haug at the Feb. 19, 2013 National Academy of Engineering awards. Photo: Stephen A Wilkus
08:59 CET+01:00
One of the men who helped develop the GSM mobile standard has told Aftenposten that British intelligence probably lobbied to weaken security so that they could eavesdrop on calls.
"I was told by a British delegate that the British secret services wanted to weaken the security so they could eavesdrop more easily," Thomas Haug, a former Ericsson engineer and one of the main architects of GSM, told the paper. 
No less than four engineers involved in the GSM project in the late 1980s  told the paper that negotiators from Britain, and possibly other countries, had fought against the 128-bit encryption they had originally wanted. 
"They wanted a key length of 48 bit. We were very surprised," Jan Arild Audestad, from Norway's Telenor, said. "The West Germans protested because they wanted a stronger encryption to prevent spying from East Germany. The result was an effective key length of 54 bits." 
The Washington Post reported last year that the NSA had the ability to decrypt some mobile phone standards.  Audestad maintains that 128-bit encryption would have been uncrackable even today. 
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