March 7, 2018 By Shane Schick 2 min read

A vulnerability in next-generation high-speed networks has spawned 10 different 4G LTE attacks, including location spoofing and fake messages, researchers discovered.

Experts from Purdue University and the University of Iowa released an academic paper that detailed how they created their own tool, dubbed LTE Inspector, to uncover these 4G LTE attacks. They also set up a proof-of-concept network simulation to ensure that the issues they discussed in the paper could actually take place in the wild.

The Risk of 4G LTE Insecurity

In addition to the 10 new threats discussed in the paper, the researchers confirmed nine other potential issues. The problems stem from the counter in a phone operator’s system, where a weakness in the authentication and key agreement could lead to data leaks.

According to ZDNet, the flaw could make it easier for actors to force cellphones to use 2G so they can monitor activities using so-called stingray surveillance devices. With relatively inexpensive hardware, cybercriminals could intercept calls and track where users are at a given time.

Other potential 4G LTE attacks include connecting to the network without authorized usernames and passwords, stealing a user’s identity, forcing other devices off the network and sending phony messages from someone else’s device. Bleeping Computer sketched out a scenario in which threat actors could commit a crime in the U.S. and use location spoofing to make it appear as though they were connected to a network in Europe.

Mitigating 4G LTE Attacks

The researchers didn’t provide any immediate ways to avoid or mitigate the threats covered in their paper. Help Net Security pointed out that 4G LTE attacks may lessen as the industry eventually moves to 5G, but that still leaves a lot of time for bad actors to do some potentially serious damage.

In the meantime, mobile providers would be wise to use this research as a springboard to begin investigating fixes for this flaw before cybercriminals recognize the massive opportunity in front of them.

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