Nov 16 New high-speed wireless networks are
vulnerable to relatively simple jamming attacks, which could be
used by terrorists or criminals, a research group at a U.S.
university has warned.
The wireless research group at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg,
Virginia, said in a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce
that it found "extremely effective attacks can be realized,
using fairly low complexity."
The Virginia Tech researchers warned the U.S. National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that if
the newer LTE networks are used by public safety officials they
could become targets of terrorists or criminals.
The group is conducting research into the security of
networks based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed
technology, a newer technology used to transmit high-speed data
on mobile phones.
The Virginia Tech researchers were responding to a request
for comment from the NTIA, looking into future public safety
"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," the researchers said in the letter dated Nov. 8.
Leading network equipment maker Ericsson said it
may be possible to limit the effect of such attacks, and a U.S.
industry group said LTE was just as secure as older wireless
technologies, in response to the early findings from the
Ericsson, the world's largest mobile network equipment
maker, said the structure of network technology would limit the
impact of any jamming attack trying to overwhelm a carrier's
A senior cyber security expert with CTIA, a U.S. trade group
for wireless telecommunications providers, said it has long
been possible for attackers to interrupt communications by
interfering with signalling systems, regardless of whether they
are using LTE or another wireless technology.
"In LTE, the security architecture is as good or better
(than) you see with 3G networks," said John Marinho, vice
president of cyber security and technology for CTIA.
"It's illegal. There are laws," said Marinho.
The CTIA's biggest members including Verizon Wireless, AT&T
Inc, Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile USA are all
upgrading their networks with LTE technology.
Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications
and Vodafone Group Plc, and T-Mobile USA is owned
by Deutsche Telekom.
Ericsson the largest maker of LTE network equipment ahead of
Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent
, said that all wireless systems with a limited amount
of airwaves - including radio, broadcasting, WiFi and current
national safety systems - are at risk of jamming attacks.
"However, since cellular base stations are placed at a
regular distance from each other, cellular systems have an
inherent resilience to how large a geographical impact a jammer
can have," the Swedish firm said, adding the distance between
base stations is low in densely populated areas.
"Even if a jammer can bring down the service level in single
cells, it will not affect the whole network of surrounding
cells," Ericsson said in a statement.