'Torpedo' location detection exploit could target iPhones on both 4G & 5G networks

in iPhone
Flaws in both 4G and 5G cellular networks could potentially let hackers pinpoint the location of any given smartphone, including the iPhone according to researchers.

iPhone XR

An attack dubbed "Torpedo" exploits the way phones send paging data when they receive calls or texts, the researchers explained to TechCrunch. By placing and cancelling multiple calls to it within a short amount of time, a target device can be made to trigger a paging message without alerting its owner. The scheme can not only be used to track location, but hijack a paging channel and inject or block paging messages, even denying someone messages altogether.

Torpedo can be the gateway to two other exploits, nicknamed "Piercer" and "IMSI-Cracking." Both can be used to expose a device's IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity), the former on 4G networks and the latter on both 4G and 5G.

As a result, even 5G phones could be intercepted by Stingray-style tracking devices used by law enforcement, spy agencies, and criminal groups. Needed equipment is said to cost as little as $200.

All four major U.S. carriers are vulnerable to Torpedo, one of the researchers said. The cellular industry has reportedly been notified about the threat.

Apple isn't expected to add 5G to iPhones, iPads, or the Apple Watch until 2020. That's probably because of its legal battles with Qualcomm, slow modem development at Intel, and the fact that general 5G coverage should remain small by the time this fall's iPhones are ready.

The 5G technology is considered crucial to the advancement of technologies like self-driving cars and augmented reality, both of which Apple is known to be working on.


  • Reply 1 of 6
    Is this like a hardware hack that can't be patch with software updates?
  • Reply 2 of 6
    What percentage of the security flaws of cell phones are related to the way cell phones work on the network versus the operating systems above that level? I have never seen that number to my knowledge and it would be interesting.

    Maybe it is time to revisit and change the way mobile devices connect to and work with cell networks.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    I am sure NSA know this for long time. Now China and Russia also know.
  • Reply 4 of 6
    So to the people who think Apple tracks their every move, are you still fearful of Apple after knowing anyone can track your location.
    The question is why would they? 
    Do you really think that a device that communicates wirelessly can remain anonymous and not show the carrier it’s location?

  • Reply 5 of 6
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,572member
    viclauyyc said:
    I am sure NSA know this for long time. Now China and Russia also know.
    Pretty sure China already requires the ability to track anyone at any time.
    gutengel said:
    Is this like a hardware hack that can't be patch with software updates?
    This is my question as well. As I understand it, the 5G standard is still not finalized. Is there a chance the flaw could be patched once the final standard is released?
    edited February 25 longpath
  • Reply 6 of 6
    Cellular_InterceptorCellular_Interceptor Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Nothing new here... Everybody in the telco industry has known the same exploit technique and variants of it for over 30 years.
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