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16th USENIX Security Symposium Abstract

Pp. 307322 of the Proceedings

On Attack Causality in Internet-Connected Cellular Networks

Patrick Traynor, Patrick McDaniel, and Thomas La Porta, The Pennsylvania State University


The emergence of connections between telecommunications networks and the Internet creates significant avenues for exploitation. For example, through the use of small volumes of targeted traffic, researchers have demonstrated a number of attacks capable of denying service to users in major metropolitan areas. While such investigations have explored the impact of specific vulnerabilities, they neglect to address a larger issue - how the architecture of cellular networks makes these systems susceptible to denial of service attacks. As we show in this paper, these problems have little to do with a mismatch of available bandwidth. Instead, they are the result of the pairing of two networks built on fundamentally opposing design philosophies. We support this a claim by presenting two new attacks on cellular data services. These attacks are capable of preventing the use of high-bandwidth cellular data services throughout an area the size of Manhattan with less than 200Kbps of malicious traffic. We then examine the characteristics common to these and previous attacks as a means of explaining why such vulnerabilites are artifacts of design rigidity. Specifically, we show that the shoehorning of data communications protocols onto a network rigorously optimized for the delivery of voice causes that network to fail under modest loads.
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Last changed: 20 Sept. 2007 ac