A document filed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration claims that any LTE network in the US can be taken down with a $650 power amplifier. It’s not entirely clear how, but Gizmodo reports that it could take down a region as large as New York State. Ouch.
Here is a portion of the paper by Jeff Reed, the director of wireless research at Virginia Tech, who along with his research assistant Marc Lichtman, explained how it works:
Your phone is constantly syncing with the base station. If you can disrupt that synchronization, you will not be able to send or receive data. There are multiple weak spots-about eight different attacks are possible. The LTE signal is very complex, made up of many subsystems, and in each case, if you take out one subsystem, you take out the entire base station. Any communications engineer would be able to figure this stuff out.
Gizmodo also explains that another concern is that LTE has been proposed as the new communication system for emergency response. Reed’s paper says that this is specifically their concern as terrorists could potentially attack and jam signals that emergency responders use to communicate.
It sounds like something out of a movie, but it can happen.