With the massive hack of T-Mobile’s user database fresh in everyone’s minds, Verizon announced Thursday that it is testing new technology to protect data from hackers. Using a quantum-safe virtual private network (VPN), the carrier is looking to cryptographic ciphers to provide a higher level of protection, essentially, enhancing encryption methodologies to make them future proof.
Quantum-safe cryptography refers to efforts to identify algorithms that are resistant to attacks by both classical and quantum computers, to keep information assets secure even if a large-scale quantum computer is built in the future, according to ETSI, the European standards organization.
In a recent trial, Verizon tested how a quantum-safe VPN can replace the current public key encryption methods to establish encryption keys using post-quantum cryptography (PQC). Keys or ciphers were exchanged between two private 5G networks located in Verizon’s 5G Lab in London and its Executive Briefing Center in Ashburn, VA. Last year, Verizon piloted quantum key distribution using live video outside of three Verizon locations in the Washington, D.C. area, where the properties of quantum mechanics were used to prevent meaningful eavesdropping and to detect the presence of eavesdroppers.
Cellular No Stranger to Cyberhacks
The hack of 47.8 million records of current and former T-Mobile subscribers is just the latest data breach to hit the wireless industry, among others. The carrier logged two lesser data breaches in 2020, as well, according to CPO Magazine.
“T-Mobile exposed customer and call-related information of 200,000 subscribers,” the publication reported. “The breach was the second in 2020, and the fourth to hit the company since 2018. Similarly, its partner company Sprint suffered two breaches in 2019, and two others in May and July 2020.”
The 2018 T-Mobile data breach affected about two million customers, according to Newsweek, in what the company called “unauthorized capture” of personal data such as name, address and birthdate.
UScellular suffered a data breach in January when hackers gained access to protected systems by installing malware on a computer at one of its retail stores, Forbes reported.
You have to go back to 2015 to find news of an AT&T data breach. According to CNBC, about 280,000 U.S. customers’ names and full or partial Social Security numbers were exposed at call centers used by AT&T in Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines. The carrier paid a $25 million fine to the FCC for consumer privacy violations.
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor