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

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.

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