You Can't Jam The Terrorist's Phones Without Jamming Everybody Else's

from the all-or-nothing dept

Police officials in New York City are investigating how to jam terrorists' cell phones during attacks, following the Mumbai attacks a few months ago when terrorists coordinated their activities via phone. While disrupting criminals' and terrorists' communications could be a useful tool in security forces' arsenal, it's also worth mentioning that technologies like phone jammers can't really work selectively; that is, they can't pick out particular devices, they simply jam everything in a particular area. While this would crudely accomplish the goal of jamming terrorists' phone calls, it would also preclude any other calls, including those of civilians and authorities. Fortunately, this concept isn't lost on NYC police, who say that not blocking calls, and being able to monitor them instead, could be more useful. But even then, it's not clear how authorities could pinpoint terrorists' phones to monitor their conversations without trolling through all the calls being made in an area. At this point, blocking all cell calls during a terrorist attack or large-scale emergency seems like overkill that could be more harmful than helpful.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 8:45pm

    "You Can't Jam The Terrorist's Phones Without Jamming Everybody Else's"
    So let me get this straight, there's only one terrorist. But he has a bitchload of phones?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 9:12pm

    Why again are the terrorists stealing phones?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    If it is to protect us from them, then so be it. Geeez, whats the big deal, not like emergency services don't have other means of communicating.

    Jam away!

     

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  4.  
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    Nick (profile), Jan 12th, 2009 @ 9:49pm

    Maybe they have been watching too many spy movies.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 10:05pm

    There was a music video about this a while back.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxfE3jCZ8Gw

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 10:05pm

    I know - just quit worrying about it. It's like buying and alarm for your car or house. there's always a way around it.

     

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  7.  
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    R3v0l, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 10:16pm

    It seems like you have missed the point! That is so sad.

     

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  8.  
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    Kilgore Trout, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 10:45pm

    I for one am shocked

    "Fortunately, this concept isn't lost on NYC police, who say that not blocking calls, and being able to monitor them instead, could be more useful."

    Say it ain't so...authorities saying it's just "simpler" to listen in.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Yosi, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 10:58pm

    When you have no idea about subject

    You've better to shut up. Yes, you block terrorist's phones without affecting police communications.
    The reason is that police (and 3-letter agencies) uses for communication other parts of spectrum and protocols designed to work in such conditions (EWF in effect).
    Most recent example:
    During assault on Gaza, IDF successfully jammed all communications without affecting ability of forces to talk each to other.

     

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  10.  
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    Dan, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 11:46pm

    This would be the same group that annihilates random bachelor parties and assaults nude cyclists? You don't give children guns or cops RF jamming gear, they might hurt someone or use it for a stupid drunken prank.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymouse, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 11:53pm

    Of course it's possible

    This is old game. Scan the area and identify the target phones. Electronically lone them. Block them. Selective jamming. Takes
    very little time and old cheap equipment. Geez, and I'm not even a techie. That's what the mercinary military freaks in San Diego run on civilians when they have nothing better to do, which is fairly often.

     

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  12.  
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    Chunky Vomit, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 11:58pm

    Doesn't anybody watch 24? Law enforcement, military, they all use cell phones too!

    I do think that if NYC jammed cell phones during a terrorist attack, that it would be a poor idea and only punish the innocent. If the terrorists know that the network is likely to be jammed, they'll find another way to communicate.

    So this really leaves the innocent to be punished.

     

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  13.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:08am

    Re: When you have no idea about subject

    Yosi spat:

    Yes, you block terrorist's phones without affecting police communications. The reason is that police (and 3-letter agencies) uses for communication other parts of spectrum and protocols designed to work in such conditions (EWF in effect).

    Of course! And the crims and terrorists aren't going to use those special police bands because doing so would be breaking the law, right?

     

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  14.  
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    Yosi, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:19am

    Re: Re: When you have no idea about subject

    Crims and terrorists would not be using special bands (and protocol set). That's not about breaking the law (they're already bad guys), that's about available equipment.
    You can't just take you 900Mhz cell phone and adjust it's carrier frequency. You can't replace GSM with custom-designed protocol stack. Not that simple.
    You can't take off-the-shelf phone and add EWF-resistant technology there. It doesn't work this way.

