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Hackers pay top dollar for old Nokia 1100 handsets

Company exec reacts to claims that software vulnerability enables criminals to hack into online bank accounts

Nokia 1100 handsets are being traded in the criminal underground for thousands of dollars as it reportedly enables users to hack into online bank accounts through a software vulnerability.

The issue came to light when police recently contacted Netherlands-based Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations to find out if the security company knew why demand for the discontinued phone model was so high.

Frank Engelsman, a fraud investigator for the company, revealed that someone paid nearly $33,000 (£22,500) for a Nokia 1100 phone. He added that criminals have already collected thousands of login details for online bank accounts in countries such as Germany and Holland where banks send a transaction authentication number (TAN) code by SMS to a person’s mobile phone in order to complete transactions.

The 1100 handsets can apparently be re-programmed to use someone else's phone number, effectively intercepting the code. PC Advisor, which initially broke the news, stated that high prices were being paid only for phones made in a factory in Bochum, Germany.

Speaking exclusively to itp.net, Nokia MENA’s corporate communications manager Tala Toukan revealed that the company is “not aware” of any software vulnerability in the phone that would allow caller ID spoofing.

She goes on to explain that a phone number or MSISDN (Mobile Subscriber Integrated Services Digital Network Number) is stored in every SIM card, which has security mechanisms in place independent to a mobile phone.

“Supposedly ‘vulnerable’ mobile phones would not make it possible to break the SIM card security per se,” Toukan clarified.

“We are aware of commercial services that claim to provide caller ID or phone number spoofing for mobile phones. To our knowledge, in these cases the service provider acts as a proxy between the caller and the target,” added Toukan.

The Nokia 1100 was one of the company’s best-selling phones and originally sold for $100. Since its launch in 2003, more than 200 million units of the handset have been sold worldwide.