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Researchers Demonstrate How US Emergency Alert System Can Be Hijacked and Weaponized

Thursday June 27, 2019. 04:02 AM , from Slashdot
After an emergency alert was accidentally sent to Hawaii residents last year, warning of an impending nuclear ballistic missile attack, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder were prompted to ask the question: How easy would it be to exploit the nation's emergency alert systems, wreaking havoc on the American public via fake or misleading alerts? In short, they found that it wasn't very difficult at all. Motherboard reports: Their full study was recently unveiled at the 2019 International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services (MobiSys) in Seoul, South Korea. It documents how spoofing the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program to trick cellular users wasn't all that difficult. To prove it, researchers built a mini 'pirate' cell tower using easily-available hardware and open source software. Using isolated RF shield boxes to mitigate any real-world harm, they then simulated attacks in the 50,000 seat Folsom Field at the University. 90 percent of the time, the researchers say they were able to pass bogus alerts on to cell phones within range. The transmission of these messages from the government to the cellular tower is secure. It's the transmission from the cellular tower to the end user that's open to manipulation and interference, the researchers found. The vulnerability potentially impacts not just US LTE networks, but LTE networks from Europe to South Korea.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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