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Can an eSIM be hacked? The reality of eSIM security risks

Woman takes security measures on her phone to prevent eSIM hacking

From social media apps to mobile banking apps, there’s a lot of personal data and sensitive information stored on our phones. We’re all at risk from data breaches. The demand for secure and convenient mobile connectivity has paved the way for an increase in the use of eSIMs.

In this article, we’ll help you safeguard your mobile data, understand the security aspects of eSIM technology and teach you practical ways to ensure your personal and financial information remains protected from potential threats.

What is an eSIM?

eSIM stands for embedded Subscriber Identity Module. A small chip embedded inside your phone handles your connection to cellular networks.

Instead of having a physical SIM card, eSIM allows you to easily switch between different mobile networks while providing increased storage capacity and improved network coverage.

Important questions to ask are: are eSIMs safe and can an en eSIM be hacked?

While no technology can claim to block all threats entirely, eSIM’s multi-layered security measures significantly reduce the risk of hacking.

Video tutorial: How to activate eSIM

eSIM vs. SIM security

Any eSIM and SIM comparison must include their form, functionality, and usage differences. eSIMS are typically activated by your carrier.
 
Your device then downloads your eSIM profile, which contains the necessary information for connecting to your mobile network, such as subscriber identification data, authentication keys, and network settings.

Video tutorial: How to insert your SIM card into an iPhone | View Android video below.

Video tutorial: How to insert a SIM card in your Android phone

Physical SIM cards require insertion into a device’s SIM card slot and have to be manually swapped when changing carriers or plans.

eSIMs switch profiles remotely over the air without the hassle of finding and inserting physical SIM cards. This means eSIM offers more convenience to international travelers and easier device-to-device transfers than a traditional SIM.
 
Hardware and software measures ensure eSIMs are more secure than physical SIM cards. Tamper-resistant hardware safeguards the chip from physical attacks and robust and up-to-date encryption protocols protect the integrity of data transmitted between a device and the mobile network.
 
In addition, eSIM technology uses secure remote provisioning, allowing network operators to securely manage and update profiles over the air, minimizing the risks associated with lost or stolen cards.

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Can eSIMs be hacked?

Imagine your smartphone’s eSIM as a virtual ID card identifying you on the mobile network. eSIM hacking is an unauthorized attempt to compromise the security of your eSIM-enabled device.

An eSIM hack aims to manipulate your eSIM profile to gain unauthorized access to your mobile and financial accounts. The hacking of an eSIM can also exploit vulnerabilities within the eSIM system, taking shape in a few different ways.

SIM swap eSIM hack

SIM swaps occur when a hacker tries to trick your mobile service provider into associating your phone number with a new eSIM that they control to complete an eSIM hack.

The attacker gathers personal information about you, such as your name, phone number, and other details they obtain from public sources or data breaches. Then they contact your mobile service provider pretending to be you, claiming they have a new phone and need to transfer your number to their new eSIM.

Once the hacker convinces the mobile service provider to swap the eSIM, they gain control of your phone number. This allows hackers to intercept your calls and messages and access services that rely on your phone number verification, such as two-factor authentication (2FA), to gain access to your financial accounts.

Within a few hours of discovering she had become victim to an eSIM hack, a journalist from Business Insider learned attackers stole her credit card identity to rack up nearly $10,000 worth of purchases. A successful eSIM hack allowed hackers to port her phone number and receive fraud alerts via text each time they attempted to purchase in a retail store. While the attackers approved purchases remotely, the journalist froze her credit and tracked down proof of the fraudulent purchases.

eSIM hacker viewing multiple screens to steal data

Phishing eSIM hack

Another eSIM hacking technique cybercriminals use is phishing attacks.

Criminals pretend to be a trusted or known entity like your mobile service provider, bank, or retailer like Apple.

These malicious forces “phish” for revealing sensitive information, such as your eSIM details or login credentials to your mobile or financial accounts. Other phishing examples include attackers luring victims to make purchases on behalf of a colleague or manager.

You might receive an email, text message, or phone call that appears to be from your mobile service provider. The message may claim an issue with your eSIM or that you need to update your account information urgently. It could contain a link that takes you to a fake website designed to mimic your service provider’s website.

If you fall for the phishing attempt and provide your eSIM details or login credentials on a fake website, the attacker can gain unauthorized access to your eSIM profile. This can lead to unauthorized control over your mobile services and potentially compromise your personal information.

In a recent Google Fi data breach, a U.S. Google mobile internet service provider, some customers fell prey to SIM swap attacks with the help of social engineering phishing scams. Hackers likely impersonated customers armed with personal data they gained from phishing attacks and data breaches to port victims’ mobile numbers to a new device.

