Entries Tagged "jamming"
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Inspector Richard Haycock told local newspapers that the possible use of the car lock jammers would help explain a recent spate of thefts from vehicles that have occurred without leaving any signs of forced entry.
“We do get quite a lot of car crime in the borough where there’s no sign of a break-in and items have been taken from an owner’s car,” Inspector Haycock said. “It’s difficult to get in to a modern car without causing damage and we get a reasonable amount of people who do not report any.
“It is a possibility that central locking jamming is being used,” he added.
Devices that block the frequency used by a car owner’s key fob might be used to thwart an owner’s attempts to lock a car, leaving it open for waiting thieves. A quick search of the internet shows that devices offering to jam car locks are easily available for around $100. Effectiveness at up to 100m is claimed.
I thought car door locks weren’t much of a deterrent to a professional car thief.
EDITED TO ADD (10/22): The thieves are not stealing cars, they’re stealing things left inside the cars.
EDITED TO ADD (11/10): Related paper.
They work by mounting two small infrared lights on the front. The wearer is completely inconspicuous to the human eye, but cameras only see a big white blur where your face should be.
Building them is a snap: just take a pair of sunglasses, attach two small but powerful IR LEDS to two pairs of wires, one wire per LED. Then attach the LEDs to the glasses; the video suggests making a hole in the rim of the glasses to embed the LEDs. Glue or otherwise affix the wires to the temples of the glasses. At the end of the temples, attach lithium batteries. They should make contact with the black wire, but the red wires should be left suspended near the batteries without making contact. When you put them on the red wire makes contact, turning the lights on. It’s functional, but we’re thinking that installing an on/off switch would be more elegant and it would allow you to wear them without depleting the batteries.
EDITED TO ADD (7/8): Doubts have been raised about whether this works as advertised against paparazzi cameras. I can’t tell for sure one way or the other.
It used to be that just the entertainment industries wanted to control your computers—and televisions and iPods and everything else—to ensure that you didn’t violate any copyright rules. But now everyone else wants to get their hooks into your gear.
OnStar will soon include the ability for the police to shut off your engine remotely. Buses are getting the same capability, in case terrorists want to re-enact the movie Speed. The Pentagon wants a kill switch installed on airplanes, and is worried about potential enemies installing kill switches on their own equipment.
Microsoft is doing some of the most creative thinking along these lines, with something it’s calling “Digital Manners Policies.” According to its patent application, DMP-enabled devices would accept broadcast “orders” limiting their capabilities. Cellphones could be remotely set to vibrate mode in restaurants and concert halls, and be turned off on airplanes and in hospitals. Cameras could be prohibited from taking pictures in locker rooms and museums, and recording equipment could be disabled in theaters. Professors finally could prevent students from texting one another during class.
The possibilities are endless, and very dangerous. Making this work involves building a nearly flawless hierarchical system of authority. That’s a difficult security problem even in its simplest form. Distributing that system among a variety of different devices—computers, phones, PDAs, cameras, recorders—with different firmware and manufacturers, is even more difficult. Not to mention delegating different levels of authority to various agencies, enterprises, industries and individuals, and then enforcing the necessary safeguards.
Once we go down this path—giving one device authority over other devices—the security problems start piling up. Who has the authority to limit functionality of my devices, and how do they get that authority? What prevents them from abusing that power? Do I get the ability to override their limitations? In what circumstances, and how? Can they override my override?
How do we prevent this from being abused? Can a burglar, for example, enforce a “no photography” rule and prevent security cameras from working? Can the police enforce the same rule to avoid another Rodney King incident? Do the police get “superuser” devices that cannot be limited, and do they get “supercontroller” devices that can limit anything? How do we ensure that only they get them, and what do we do when the devices inevitably fall into the wrong hands?
It’s comparatively easy to make this work in closed specialized systems—OnStar, airplane avionics, military hardware—but much more difficult in open-ended systems. If you think Microsoft’s vision could possibly be securely designed, all you have to do is look at the dismal effectiveness of the various copy-protection and digital-rights-management systems we’ve seen over the years. That’s a similar capabilities-enforcement mechanism, albeit simpler than these more general systems.
And that’s the key to understanding this system. Don’t be fooled by the scare stories of wireless devices on airplanes and in hospitals, or visions of a world where no one is yammering loudly on their cellphones in posh restaurants. This is really about media companies wanting to exert their control further over your electronics. They not only want to prevent you from surreptitiously recording movies and concerts, they want your new television to enforce good “manners” on your computer, and not allow it to record any programs. They want your iPod to politely refuse to copy music to a computer other than your own. They want to enforce their legislated definition of manners: to control what you do and when you do it, and to charge you repeatedly for the privilege whenever possible.