     

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  15.  
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    Yosi, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:21am

    Re:

    You seems to be under impression that terrorists have unlimited budget. And they can buy any advanced communication equipment you can think of.

    They are not. And usually they don't have on-the-field engineer to diagnose the problem and tweak equipment right way.

    EWF is viable and proven. Been used and _will_ be used.

     

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  16.  
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    Doc Brown, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:39am

    Back to the Future!

    A well-tuned GSM tower can reach up to 4 miles away, additionally, a well-tuned CDMA up to 10 miles away.

    So, how many cell towers across all networks, do you suppose are in a highly populated city like NYC?

    When working with wireless, and you start jamming a frequency, the network will try to find another timeslot, frequency or a closer basestation based on error-control. Jamming is unrealistic. The chances of one timeslot or one CDMA packet getting back to the network is very high. If NYC wants to pursue this, it's easier to just ask the cellco to turn off the network. (LOL!)

    Your exercise in Military theater may have worked, but there's too many recievers that need to be blocked in the likes of NYC. The jammer would probably have to be 1.21 gigawatts, and need a nuclear reaction to generate the electricity.

    You ruined my Spacejam movie.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:51am

    PS

    That should have read "CLONE THEM." That's a simple procedure for those with even small criminal talents.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:55am

    Re: Re:

    Sorry but you are quite incorrect. In fact, US criminals have
    engineering back up that would make a fortune 500 company envious. Yes they do have in-the-field engineers and they are often former special forces from industrial countries working as mercs. Met then, saw that.

    They just don't buy the equipment, they "get it" from military and defense contractor sources and/or they build it.

    Terrorists, they're not just for breakfast anymore.

    Get with the program, or perish.

     

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  19.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 1:46am

    Re: When you have no idea about subject

    Yosi sputtered:

    Crims and terrorists would not be using special bands (and protocol set). That's not about breaking the law (they're already bad guys), that's about available equipment.

    Yeah, of course you can't get stuff that's only available to Law Enforcement. Just like you can't get hold of guns, or bombs, or radioactive materials, or anthrax cultures, or toxic chemicals, or any of the other stuff that the criminals and terrorists aren't supposed to have.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Yosi, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re: When you have no idea about subject

    That's depends how expensive and complicated/advanced the "stuff" is. Our nearby terrorists would _love_ to have radioactive materials, toxic chemicals, better explosives, precise missiles, EWF-immune remote detonators etc etc.
    But - dreams and reality never meet. They still have lousy radios, crappy explosives, home-made rockets and failing detonators; while "good guys" have air-force, satellite backed intelligence and hi-tech communications.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Yosi, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 2:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They _build_ it? Are you suffering from reality-distortion field? They _build_ satellite communication systems?
    You must have really advanced criminals.

     

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  22.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:27am

    Re: Re: Re: When you have no idea about subject

    So, you're saying that no terrorist could, for example, lure a police officer to a secluded spot, kill him and then use his equipment? Or rob a police supplier? Or simply create a device that works well enough to receive and transmit in the same way as the "better" police device?

    The reasons why "cheap, crappy, lousy" equipment tends to be used in these kinds of attacks are because they work, they're easy to get hold of legally and are hard to trace. If they got hold of the state-of-the-art equipment, they'd be more visible before the attack.

    But if you force their hand by, for example, blocking everything but police devices in certain circumstances, they'll find a way to obtain them. Then, you're back to square one - if the police and terrorists have same equipment, you can't block one without blocking the other and they're hard to trace individually.

    Meanwhile, you've sacrificed yet another of your freedoms for temporary feelings of security - you've just handed the police the right to block any civilian communications in the name of stopping "terrorism". You might find that power getting abused every so often...

     

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  23.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are aware that it's possible to build and/or obtain equipment that accesses *existing* satellites, right?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:55am

    Was this article written 10 years ago? Authorities have been able to jam cell phones for years.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Re:

    Doesn't anybody watch 24? Law enforcement, military, they all use cell phones too!

    TV is real! :0

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    They do it in Japan

    Block all non-emergency wireless communications in the event of a major disaster, I mean. I believe part of the justification is to keep the local network (or what's left of it after the disaster) from being overloaded. I'm not sure what the mechanism is.

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:43am

    Re:

    "Was this article written 10 years ago? Authorities have been able to jam cell phones for years."

