Light Reading

Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

NEW YORK -- Mobile Network Security Strategies: New Threats, New Opportunities -- Security panelists are expecting that an attack orchestrated by an Internet activist group via social media will soon take down a mobile operator's 4G network, if it hasn't happened already.

Dan Holden, director of the ASERT group at Arbor Networks Inc. , suggests that a "hacktivist" group like Anonymous could turn an operator's network against itself by assembling a large enough group of users with Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices via social media to trigger a distributed denial-of-service attack that is botnet driven.

"If you're a mobile provider and you say one thing that ticks off a group like Anonymous then they could go after you with your own bandwidth," suggests Holden.

This is because the far speedier uploads available over LTE smartphones and tablets would make it much easier to flood the limited spectrum available to 4G wireless networks.

Readers may remember that back in December 2009 there was an attempt to take down AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s network with "Operation Chokehold" because of dissatisfaction over 3G service on the iPhone, though it fell rather flat. (See AT&T: Don't Choke Us and Operation Jokehold.)

Stephen Newman, VP of product and strategy at Damballa Inc. , suggests that the power of social media three years on could allow hacktivists to assemble much larger groups to participate in an attack with their handsets.

"They opt in," he says. "They don't really realize what they're doing."

So, it may be a case of not if but when for mobile operators preparing for these kinds of attacks. "I think it's quite possible and likely already happened and we'll see it become more commonplace over time," says Arbor's Holden. (See AT&T: Security Needs to Out-Innovate Hackers.)

For more
Further coverage from Light Reading's Mobile Network Security Strategies event:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:54 PM
re: Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

As Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan pointed out to me during a break there's even ready-made communities such as I Hate Sprint -- amongst many others -- that could be mobilized in such attacks.

User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:16:52 PM
re: Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

Sounds like an episode for "Doomsday Preppers." This could actually make for a good end-of-year series for LR: Your Worst Nightmares.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:52 PM
re: Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

I guess I'll have to publish that one before December 21, 2012 then. ;-)

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:48 PM
re: Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

Where this stuff gets managed and who pays was a side theme at the show. Does it fall on the carrier, the infrastructure vendor or the device vendor?

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:48 PM
re: Attack Bots: The Social Media Threat to 4G

While we wish the net is free from any constraints, scenarios such as this cry out for Traffic Management devices to throttle high bandwidth users (only when network congestion exists).

The LTE manufacturers can build this capability into their product if not there already.

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