Feature Article

November 19, 2012

Virginia Tech Researchers Reveal that New Mobile Networks are Exposed to Jamming Attacks

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the choice for individuals and businesses as a tool for communications and commerce. While individuals are using them to buy movie tickets and chat with their friends using social media, businesses are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies. This convenience points out how interconnected everyone is becoming. Mobile technology is an indispensible tool relied upon by a large portion of society on a daily basis. The findings by the wireless research group at Virginia Tech points out vulnerabilities that can cause a noticeable disruption to wireless services across the country.

The researchers sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce warning them of their finding. It said "extremely effective attacks can be realized, using fairly low complexity."

In a letter to  Lawrence Strickling ,Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Department of Commerce, Dr. Jeffrey H. Reed, director of [email protected] Virginia Tech wrote, "If LTE technology is to be used for the air interface of the public safety network, then we should consider the types of jamming attacks that could occur five or ten years from now. It is very possible for radio jamming to accompany a terrorist attack, for the purpose of preventing communications and increasing destruction. Likewise it is possible for criminal organizations to create mayhem among public safety personnel by jamming."

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The matter is more urgent since LTE is the choice of telecom companies for future operations. While equipment manufacturers are claiming LTE is as secure as previous technology, the report from Virginia Tech is highlighting some worries as to how effective the system will be if it is targeted for an attack.

LTE networks are vulnerable to jamming because the signals rely on control instructions and the standards are openly published. Communications experts can use this information to synchronize attacks by temporarily disabling contact between individuals and organizations. The lack of communication can potentially delay the action of first responders.

The warning from the school comes at a time when cyber threats, such as DOS (denial of service) attacks from individual and hostile foreign governments, are on the rise. The benefit being interconnected across many of the different platforms also means we are more vulnerable. The key is for private and public organizations to share information as soon as there is a breach to limit the damage it can cause.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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