Hacking to Improve Security

Are digital mobile phone calls secure from hacking?

12 February 2010

German computer engineer Karsten Nohl deciphered the code used to encrypt most digital mobile phone calls and then published it online. He says his goal was to expose weaknesses in the GSM algorithm—a 21-year-old code used to protect the privacy of 80 percent of mobile calls—and spur the mobile phone industry to improve security. The GSM Association, the industry group that developed the algorithm, calls Nohl’s actions illegal and defends the security of wireless calls. But some security experts warn that extra steps must be taken to protect wireless conversations, just as is done for computer transmissions.

Do you agree with Nohl’s actions? Do you worry that wireless calls are not secure?


Responses to November’s Question

Business Cards Go Digital

In our increasingly digital world, some people are tossing out their thin cardboard business cards in favor of virtual ones that hold far more information, including a résumé and a thumbnail of their company. Users can direct those they meet to their online card, via e-mail or a text message, rather than handing them a card. Some prefer the digital cards for networking because of all they can hold, but others maintain that handing out business cards will remain the most popular way to exchange professional contact information. Still others say they’ll use both—hand out an ordinary card with contact information and direct people to their digital one.

Do you think digital business cards are more useful than traditional versions? Would you use them?


Both Have Benefits

If I’m meeting new people via e-mail, virtual cards such as the ones you can create in Microsoft Outlook are very convenient for me. I can add people’s cards to my contact list for future reference, and when the time comes to request more information about their position and company, they can forward it to me.

However, if I meet someone in person, a printed card is preferable. Although printed business cards can get lost, so can electronic ones. And there's a lot to be said for continuing to interact as humans beings.

Manuel Perez
El Paso, Texas


Paper Trumps Electronic

The rise of the Internet has shown that people prefer the fastest, easiest solution. But it’s simply easier to keep track of infrequent contacts using paper—just keep the stack by your desk. After having a conversation at a meeting, it’s easy to hand your card to the person, and there's no need to fire up your computer. Besides, the people you frequently contact are already in your e-mail address book. The extra information offered in digital business cards is nice, but making a face-to-face impression is more important.

Alan Jennings
Dayton, Ohio


Smart Cards

We need to persuade smart-phone vendors to develop better and more cross-platform software to transfer digital business cards. After a handshake, people should be able to point their smart phones at each other and download their digital business cards. It would allow people to easily read their contacts’ information and compare photos.

Dennis Falkenstein
Danville, Calif.


Technology Takeover

The idea of digital business cards is ridiculous but not surprising considering the slavish devotion so many people now have to their electronic toys.

R.L. Nailen
West Allis, Wis.


Personal Web Sites Are Better

I haven’t used paper business cards for the past 20 years. Instead, I rely on my Web site to give contacts my biographical information. Of course, if I was hunting for jobs or if I cared whether people would remember who I was or know how to contact me, I would hand out paper business cards. But even my last set of cards, 20 years ago, had my Web site address on them.

Kevin Karplus
Santa Cruz, Calif.


Digital Equals Accessible

Digital business cards provide comprehensive details and a deeper understanding of an individual. And you don’t have to worry about losing them as you do with paper cards. Switching over to digital business cards was a welcome change.

Sindhuja Maheswaran
Kavaraipettai, India


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