Protecting the 4G and 5G Cellular Paging Protocols against Security and Privacy Attacks

Authors: Ankush Singla (Purdue University), Syed Rafiul Hussain (Purdue University), Omar Chowdhury (The University of Iowa), Elisa Bertino (Purdue University), Ninghui Li (Purdue University)

Volume: 2020
Issue: 1
Pages: 126–142
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2020-0008

Download PDF

Abstract: This paper focuses on protecting the cellular paging protocol — which balances between the quality-of-service and battery consumption of a device — against security and privacy attacks. Attacks against this protocol can have severe repercussions, for instance, allowing attacker to infer a victim’s location, leak a victim’s IMSI, and inject fabricated emergency alerts. To secure the protocol, we first identify the underlying design weaknesses enabling such attacks and then propose efficient and backward-compatible approaches to address these weaknesses. We also demonstrate the deployment feasibility of our enhanced paging protocol by implementing it on an open-source cellular protocol library and commodity hardware. Our evaluation demonstrates that the enhanced protocol can thwart attacks without incurring substantial overhead.

Keywords: Cellular Networks, Broadcast Authentication Paging Procedure,

Copyright in PoPETs articles are held by their authors. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.