Mitigating attacks on open functionality in SMS-capable cellular networks

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The transformation of telecommunications networks from homogeneous closed systems providing only voice services to Internet-connected open networks that provide voice and data services presents significant security challenges. For example, recent research illustrated that a carefully crafted DoS attack via text messaging could incapacitate all voice communications in a metropolitan area with little more than a cable modem. This attack highlights a growing threat to these systems; namely, cellular networks are increasingly exposed to adversaries both in and outside the network. In this paper, we use a combination of modeling and simulation to demonstrate the feasibility of targeted text messaging attacks. Under realistic network conditions, we show that adversaries can achieve blocking rates of more than 70% with only limited resources. We then develop and characterize five techniques from within two broad classes of countermeasures-queue management and resource provisioning. Our analysis demonstrates that these techniques can eliminate or extensively mitigate even the most intense targeted text messaging attacks. We conclude by considering the tradeoffs inherent to the application of these techniques in current and next generation telecommunications networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-53
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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