One Google Fi customer on Reddit watched hackers take over three of his online accounts, including the Authy authenticator app. Attackers could receive his text messages and overcome SMS-based 2-factor authentication, gaining access to his primary email and financial account.
 
While anyone can become a victim of a SIM swap attack, using mobile security best practices can help protect you. You want to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands, avoid the threat of identity theft, and protect yourself from financial loss.

How Secure are eSIMs vs. SIM cards?

Is eSIM more secure than a physical SIM? Regarding eSIM and SIM security, eSIMs offer several advantages over traditional SIM security. Here’s a comparison of the security features of eSIM vs. SIM security:

Physical security

Traditional SIM cards are more vulnerable to SIM swapping attacks. eSIM reduces this risk as there are no physical cards to swap. eSIM is tamper-resistant in design and securely integrates into your device’s hardware. This integration ensures that the eSIM remains firmly in place, guarding against physical tampering and unauthorized access.

Remote provisioning and management

With eSIM, mobile network operators can remotely provision and manage eSIM profiles. This allows for secure and efficient onboarding of devices. The remote control also enables quick updates, profile downloads, and security patches, enhancing overall security and reducing the risk of vulnerabilities.

Advanced encryption protocols

Another core strength of eSIM vs. SIM security is eSIM provides powerful encryption algorithms to safeguard your data during transmission and storage. This makes it extremely difficult for hackers to intercept or manipulate the information exchanged between your device and the network.

Secure over-the-air (OTA) updates

eSIM enables secure OTA updates for device firmware, operating systems, and security patches. These updates can be digitally signed and encrypted, ensuring only authorized and verified updates are installed on the device. This helps protect against known vulnerabilities and keeps devices secure against emerging threats.

Stronger authentication

eSIM technology uses more robust authentication mechanisms, creating difficulties for unauthorized individuals to access or manipulate eSIM profiles. It utilizes encryption and cryptographic protocols to ensure user data and communication integrity and confidentiality. Mutual authentication also helps only authorized parties to access and use network resources, adding another layer of protection.
 
While no system is entirely impervious to potential risks, eSIM technology continuously evolves to stay one step ahead of emerging threats. Ongoing collaboration between mobile network operators, device manufacturers, and industry organizations ensures that eSIM security remains at the forefront of innovation to provide you with more secure mobile experiences.

Concerned man checks his mobile settings

What are eSIM security risks?

While an eSIM will give you convenience and flexibility, eSIM technology also introduces sensitive and private data access. However, like any technology, there are potential security risks and eSIM vulnerabilities.

Risks of eSIMs include a range of privacy concerns and the potential for eSIM cloning. Therefore, being aware and learning how to minimize eSIM security risks and protect your private and sensitive data is essential. Here’s an overview:

eSIM privacy concerns include:

    • Tracking and monitoring: eSIM-enabled devices offer physical security with the ability to monitor and track a stolen physical device or SIM card. On the other hand, the ease of tracking and monitoring eSIM-enabled devices also raises concerns about easy access to user privacy and potential data surveillance from remote eSIM hacking.
    • Data collection: Mobile service providers may collect and store user data associated with eSIM profiles, including call logs, location information, and usage patterns.
    • Data breaches: Like any digital system, eSIM infrastructure is not immune to data breaches. Unauthorized access to eSIM profiles can expose personal information, compromising user privacy and access to your financial accounts.

Cloning poses these eSIM security risks:

    • Profile duplication: Hackers may attempt to clone eSIM profiles, creating duplicate copies of a user’s identity, granting themself the ability to impersonate the user to gain unauthorized access to mobile services or engage in fraudulent activities.
    • Fraudulent activities: Bad actors clone eSIM profiles to make unauthorized calls, exploit access to sensitive information and engage in financial fraud.
    • Online identity theft: Fraudsters can copy and clone eSIM profiles without your knowledge or consent.

Privacy best practices

It’s crucial to maintain knowledge about internet security tips and follow best practice security measures to minimize eSIM privacy concerns, such as the following:

    1. Enable the device and mobile service provider’s security features, such as PIN or password protection for eSIM profiles.
    2. Utilize MFA methods, such as biometrics or additional authentication apps, to add an extra layer of security for accessing eSIM-related services.
    3. Stay updated on privacy policies and data handling practices of mobile service providers. Review and understand how your data is collected, used, and protected.
    4. Update your phones with the latest software and security patches to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.
    5. Use secure networks, such as encrypted Wi-Fi or virtual private networks (VPNs), to increase protection for your communications and data transmitted through eSIM-enabled devices.
    6. Regularly monitor and review account activities to detect suspicious behavior or unauthorized access. Report any of your concerns to your mobile service provider.