    I think you missed the point. The question isn't whether they can block cellphones - of course they can. The question is whether it's possible to block phones being used by criminals or in a particular area, without taking out every phone within a large radius of the intended target.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    bshock, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:14am

    grasping at straws

    The thugs who always manage to seize power never really understand what they're doing, it seems. Should they decide to jam cellphone communications or shut down cellphones entirely during terrorist events, then a mildly clever terrorist (or criminal, or a bored teenager) can fake a threat, and destroy communication within a certain area. Considering how so many people depend on their phones, isn't that a level of terror in itself?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Paul, yes, they can, they can take out cell phones without taking out the communication devises that they don't want to take out.

    Where does that leave the average citizen? Without cell phone use of course.

    Don't you people read the papers? Of course during a disaster they just let the regular system fail (they don't need to block it, call volume just takes it down) while emergency communications go through.

    Can the system be hacked? Sure. Is it immune from terrorists? No, but it is what you can do. Just because a system isn't perfect doesn't mean that you don't do it.

    People exercise and watch what they eat, doesn't guarantee that they will live longer but it still makes sense to do it.

     

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  30.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    "Where does that leave the average citizen? Without cell phone use of course."

    That's the entire point of the articles, laughing boy... Did you read them at all?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Re: When you have no idea about subject

    but it does block the ability of say, people trapped in rubble after a terrorist attack to call 911 with their location and other useful uses.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, they build much of their equipment such as that which is RF related. As a matter of fact, they take electronics a step further for use in the civilian sector by miniaturizing equipment over time. Google "Covert Canyon" and see what was going on within a residential area in San Diego for two years or more.
    That was a private mercenary military project, not even classifed
    as a criminal one. However, they had no governmental oversight
    or permission. Many of the participants are former special forces from the UK and US but they take ex mil from many locations. Their backgrounds, when brought together for unrestricted merc purposes and are combined with state of the art tech support from current mil and private defense contractors is extreme.
    And YES, they can get time on sats. Yes. Digest that reality for a while. It's done via cell phone code and emergency band frequencies and access to terminals/pedestals in the civilian sector. Have seen it done more than once. Have known some of the freaks because they like to brag in the
    watering holes where they join up and because they also demonstrate what they can do because they are a-holes.

    I consider them domestic terrorists but the govt considers them guys just keeping ready to be hired to do the black ops/illegal/dirty jobs the govt hires them for.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, they build much of their equipment such as that which is RF related. As a matter of fact, they take electronics a step further for use in the civilian sector by miniaturizing equipment over time. Google "Covert Canyon" and see what was going on within a residential area in San Diego for two years or more.
    That was a private mercenary military project, not even classifed
    as a criminal one. However, they had no governmental oversight
    or permission. Many of the participants are former special forces from the UK and US but they take ex mil from many locations. Their backgrounds, when brought together for unrestricted merc purposes and are combined with state of the art tech support from current mil and private defense contractors is extreme.
    And YES, they can get time on sats. Yes. Digest that reality for a while. It's done via cell phone code and emergency band frequencies and access to terminals/pedestals in the civilian sector. Have seen it done more than once. Have known some of the freaks because they like to brag in the
    watering holes where they join up and because they also demonstrate what they can do because they are a-holes.

    I consider them domestic terrorists but the govt considers them guys just keeping ready to be hired to do the black ops/illegal/dirty jobs the govt hires them for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: When you have no idea about subject

    There would be no need to kill anyone in law enforcement to use their equipment. There are dirty cops who have a career out of working in tandem with domestic criminals. As a matter of fact, law enforcement, like other branches of military, cultivate an on going relationship with well trained formed military/present mercs/criminals and have the freaks do their dirty work for then. In return, the freaks get protection from the cops and continue their subculture lifestyle of a form of organized crime that is hi tech. This is reality. I've documented it for over a decade, as have others around the world. Articles and books are written about this
    but are dismissed as fiction or delusions. As I said before,
    wake up or perish.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    The reality is that when a true terrorist attack is underway,
    that is the priority and the only priority at that point in time.
    Homeland security and all within them (cops, fire, etc) are on
    a different Gig band communications channel than the civilian/consumer sector. They have different equipment and different safeguards. They also have different transponders which would likely reveal terrorists' locations due to the small relative number of them compared with the civilian sector. There are also smaller covert/higher classified groups within Homeland Security to function on different bands than the rest of the organization if their main system goes down or needs to be quieted for a while. The US govt has it all, except wisdom for how to go about dealing with domestic terrorism. They're too busy doing it themselves and calling it the Patriot Act to learn anything which would actually help the civilians. It's now all about protecting the govt. If you are a govt employee you're safe, and if you're a civilian, you're toast no matter what happens. That's the way it is.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Ummm, you don't think they leave it on forever do you? They can turn it off once the need is gone.

