Freaky Leaky SMS: Extracting User Locations by Analyzing SMS Timings

SMS messaging may be putting your location at risk. Unbeknownst to many, simply receiving “silent” text messages –those without any content– allows other users on the same network to deduce your whereabouts, according to a new report. The data set found that SMS delivery reports, which can’t normally be blocked or turned off, included timing information that could be analyzed to home in on a recipient’s location. The researchers conducted experiments across multiple countries, operators, and devices, discovering that their model could identify a recipient’s location with up to 96% accuracy in some cases. This makes SMS a stealthy side-channel that puts users’ privacy and security at risk.

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