Securing Cellular Access Networks against Fraud

Lukeman, Chris (2009). Securing Cellular Access Networks against Fraud. Student dissertation for The Open University module M801 MSc in Software Development Research Dissertation.

Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000160ad

Abstract

Despite improvements made in cellular security since first generation analogue networks, there still remain a number of weaknesses in UMTS networks. This is made more critical because the UMTS AKA is to be used in fourth generation LTE networks. At the current time there are no known attacks against UMTS networks, but new techniques are being developed all the time by hackers and computer processors are becoming more powerful, which means this may not always remain. As mobile applications move in to high value areas such mobile commerce and mobile banking these networks will become more attractive to criminals. Through research a number of weaknesses have been highlighted in UMTS authentication. A number of research projects have been initiated, but to date, these have not been satisfactory for use in a live network. This has been mainly due to lack of compatibility with GSM. The protocol developed introduced two new ideas to cellular authentication. The first is the use of two-factor authentication using a chip and PIN solution. The second involves a novel way of achieving mutual authentication by using a secret authentication code A simulation of the protocol was produced using the client / server architecture of Java. A series of controlled experiments were then run testing all known threats against cellular networks including the highlighted weaknesses. The protocol successfully dealt with all threats and in not altering the area of UMTS AKA associated with interworking, ensured compatibility with GSM. Although successful in the tests conducted, the experiments would need re-running using a dedicated network software tool such as OPNET and an external security assessment by an external party to verify the claims

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