Jamming of wireless links represents a rapidly increasing, but seemingly less known cyber-security threat. Some examples are: jamming of public mobile radio systems to prevent police and other first responder personnel; jamming (and spoofing) of GPS receivers; jamming of car lock remote controls in parking lots to facilitate easy theft of property; and jamming of wireless alarm systems in single-family homes to enable undetected burglary. Simple wireless jammers can be bought off the Internet for a few $100, and equipment that used to be military-grade can be put together using off-the-shelf software radio-based platforms for a few $1000. Numerous recent incidents, especially in public safety applications, illustrate the magnitude of the problem. During the EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2001, activists used (illegal) jamming equipment located in a nearby apartment and during critical phases of the riots, the chief commander could not reach any of the engaged 700 police officers.
Traditionally, jamming of wireless links has been considered a “military” problem, even though the awareness of the threat to civilian systems seems to be increasing. There may be a parallel with cyber-security on the Internet.Consider D-DoS attacks. They were not foreseen in the 1990’s—at least, the Internet and its protocols and servers were clearly not designed with this threat in mind—but this treat is now widespread and taken very seriously at all levels. It is not implausible that wireless jamming can undergo the same evolution, because: the harm that can be caused is substantial; society is relying more and more on wireless communications solutions; inexpensive, military-grade technology is proliferating; and the ability of an adversary to hide or to operate covertly is increased, for example due to the availability of cheap unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
In Security Link’s research, we both study the vulnerability of contemporary studies to sophisticated jamming attacks, as well as develop countermeasures to such attacks. As an example of a specific recent study (PoC: E. G. Larsson, LiU) we have demonstrated that if emerging so-called massive MIMO technology would fall in the hands of adversaries, it can be used as a jamming device and cause significant harm to conventional wireless communication links that operate in time-division duplexing mode. The study uncovered an entirely new vulnerability which must be taken seriously in a world where emerging, advanced technology can faster than ever fall in the hands of organized crime and terrorism.
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