The technology behind the 4G networks, LTE, has been found to be vulnerable to simple jamming techniques, with researchers proving their hypothesis by using a cheap, battery-operated jamming device aimed at a small portion of the LTE signal to take down an entire base station.
The research, from Virginia Tech, notes that there are “about eight” weak points that can be used to jam an LTE signal. Normally, in order to jam the transmitter, you would need to transmit a signal at the same frequency and with enough power. But for LTE, you need to simply block out control instructions (e.g. time and frequency synchronisation), which comprise of less than 1 percent of the signal – hence making it possible to use low-power transmitters to kill an entire LTE signal.
So why is this a big deal? According to MIT Technology Review, LTE is being proposed as being behind a new emergency-response communications system. And, admittedly, while you need to know the inner workings of LTE to know how to jam it, it is still a potential risk that could have massive consequences.
And the terrifying thing is, we cannot fix it – unless we build an entirely new 4G network standard. Talking to MIT Technology Review, the research group’s head Jeff Reed said, “Although we’ve identified the problem, we don’t necessarily have solutions. It’s virtually impossible to bring in mitigation strategies that are also backwards-compatible and cover it all.”
So, fingers crossed that nothing bad ever happens that will see LTE jammed.