Burglars Bring Down Vodafone Network
The operator estimates that several hundred thousand customers may have been affected, and services were not fully restored by lunchtime on Monday.
The break-in occurred at an exchange located in Basingstoke, U.K. An operator spokeswoman told Light Reading Mobile that "specialist networking equipment" and "IT hardware" were stolen and that police are investigating the incident. The spokeswoman was unable to provide details regarding exactly what kind of equipment and hardware was stolen.
The spokeswoman also said that the services outage is confined to "part of the M4 corridor," which is an area in the southeast of the country that is home to the U.K. headquarters of many telecom operators and equipment suppliers.
Vodafone issued the following statement on Monday morning: "We had a break in last night at one of our technical facilities which resulted in damage done to some of our equipment. This means that some customers may be experiencing temporary loss of voice, sms and internet services. We are working quickly to restore these and will be back to normal as soon as we can. There has been no impact on the privacy of customers' data."
Why this matters
This is a significant security breach for a mobile operator and one that caused a large-scale service outage.
Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Patrick Donegan says several aspects of this incident have implications for mobile operators everywhere.
“Vodafone UK is one of the world’s leading operators. If this can happen to them, you have to figure it can happen to anyone else," he said. "Second, the site targeted appears to have been a fairly large, centralized, site hosting a lot of valuable networking equipment. If a key site like this can be so vulnerable to physical intrusion, what does that say for the security of more distributed, more remote cell sites, which typically have less physical security?"
"And third, the actual attack seems to have been driven by the age-old motivation of simple theft of high-value goods at the target location. But what damage might have ensued if the attackers had been in the business of carrying out any one of the new cyber security attacks on the network that hackers with all kinds of motivation are constantly refining?”
We'll bring the latest updates as this story develops.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile