Such systems needn’t be vulnerable to spoofing & hacking says Acision
The UK’s government ‘s recent decision to test an emergency text messaging alert system based on cell broadcast technology has given heart to SMS’ supporters. It is a mini triumph over fans of OTT style services. What the UK will be testing is the ability to send out messages to all of those with mobile phones switched on in a specific area. The kind of emergency ranges from natural disasters (flooding) to man-made catastrophes (such as train accidents) and security threats (such as terrorist attack). As the BBC has reported, the Uk government has picked three locations to test this technology out in. The locations are Easingwold, in North Yorkshire, Leiston, in Suffolk, and Glasgow’s city centre. The tests have sparked controversy over the vulnerability of such alerts to hacking and spoofing.
The great thing about cell broadcast is that it is a technology which is embedded into every GSM based handset.
It enables a message to be sent by the MNO (mobile network operator) to everyone within a particular area by using information regarding all devices within a specific cell site.
Cell broadcast has very definite advantages over location based SMS is that the user doesn’t need to subscribe or opt-in to a particular brand or service to receive broadcast messages.
In this test, the government will be working closely with there out of the UK’s four MNOs – O2, Vodafone and EE. (Maybe Three UK hasn’t implemented the technology?).
There are those, of course, who are hoping that cell broadcast could be utilised for advertising and marketing purposes.
For example, a shopping mall might broadcast a promotion to everyone in the vicinity without the need for users’ numbers or opt-in.
In theory, mobile phone users should be able to opt out of cell broadcast given that it should be set to be active by default.
However, GoMo News was unable – for example, to find out where this option is hidden within Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) on our loan Cat B15 handset.
So turning cell broadcast off doesn’t appear to be much of a realistic option.
Now the BBC featured comments from Chester Wisniewski, a senior advisor with Sophos, who claimed that emergency text messages would open the floodgates to abuse from hackers and fraudsters.
Luckily, Koby Amedume, global director of marcoms with Acision, just happens to know what MNOs will want to guard against this kind of thing.
The ideal solution would be something that works agnostically across multiple technologies (SMS, MMS, IM, email, SIP); core networks; messaging platforms; and handset types.
He reckons that, “Such multi-layered solutions can be delivered at a network level with filtering from anti-spoof protection through to SIM box detection and volumetric control for interconnect traffic.”
“Additionally, [such systems] can also offer protection that can be extended to content analysis and control to detect phishing attacks and malicious content in good time.”
You can bet that Acision has just such a solution up its corporate sleeve.
It will be interesting to discover just how the UK public reacts to this cell broadcast technology experiment.
GoMo News suspects that people will approve of it if it is used wisely.
We cannot see, however, Brits reacting positively to the discovery that they can be bombarded with messages as they wander through a shopping mall even though they haven’t opted-in.