Exploiting open functionality in SMS-capable cellular networks.

Journal of Computer Security 01/2008; 16:713-742. DOI:10.3233/JCS-2007-0308
Source: DBLP

ABSTRACT Cellular networks are a critical component of the economic and social infrastructures in which we live. In addition to voice services, these networks deliver alphanumeric text messages to the vast majority of wireless subscribers. To encourage the expansion of this new service, telecommunications companies of- fer connections between their networks and the Internet. The ramifications of such connections, however, have not been fully recognized. In this paper, we evaluate the security impact of the SMS interface on the availability of the cellular phone network. Specifically, we describe the ability to deny voice service to cities the size of Washington DC and Manhattan with little more than a cable modem. Moreover, attacks targeting the entire United States are feasible with resources available to medium-sized zombie networks. This analysis begins with an exploration of the structure of cellular networks. We then characterize net- work behavior and explore a number of reconnaissance techniques aimed at effectively targeting attacks on these systems. We conclude by discussing countermeasures that mitigate or eliminate the threats intro- duced by these attacks.

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Patrick Traynor