During the recent Mirai botnet attack, it became evident that critical internet infrastructure is subject to DDoS attacks. It looks, however, as if 4G connectivity can suffer from a similar fate. Any 4G cellular device around the world is vulnerable to DDoS attacks, according to a Black Hat Europe researcher. Security issues can affect any internet-connected device.
4G Connectivity Attracts Denial-of-Service Attacks
The revelations by this Black Hat Europe hacker are quite worrisome, to say the least. Denial-of-service attacks against 4G or LTE users are not entirely unexpected, although they are a lot easier to perform than anticipated. This is made possible because of the lackluster security provided across 4G and LTE mobile networks around the world.
Mobile providers all over the world have upgraded to 4G rather quickly, as they want to avoid security concerns associated with 2G and 3G. Exploits were reported in the wild, which deliberately targeted the back end of mobile communication on 2G and 3G connectivity. Thankfully, no major incidents were reported before the upgrade was complete.
It appears, though, that cellular providers are not out of the woods yet. The Diameter protocol, which was introduced when LTE networks came into the picture, offered more security having to do with sending signals to the network. As one would expect, the majority of mobile providers assumed that Diameter would solve all of their security problems at once. Alas, this is far from the case.
Keeping in mind how the Diameter protocol is an upgrade from the SS7 network standards, some of the same vulnerabilities remain. Both forms of technology have similar traits which can be abused by hackers. In doing so, criminals could cause significant damage to 4G and LTE infrastructure. As a result, mobile users would be cut off from their network, and communication nodes would come under attack.
In fact, several types of attacks were revealed during the recent Black Hat Europe conference. Some of these attacks can be circumvented by restarting a phone and making a new connection to the mobile network. Other attack vectors may cause blackouts for entire neighborhoods or areas around a cell tower.
Now is the time for security experts to address these vulnerabilities, and come up with solutions. It seems highly likely that a major DDoS attack against mobile carriers will take place sooner or later. Being prepared for the worst is the only course of action, although it remains to be seen if operators will take this warning to heart.
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