Hackers are able to track users’ locations thanks to a new smartphone vulnerability.

According to Northeastern Ph.D. student Evangelos Bitsikas, a recently identified text messaging vulnerability could allow hackers to track your devise. His research team discovered the issue by using data obtained from the rather archaic SMS system, which has been the basis for texting on mobile phones since the early 1990s, in combination with a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm. His work is accessible on the arXiv pre-print server.

Bitsikas will publicly submit his findings at the 32nd USENIX Security Symposium in Anaheim, California. “Just by knowing the phone number of the user victim, and having normal network access, you can locate that victim,” he says. “Eventually, this results in tracking the user to various places around the world.” Bitsikas claims that SMS security has barely changed since it was first developed for 2G systems three decades ago. Your phone automatically notifies the sender of a text message when it is transmitted to you; it is effectively a receipt of delivery.


A hacker could send several text messages to your phone using Bitsikas’ technique. Regardless of whether your communications are encrypted, the hacker could triangulate your location based on the timing of your automated delivery replies.Your position can be determined by the timing of each automated delivery notice that your phone sends. Before Bitsikas’ team utilized machine learning to create an algorithm capable of detecting them, those fingerprints weren’t a concern.

According to Bitsikas, a cybersecurity Ph.D. candidate, “Once the machine-learning model is established, then the attacker is ready to send a few SMS messages.” The machine-learning model receives the results and responds with the anticipated location.

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