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Bug: “Curse of Silence” Hits Nokia S60 Phones

January 6, 2009 in Mobile Phone Software

A new vulnerability is hitting certain Nokia phones: the “Curse of Silence” affects Nokia S60 devices running 2.6, 2.8, 3.0, or 3.1, and blocks your phone from receiving SMS and MMS messages. Unfortunately, you can’t solve the problem with a simple power cycle – according to the advisory, you need to perform a factory reset to fix it. The good news is that it’s more annoying than dangerous, since the attack requires the phone number of the recipient/victim.

The attack requires a (email) message sent that contains an email address with a length greater than 32 characters, followed by a space. Depending on the target’s S60 version, one of two things will happen:

1) S60 2.6 and 3.0 (mostly oldschool Nseries phones, N80, N91, N92, N93/N93i, E65, E70, etc) will not be able to receive SMS or MMS messages until a factory reset.

2) S60 2.8 and 3.1 (N95, N95 8GB, E66, E71, 5700 XpressMusic, N81, etc) require 11 emails to be sent in this fashion. Then the target will still receive parts of SMS messages, but only if it’s one long message broken up into small pieces. Power cycling will barely help in this case – it’ll allow one more part to be received before the phone goes nuts. A factory reset will solve the problem.

Right now, there’s no user fix for the vulnerability. Network operators can defeat the attack by just ignoring messages with email addresses > 32 characters, but that doesn’t seem very likely.

The discovery of the attack was made by Tobias Engel, and he’s provided a nice list of phones affected. It’s quite large:

S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 1 (S60 3.1):
Nokia E90 Communicator
Nokia E71
Nokia E66
Nokia E51
Nokia N95 8GB
Nokia N95
Nokia N82
Nokia N81 8GB
Nokia N81
Nokia N76
Nokia 6290
Nokia 6124 classic
Nokia 6121 classic
Nokia 6120 classic
Nokia 6110 Navigator
Nokia 5700 XpressMusic

S60 3rd Edition, initial release (S60 3.0):
Nokia E70
Nokia E65
Nokia E62
Nokia E61i
Nokia E61
Nokia E60
Nokia E50
Nokia N93i
Nokia N93
Nokia N92
Nokia N91 8GB
Nokia N91
Nokia N80
Nokia N77
Nokia N73
Nokia N71
Nokia 5500
Nokia 3250

S60 2nd Edition, Feature Pack 3 (S60 2.8):
Nokia N90
Nokia N72
Nokia N70

S60 2nd Edition, Feature Pack 2 (S60 2.6):
Nokia 6682
Nokia 6681
Nokia 6680
Nokia 6630

Check out his page for the whole scoop, including an in-depth look at the vulnerability: Curse of Silence Advisory




6:41 am

Nokia should put their quality control department into overdrive to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

Reply to textmate

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