    Oh, and you get cell service buried under rubble? Hell, by that time, everyone and their brother will be yakking away on the phones and the cell towers will go down naturally anyway.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse2, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/01/open-wi-fi-is-f.html

    Article on Wired.com stating how terrorists are using unsecured wireless net connections to plot and carry out their work. So, cell phone jamming wouldn't do much in light of the fact that - surprise! - terrorists also know how to use the Internet.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 2:39pm

    Wouldn't that prevent people from calling 911 and getting help? Seems kind of harmful from my point of view

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    high plains drifter, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 8:45am

    muslims calling my new net 10 phone

    recently purchased a cheap net 10 phone.only given the # out to 1 friend.i am recieving muslim men calling my # i am an ex- marine with an honorable discharge.i have no idea what they are saying or what they want.net 10 is no help with this at all.i made a complaint with the fcc,to protect myself.muslims calling an ex-marine does not look very good for me, if someone is listening in.i almost died 5 times fighting muslims to protect this country.everywhere i look is a somaliam or a muslim.this is what i fought for huh?i could be arrested just by answering my phone,if the wrong person calls my #.phone will be destroyed asap.as i am a little scared of all of this.iam scared of being arrested for using my cell phone though.protect yourself like i am doing.do not buy these phones as you are leaving you butt hanging in the wind.now i have to fight the muslims in by own country.all over 1 cell phone.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Wang, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 4:42pm

    SCANDALS! SCANDALS! SCANDALS!

    SOME OF THE WORST CASES OF RACIAL PREJUDICE IN WORLD HISTORY!

    The American people are thrilled to have their first African-American president!

    Speaking of Barack Obama—Barack Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

    And Michelle Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

    WORLDWIDE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION RELATING TO SCANDALS:

    (I) I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed atrocious, racist, hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention. Many people know what Bush did. And many people will know what Bush did—even until the end of the world. Bush was absolute evil. Bush is now like a fugitive from justice. Bush is a psychological prisoner. Bush often worries. In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

    (II) It is opined that Bill Clinton committed terrifying, racist, hate crimes during his presidency, and I am not free to say anything further about it. ‘Be sure your sins will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23).

    (III) What if basically all racial-minority people would subscribe to the interpretations that George Herbert Walker Bush committed monstrous, racist, hate crimes while he was the President of the United States? It will eventually come out: it is only a matter of time.

    (IV) I know it may be hard to believe. However, Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Wang, J.D. Candidate
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (There are thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the contents of (I), (II), (III), and (IV). For example, one can go to Google right now, type “George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism,” hit “Enter,” and readily find 1,000 or more copies indicating content of (I). For example, one can go to Msn right now (13 April 2009), type “It is opined that Bill Clinton committed racist hate crimes, and I am not free to say anything further about it,” hit “Enter,” and readily find more than 460 copies indicating content of (II). For example, one can go to Msn right now, type “George Herbert Walker Bush committed monstrous, racist, hate crimes,” hit “Enter,” and readily find more than 200 copies indicating content of (III). For example, one can go to Msn right now, type “Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency,” hit “Enter,” and readily find more than 170 copies indicating content of (IV). The contents of (I), (II), (III), and (IV) exist extensively in all major search engines. And there are thousands of copies in very many countries around the world. For example, there are countless copies on the Internet in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, etc.)

    “BAD NEWS FROM THE UNITED STATES: ON THE RACIST HATE CRIMES AND ETERNAL INFAMIES OF GEORGE W. BUSH, BILL CLINTON, GEORGE H.W. BUSH, AND RONALD REAGAN” BLOG OF ANDREW WANG
    _______________
    ‘If only there could be a Ban against invention that bottled up memory like scent & it never faded & it never got stale.’ Off the top of my head, it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Sean, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 6:24pm

    Oh geez

    Are you guys serious? I thought it was a joke. The only freak at the watering hole is you.
    S

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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