Cellular Phone Networks may be susceptible to SMS Attacks

Cellular carriers in the US are claiming that they have taken appropriate measures to protect themselves from damages caused by hackers, however two Penn State university professors are saying the opposite.

Professors Patrick McDaniel and Thomas La Porta, on the basis of their research, have pronounced that cellular networks in major American cities are susceptible to be brought to a screeching halt by flooding of text messages from malicious hackers.

Throwing light on how precisely this could happen, the professors claim that a hacker with a single computer with a cable modem could succeed in shutting down networks by sending barrage of text messages into a network, something to the tune of 165 messages/second.

The published report of the two professors have triggered an intense debate as to how secure are the American cellular networks? Much on the expected lines, cellular companies are maintaining a brave front saying that they are well prepared for such attacks. Responding to the issue, Brian Scott, a Senior Official with Sprint told a newspaper, “If you’re not prepared, that could happen. If you are prepared and you have means in place to identify, detect and mitigate that, it’s not as much of a concern.”

But other telecom experts are also endorsing the observations of the Pennsylvania State professors. Aviel D Rubin, Technical Director at the Information Security Institute joins the issue, “Any time a vulnerability in the physical world exists that can be exploited via computer programs running on the Internet, we have a recipe for disaster. It is as though those who wish to harm us have a magic switch that can turn off the cellular network.”

After the emergence of this debate, analysts are also pondering about as what could be the possible solutions. Disconnecting the text-messaging services from the internet gateways appears to be a surefire solution, but this is not feasible given the kind of facilities it provides to normal users. Another viable option being talked about is to restrict the insertion of messages into the network. Well, all this is within the realm of deliberations right now and how cellular networks will brace themselves against a possible attack by hackers, only time will tell.


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