“Digital Manners Policies” is a marketing term. Let’s call this what it really is: Selective Device Jamming. It’s not polite, it’s dangerous. It won’t make anyone more secure—or more polite.
This essay originally appeared in Wired.com.
Only $166. It’s the size of a cell phone, has a 5-10 meter range, and blocks GSM 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz.
I want one.
Pity they’re illegal to use in the U.S.:
In the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries, blocking cell-phone services (as well as any other electronic transmissions) is against the law. In the United States, cell-phone jamming is covered under the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits people from “willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized” to operate. In fact, the “manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited” as well.
EDITED TO ADD (10/12): Here’s an even cheaper model. I’ve been told that Deal Extreme ships the unit with a label that says it’s a LED flashlight—with a value of HKD 45—so it will just slip through customs.
EDITED TO ADD (11/6): A video demo.
Absolutely fascinating paper: “A Platform for RFID Security and Privacy Administration.” The basic idea is that you carry a personalized device that jams the signals from all the RFID tags on your person until you authorize otherwise.
This paper presents the design, implementation, and evaluation of the RFID Guardian, the first-ever unified platform for RFID security and privacy administration. The RFID Guardian resembles an “RFID firewall”, enabling individuals to monitor and control access to their RFID tags by combining a standard-issue RFID reader with unique RFID tag emulation capabilities. Our system provides a platform for coordinated usage of RFID security mechanisms, offering fine-grained control over RFID-based auditing, key management, access control, and authentication capabilities. We have prototyped the RFID Guardian using off-the-shelf components, and our experience has shown that active mobile devices are a valuable tool for managing the security of RFID tags in a variety of applications, including protecting low-cost tags that are unable to regulate their own usage.
As Cory Doctorow points out, this is potentially a way to reap the benefits of RFID without paying the cost:
Up until now, the standard answer to privacy concerns with RFIDs is to just kill them—put your new US Passport in a microwave for a few minutes to nuke the chip. But with an RFID firewall, it might be possible to reap the benefits of RFID without the cost.
General info here. They’ve even built a prototype.
This is a clever piece of research. Turns out you can jam cell phones with SMS messages. Text messages are transmitted on the same channel that is used to set up voice calls, so if you flood the network with one, then the other can’t happen. The researchers believe that sending 165 text messages a second is enough to disrupt all the cell phones in Manhattan.
From the paper:
ABSTRACT: Cellular networks are a critical component of the economic and social infrastructures in which we live. In addition to voice services, these networks deliver alphanumeric text messages to the vast majority of wireless subscribers. To encourage the expansion of this new service, telecommunications companies offer connections between their networks and the Internet. The ramifications of such connections, however, have not been fully recognized. In this paper, we evaluate the security impact of the SMS interface on the availability of the cellular phone network. Specifically, we demonstrate the ability to deny voice service to cities the size of Washington D.C. and Manhattan with little more than a cable modem. Moreover, attacks targeting the entire United States are feasible with resources available to medium-sized zombie networks. This analysis begins with an exploration of the structure of cellular networks. We then characterize network behavior and explore a number of reconnaissance techniques aimed at effectively targeting attacks on these systems. We conclude by discussing countermeasures that mitigate or eliminate the threats introduced by these attacks.
The German government want to jam aircraft navigation equipment near nuclear power plants.
This certainly could help if terrorists want to fly an airplane into a nuclear power plant, but it feels like a movie-plot threat to me. On the other hand, this could make things significantly worse if an airplane flies near the nuclear power plant by accident. My guess is that the latter happens far more often than the former.
Here’s another example of harmful government secrecy, ostensibly implemented as security against terrorism.
How an adversary might damage a spacecraft more than 100 miles up and moving at five miles per second—eight times faster than a rifle bullet—was not specified.
Good question, though.
But unclassified military or civilian communications satellites could, in theory, be jammed. And an adversary could use the unclassified data to know when a commercial imaging satellite, possibly operating under contract to the Department of Defense, would be flying overhead.
It might even be possible, through the process of elimination, for knowledgeable amateurs to ferret out the orbit of a classified spacecraft by comparing actual observations with the list of known, unclassified satellites.
Clearly I need to write a longer essay on “movie-plot” threats, and the wisdom of spending money and effort defending against them.
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.