Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project, said knowledge of a person's location is another way that some abusers can maintain control over their victims. "If you have changed your address and you're trying to get away from this person... but all of a sudden they found you, it's like you feel trapped, like you'd never be able to get away from this person," Arthur said.
The university report also speculated that the vulnerability could be exploited by oppressive governments or burglars. The researchers found that they could tap into the locations of phones on T-Mobile and AT&T networks. Kune said it also likely worked on Verizon and Sprint phones, although the tests weren't run on those networks.
The research team proposed fixes to the information leakage to AT&T and phone manufacturer Nokia. Kune said that Nokia has given the researchers feedback on the viability of their fixes. AT&T has not yet responded to the research team, but AT&T spokesman Alex Carey said the company takes all reports of network vulnerabilities seriously.
"If it's something that's identified as a valid threat, we would act on it right away, devote whatever resources we need to combat the threat," Carey said. The research was presented in early February at the Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium in San Diego, Calif.
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