By 2017 half of the world’s population will have LTE network coverage, according to telecommunications giant Ericsson. LTE, a high speed wireless data network that is quickly replacing the older 2G and 3G is lauded for its ability to transfer large amounts of information more quickly and effectively.  This type of network is essential as computing is moving more and more to mobile platforms.

But Professor Jeff Reed, of the wireless research group at Virginia Tech, has concerns about how secure the LTE network is from hackers. “Picture a jammer that fits in a small briefcase that takes out miles of LTE signals—whether commercial or public safety… This can be relatively easy to do.”

One of the core vulnerabilities for LTE networks is that they devote their control instructions, the way networks assemble bits to make media appear on your phone, to around 1 percent of the signal. Prof. Reed’s research assistant Marc Lichtman characterized the vulnerability this way, “Your phone is constantly syncing with the base station… If you can disrupt that synchronization, you will not be able to send or receive data.” 

That means you’ve rendered the network useless.

The most frightening aspect of the group’s findings is that the technology needed to render a network useless is inexpensive and commonplace. With a laptop, a $650 RF processing unit and a moderately rated power supply any individual could shut down communications within a fairly large area.

On Thursday Prof. Reed’s group filed their finding with the National Telecommunications and InformationAdministration (NTIA), which reports to the U.S. President on telecommunication and information policy. As of this writing the NTIA has had no response to the findings.

Today, the national security of nations is being defined less by the traditional forces as new vulnerabilities develop. Cyber warfare is seen as the frontlines of future international conflicts. With that paradigm in mind it would behoove all countries investing in these networks to do a better job of security their protocols.

So the question is, how do we design a more secure data network?

Article Source: MIT Technology Review

 

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