Archives for the category: Cell Phones used by Terrorists
August 9, 2006
As mobile telephones proliferate in Jammu and Kashmir, security agencies in the state are concerned over the threat they could pose - including as triggers for deadly explosions, informs M&C News.
Intelligence agencies have information that terrorist groups could use mobile phones to cause improvised explosive device blasts through remote control. Such explosions, experts say, can be carried out with greater accuracy due to dual-tone multi frequency technology used in these telephones.
Mobile phones can also be used as time bombs as they have facilities for setting time.
'Apart from cell phone guns, mobile phone cameras can be used for spying by taking photos of sensitive areas and, worse, a mobile can be used for tapping conversations,' a security official pointed out. Besides, he added, "it is difficult to differentiate a mobile phone from a mobile phone pistol. With some modification, some keys on the pad can be used as triggers for firing 0.22 calibre shots'.
Intelligence officials are working on mobile phones' use for tapping conversation. 'These (mobiles) can be used for eavesdropping as well. For this, only a small change in the chip is required. It can be activated by making a call to the mobile while it is receiving a call and the conversation can be overheard,' the official revealed. They are also working on 'fool-proof anti-sabotage checks' against the misuse of mobiles.
July 16, 2006
Reports from Schneier on Security on the Mumbai train bombings suggest that the "anti-terrorist" limits on cellular networks around the trains (supposed to prevent the movie-plot threat of a terrorist phoning in a more bomb-triggers) actually served to block calls from the victims of the bombings. [via boingboing via SmartMobs].
Authorities had also severely limited the cellular network for fear it could be used to trigger more attacks.
... Some of the injured were seen frantically dialing their cell phones. The mobile phone network collapsed adding to the sense of panic.
May 21, 2006
An interesting article from Reuters, rounding up examples of how cell phone tracking has helped some intelligence officers capture militants, and how others, prefer to use satellite phones.
... "Indian intelligence officers say troops have eliminated many militants by tracking their mobile phones and tapping conservations.
After three years, there are now more than 850,000 mobile phone users in a state of 10 million people. And the spin-off for anti-insurgency operations has enthused security officials.
"So far, we have arrested or eliminated dozens of them (militants) including many senior commanders through mobile-tracking," the intelligence officer said. "It is easier to track them if they use mobile phones."
Elsewhere across some trouble spots around South Asia, mobile phone services are still seen as a bane.
In Sri Lanka, which is teetering on the brink of a return to civil war, Tamil Tiger rebels do not allow mobile phone services in areas held by them.
"We do not allow mobile telephones because of security concerns," said rebel media coordinator Daya Master. The Tigers fear they could be tracked and targeted through mobile signals. So they use satellite phones instead.
... Police in Kashmir say mobile phones have also saved the lives of hundreds of people trapped in buildings stormed by suicide attackers.
"Hostages have often communicated with the police through mobiles and managed to guide security forces to rescue them amid gunfire", said K. Rajindra Kumar, a top police officer. "This is the success story of mobile phones in anti-militancy operations," Kumar told Reuters.
October 31, 2005
New Delhi police were sifting through mobile telephone call records on Monday in their hunt for those behind the deadly blasts at New Delhi’s markets and investigating claims by a little-known Islamic militant group that it staged the carnage.
"We are going through calls originating from 18 cellular towers at the three blast sites because we believe the attacks were coordinated with the help of mobile phones," said a police joint commissioner, who did not want to be named.
October 3, 2005
Mobile phone calls from three accomplices might have triggered the explosives carried by three suicide bombers in Saturday's Bali terror attacks, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Police are scrutinising an amateur video tape of a man apparently with a backpack entering a restaurant before one of three blasts which killed as many as 26 people and wounded 122.
Police say a likely scenario was that three suicide bombers walked into the three targeted restaurants.
Three accomplices stationed nearby then called mobile phones rigged to explosives carried in by the bombers.
The calls would have instantly triggered the bombs, said Indonesian anti-terror official Major General Ansyaad Mbai, who added that the three accomplices might still be on Bali.
.. Hospital officials have said the wounded included 64 Indonesians, 20 Australians, seven South Koreans, four Americans, three Japanese, one French, and one German, with other nationalities unknown".
