Exploiting open functionality in SMS-capable cellular networks

William Enck, Patrick Traynor, Patrick McDaniel, Thomas La Porta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

155 Scopus citations


Cellular networks are a critical component of the economic and social infrastructures in which we live. In addition to voice services, these networks deliver alphanumeric text messages to the vast majority of wireless subscribers. To encourage the expansion of this new service, telecommunications companies offer connections between their networks and the Internet. The ramifications of such connections, however, have not been fully recognized. In this paper, we evaluate the security impact of the SMS interface on the availability of the cellular phone network. Specifically, we demonstrate the ability to deny voice service to cities the size of Washington D.C. and Manhattan with little more than a cable modem. Moreover, attacks targeting the entire United States are feasible with resources available to medium-sized zombie networks. This analysis begins with an exploration of the structure of cellular networks. We then characterize network behavior and explore a number of reconnaissance techniques aimed at effectively targeting attacks on these systems. We conclude by discussing countermeasures that mitigate or eliminate the threats introduced by these attacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCCS 2005 - Proceedings of the 12th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
EventCCS 2005 - 12th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security - Alexandria, VA, United States
Duration: Nov 7 2005Nov 11 2005

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
ISSN (Print)1543-7221


OtherCCS 2005 - 12th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAlexandria, VA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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