 
Staying vigilant and following best practices will help you balance the convenience of eSIM technology and protect your personal privacy and sensitive data.

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Advanced security doesn’t have to feel advanced. eero Plus provides:

    • Antivirus
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eSIM theft protection: Can an eSIM be tracked?

eSIM enhances security measures, including theft protection and eSIM tracking. If you’re still wondering whether eSIM is safe and more secure, understanding how eSIM theft protection works will help you safeguard your devices and personal information. It will also shed light on eSIM theft prevention to protect your private data.

eSIM theft prevention includes an initial layer of physical security. The eSIM’s embedded nature makes it more challenging for thieves to extract, copy and misuse eSIM profile and subscriber information vs. traditional SIM.

eSIM can also provide more secure device authentication mechanisms to ensure that only authorized devices with valid credentials can access the network services associated with the eSIM. Carrier networks reject unauthorized devices attempting to use stolen eSIMs during the authentication process, which provides additional safeguards for eSIM theft prevention.

In the unfortunate event of device theft, eSIM theft protection allows for remote deactivation. By contacting the mobile service provider and reporting the robbery, you deactivate the associated eSIM profile, rendering the stolen device useless on networks and preventing thieves from using stolen eSIMs for unauthorized activities.

It is important to note that eSIM technology only supports tracking capabilities for what is already standard for mobile devices. eSIM tracking typically relies on features like GPS or cellular tower triangulation for location tracking, independent of the technology associated with eSIM theft prevention.

To complement eSIM theft protection, you can take additional precautions by implementing solid passwords or PINs, using device tracking apps or services, and promptly reporting the theft to relevant authorities to enhance your overall device security.

Use two factor authorization (2FA) on your mobile phone

How to protect yourself from eSIM hacking

Being proactive in safeguarding your personal information is part of eSIM hacking protection. Follow this step-by-step guide on what to do in a hacking situation and for tips on eSIM hacking prevention and detection.

What do I do if my SIM card is hacked?

    • Immediately notify your mobile service provider about an eSIM hack detection or a suspected SIM card hack. They have the expertise to investigate the issue, secure your account, and help you with eSIM hack prevention to avoid further or future unauthorized access.
    • Change and update your passwords and PINs associated with your mobile service provider account, device, and other linked accounts. Use strong, unique combinations to bolster your security.
    • Activate and enable 2FA with your mobile service provider account and other relevant accounts. This additional layer of security requires a second verification step, such as a unique code sent to your device, to verify your identity.
    • Monitor account activities and regularly review your mobile service provider account for suspicious activities, such as unfamiliar calls, texts, or unauthorized modifications. Promptly report any suspicious incidents to your mobile service provider.

eSIM hacking protection

    • Maintain up-to-date device software, including operating systems, apps, and security patches. Regular updates often address vulnerabilities, bolstering your defenses against hacking attempts.
    • Exercise caution when sharing personal information related to your eSIM or mobile services to help safeguard important data. For example, avoid using your mother’s maiden name or any other personal information on social media accounts that you would use to verify your identity.
    • Be wary of sharing sensitive details with unverified or unknown sources to avoid phishing attacks, and learn more about identifying email phishing to prevent unauthorized access to your data.
    • Remain vigilant for phishing attempts aimed at tricking you into divulging sensitive information. Treat unsolicited calls, emails, or messages requesting personal or account details skeptically. Always verify the authenticity of such communications before sharing any information.
    • Regularly back up essential data from your device to secure locations such as cloud storage or external hard drives to ensure access to critical information if your device is compromised.
    • Leverage eSIM security measures from your device and mobile service provider, including setting up a strong PIN or password for your eSIM. Some providers offer account takeover services to protect your phone number from unauthorized porting to boost your eSIM hacking protection. It’s a service to protect you from hackers attempting to impersonate you with a customer service agent to take over your account and gain access to your mobile bank accounts or sensitive data.

Conclusion

When you follow these guidelines and adopt strong security practices, you can effectively respond to a hacked SIM card situation and mitigate and reduce risks associated with eSIM hacking.

Overall, eSIM security measures provide important theft protection measures. eSIM’s embedded nature, device authentication mechanisms, and remote deactivation capabilities enhance security and peace of mind.

When you leverage the built-in theft protection features and build strong device security habits, you’re ensuring the safety of your devices and personal information while enjoying a more secure mobile experience.

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