Securing mobile data is one of the core focus areas of mobile manufacturers primarily because of the global trend in mobile consumption. In the face of an employee driven communication, workers are increasingly using mobile devices to access business application. In 2011, the prevalence rate of employee driven communication grew up by 10 percent up from the 31 percent in 2010. More people who rely on mobile device such as tablets and smart phones are less likely to use the traditional computers giving an indication of the growing trend in consumerization of IT. A critical area of focus for mobile devices is therefore securing the data. Both individuals and organizations have developed the need for data security and privacy.
Weak points in 2G network
The 2g network introduced control channels dedicated to increase the amount of information that passes from one device to another within the network. It became common in the 90s and was used under the GSM platform. The major weaknesses of 2g networks are associated with the weakness of GSM networks. The inability of the network to authenticate itself to a phone is the major weakness of both 2G and GSM networks. This weakness allows what is called a middle man attack where an attacker impersonates an end point to the satisfaction of another. For instance, if one person calls or uses any of the data services to reach another person, the attacker could easily impersonate the other person. However, this attack can only be effective if the impersonator satisfies the first person. It was also possible for the attackers to spoof numbers of their victims.
Expected results of 2g network weaknesses
Cell phone jamming
Percentage per use
2g networks which work under the GSM system have weak crypto. It depends on COMP128 for all its data operations. This proprietary algorithm is very weak and can be broken in a few seconds. This made the network very weak in terms of offering users the security they needed for their mobile devices. The researcher intends to find the known attacks on the 2g algorithms such as the A5/1 and the A5/2.
Sending a message through the 2g or GSM network was even more vulnerable than using the other services. A user could not easily authenticate the messages received within the network. However, this problem was partially resolved with the use of MAPsec. It provided integrity and confidentiality which enabled users to authenticate calls and messages. MAPsec could only be used for a period of time and its performance eventually degraded preventing further use.
A common security threats to earlier networks and also 2g cellular network is eavesdropping. This attack involved capturing network packets transmitted from one device to another and reading them in order to retrieved information. With the weak crypto in 2g networks it was possible for attacker to engage in eavesdropping. Attackers only requires network sniffer to be able to capture the packets while being transmitted. In order for the entire sniffing process to be effective, there are certain conditions that have to be observed. Attackers understand all these conditions.
Cell phone jamming is another weak point of 2g networks. In social places where one can find so many people using a phone at the same time, network signals can be jammed. This poses a threat in the sense that the signals are disrupted making it hard for users to use the data services.
Security threats in 3G networks
In order to curb the security issues with 2g networks, a lot of measure were put in place and developed under the 3g network banner. There was secure user access to data services provided by telecommunication companies. The network operators were mainly given the mandate of authenticating the identity of users. This was designed in a way to block the middle-man attack where any fraudulent person could easily impersonate a user and make wrong calls. Other features incorporated into the 3g networks included signaling traffic confidentialities. This made it impossible for hackers to access signaled data such as messages and dialed numbers. In addition, the features also enabled users to be anonymous. This was helpful especially if an unknown person intends to utilize a user’s IMSI to track their location.
Expected results of 3g network weaknesses
Hackers are constantly trying to wreck every platform of cellular network. The 3g network offered consumers with a platform similar to that of computers. This means that the same way hackers would wreck computer networks is the same way they would hack into mobile phones. The weaknesses and loopholes in the network offered hackers the ability to access data from a user’s mobile gadget including checking messages, galleries, and listening to phone calls. In addition, there is also the potential risk of hackers manipulating and controlling data in a user’s mobile phone.
