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IMSI Encryption – How Subscribers Can Enhance Privacy in 5G

By Sudipta Choudhury - September 14, 2020 3 Mins Read

IMSI Encryption – How Subscribers Can Enhance Privacy in 5G

5G SIM capabilities prove clear benefits to protect the prominent user data involved in the mobile communications, claims the recent study from Trusted Connectivity Alliance.

Protecting the consumer data and privacy is a critical consideration amid the modern connected world. The dawn of the 5G network initiates an opportunity for the mobile network operators (MNOs) to take up some major privacy concerns and risks. Besides, it helps to secure the significant personal data that are involved in communications, precisely the International Mobile Subscriber (IMSI).

The IMSI is the unique identifier assigned to a SIM card by the MNO – this is also called as the Subscription Permanent Identifier (SUPI) in 5G. Even with presenting the personal information, the IMSI is visible to critical security vulnerabilities. This certainly, because it is shared unencrypted over-the-air in different technologies, including 2G, 3G, and 4G.

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Today, the “IMSI catchers” are readily and reasonably available – they can be used to illegitimately monitor a subscriber’s calls, messages, and location. The 5G standards hosted the option for the MNOs to encrypt IMSI right before it is sent over-the-air. Thus, this helps to address the vital privacy risks posed by the IMSI catchers.

As mentioned by Claus Dietze, Chair of Trusted Connectivity Alliance, in the company blog post – “as the standards state that encryption can be performed either by the SIM or by the device and even be deactivated, there is potential for significant variability in terms of implementation. This creates scenarios where the IMSI is not sufficiently protected, and the subscriber’s personal data is potentially exposed.”

Clearly, it is essential to manage IMSI encryption within the 5G Sim. As per the study, MNOs consider controlling the available implementation preferences to rely on certified, proven solutions. Executing IMSI encryption in the 5G SIM – this refers to both SIM and eSIM-  and emerges as a comprehensive solution when analyzed in contrast to a range of key criteria. It includes security of a SIM, production process, certification, ownership, and control.

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Undoubtedly, running IMSI encryption within the 5G Sim delivers improved security, control, and interoperability – which prevents unlawful and malicious interception. With 5G building a wide array of innovative use-cases, the SIM-based encryption is a viable way to create interoperability.

This is valid across the emerging industry as well as consumer IoT use-cases to enable a secure connected future technology ecosystem. According to the EU Cybersecurity Act, the regulatory measures needs to be implemented for defining an ad hoc security certification system addressing the IMSI encryption in the 5G SIM.


Sudipta Choudhury

Marketing professional with experience in B2B and MR industry. Skilled in Marketing, Strategy Making, Copywriting and Content Creation, Sales, and SEO with excellent Communication Efficiency. Holding a dual master's degree focused on Marketing from IBS, Pune and ICFAI University.

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