3G mobile networks have a limited radio resources and a lower bandwidth. Therefore the issue of traffic is major problem with 3g networks. The network is prone to a range of potential attacks despite being an improvement from the 2g network. Denial of service is a major threat to 3g networks. The intention behind denial of service attack may vary however the main focus is to disable the entire network thereby preventing users from accessing the network. Basically, the attacker launches the attack from the network host. Attackers, who tend to use this strategy, target enterprises. This implies that they would prevent users within an enterprise from accessing services in the 3g platform. The underlying mechanism for this threat is somehow similar to cell phone jamming where target machines are saturated with communication requests to the point where they cannot properly respond or slow down. The attacker of a wireless communication network can use the authentication mode since most of the wireless network technologies can be accessed into by any user who presents him/herself as an authenticated user of the network. This can pose a really great threat to the system since the malicious user can acquire entry into the system and get access to information that they do not have the permission to gain access into. Since every organization or any infrastructural fragment has an intranet related to it, there are some users who are authenticated to gain access into the intranet and use the resources on the said network.
Security threats in 4g networks
The 3g network provided operators with a closed environment in which they used to protect clients’ sensitive information transferred over the network. However, the cellular and data environment is always changing creating new needs for data protection. The 4g network is primarily supposed to address the overwhelming traffic volumes experienced in 3g networks. This is expected to be achieved through high speed transfer of data, heterogonous LTE networks, and more distributed LTE networks.
Expected results of 4g network weaknesses
The solutions provided by 4g network tend to ensure that all mobile phone and portable devices relying on the network have their IP address. However, this move further questions the security of the gadgets that will use the networks. For instance, at one point, a user’s smart phone can be hooked to a company Wi-Fi while at a different moment the same smart phone is hooked to a coffee shop Wi-Fi. The security of the information in the phone is put at risk because of the inability of network providers to provide LTE coverage without relying on network sharing.
Improving the 4G network
In order to improve security of data in 4G networks areas of focus include app stores, syncing data, mobile VPNs, patching, and support lifecycle. The distribution point for smart phone and tablet applications is a market place or an app store. The process of vetting the apps at the distribution point is critical to device security. Mobile devices generally use application to view data and the applications are retrieved from the stores. Users can easily download any application out of impulse and this can be risky because not all applications offer safety for the user. The malicious application can be used by attackers to access critical information in the users’ devices. The 4G network therefore can be improved to provide users with the ability to vet applications before they are downloaded to mobile devices.
Mobile network security vendors have in the recent years focused attention on improving the capabilities of the 4g networks in term of security. The vendors focus on areas such as firewall, intrusion protection, IPsec GW, 3GPP policy control, DPI, GGSN, and network routers. Most of the mobile security vendors are expected to have measures in place that prevent hacking or reduce the vulnerability of 4g networks in the mentioned areas. At the same time, it is also expected that not all vendors will have the security measures in place to improve 4g networks. Some of the security vendors that are expected to be assessed include Huwei, Cisco, Juniper, Checkpoint, Cross beam, Fortinet, Erickson, randware, and McAfee.
Percentage of internet users
Smart card reader
The most ways of protecting the 4g network against unauthorized access include installation of firewall and password controls. However, these methods have limitation in regards to protecting users against attacks and privacy violations. There is therefore need to complement these methods with others so as to improve the level of security. The additional methods to go along with firewall installation and unauthorized access include application levels control and intrusion detection and attack recognition. Smart phones relying on both 4g and 3g networks have application that read smart cards therefore controlling the levels of such application become necessary. The need to have stricter measures for network protection needs to be balanced with the need of free access. Independent review of network security should be an ongoing process in order to understand the changes and adaptations in security threats. The graph above gives a projection of some of the critical security areas depending on threat vulnerability. The potential of virus attacks makes reliability on mobile networks vulnerable. Even with the use of 4g network, viruses still pose a security threat. They can be very destructive impose high costs to the victims.
Percentage of Virus attacks via mobile networks
The main solution in cases of virus attacks is antivirus software programs. Since Smart phones are used by employees to aid their work, virus attack can either destroy or modify sensitive data belonging to companies. 4G networks can be improved to support virus scanners and disinfectors. These programs are known to identify viruses and delete them thereby reducing the threat. Viruses are however not the only thing that can be resolved using the scanners and the disinfectors.
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