September 29, 2005
A few days ago, scores of people received a "breaking news" SMS on their mobiles reporting that Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the New Orleans flooding disaster and that the alleged culprit was "a suicide plumber".
Though clearly sent by a prankster, it took its recipients moments to realise that it was a sick joke with no basis in fact. The incident is significant in that it shows how people have been conditioned in recent years to believe in the omnipotence of terrorism and the long reach of terrorists. [via Al-Ahram[
August 27, 2005
More and more terrorists are using cell phones to remotely detonate bombs — and there's not much authorities can do about it. At least, not that they can say, reports Investor's Business Daily, in a very interesting and thorough article on this issue.
"Cell phones have been connected to terrorist bombings in Madrid, Bali and Israel. Many roadside bombs in Iraq are believed to be triggered by cell phones. (more examples in Cell Phones used by terrorists)
... The very factors that make cell phones so easy and affordable to use also make them easy to use as detonation devices. Radio jamming gear can prevent cell phone detonations, but cops don't have easy access to such gear or the ready authority to use it. Carriers, too, are limited in what they can do to stop cell phones from being used to detonate bombs.
It's a complex, delicate situation. Few in government or industry care to talk about it publicly.
Unfortunately, it's easy to use cell phones as detonators. Handsets are so similar, terrorists encounter the same circuitry in most any phone. Phones can easily be disassembled.
"It takes about a minute and a half using a screwdriver" to connect a cell phone to a bomb, said Howard Melamed, president of Coral Springs, Fla.-based CellAntenna. It sells gear to jam cell phone signals.
Melamed says there are two main ways to use a cell phone as a detonator. One method is to connect a bomb to the wires of the phone's ringer. The bomb can be exploded with a call to the phone.
The other way is to connect a bomb to the phone's internal alarm clock, to detonate at a preset time.
Walls concedes that design makes it easy to convert cell phones into detonators. But cell phones can't shoulder all the blame, he says. Many other electronic devices use radio airwaves and also can be made into detonators. Authorities believe garage door openers, cordless phones and toy remote controls have been used as detonators of roadside bombs in Iraq.
Electronic jammers could prevent detonations. If a bomb is known to be in an area, the jammer interferes with signals reaching the phone, hence preventing ignition.
In July, the Pentagon began issuing the third generation of its Warlock electronic jammers to soldiers in Iraq. The latest version is handheld. Other versions are vehicle-mounted or require manpower.
Israeli security's had ready access to cell phone jamming gear because of that nation's long history of terrorist attacks, but not so elsewhere.
... jammers are fine in places like Iraq where the U.S. military has full authority to stop all cell phone communications in a battle zone. But in the U.S., jamming signals knock out all communications, even those of civilians. Oelrich says few government agencies want to risk the wrath of angry consumers who can't make a cell phone call.
More than that, the fact is that jamming devices work only when a bomb is detonated through calling a cell phone. A preset explosion using the cell phone's clock can't be prevented through jamming, since no signal goes over the airwaves.
... cellular networks also can be designed to allow only outgoing calls in certain locations, such as subway tunnels. That way, terrorists couldn't call a cell phone to set off a bomb."
August 10, 2005
Cellphones provide a simple yet effective way for terrorists to remotely trigger a bomb. But now a portable device devised by US defence contractor Raytheon could quickly identify and disable such weapons, reports New Scientist.
"The device includes a transmitter that mimics a cellphone base station and a metal horn to concentrate the signal from a 10 milliwatt power source in a single direction. Scanning suspicious luggage with the tool tricks a concealed phone into thinking it is in range of a new network base station and blocks it from any genuine stations in the vicinity.
The suspect phone will also respond with a “handshake signal” containing its phone number, allowing a network operator to temporarily disconnect it from the real network, and preventing it from receiving a detonation call.
If the suspect phone turns out to be innocent, the worst that happens is that the phone needs re-connection.
Read the phone-bomb hijacking patent here (pdf).
Barry Fox has trawled the world's weird and wonderful patent applications each week, digging out the most exciting, intriguing and even terrifying new ideas. His column, Invention, is now available exclusively online in New Scientist.
August 4, 2005
Associated Press reports that the suicide bombers cooked up their explosives using mundane items like hydrogen peroxide. They stored them in a fancy commercial refrigerator that was out of place in their grimy apartment. And cell phones were probably used to set off the bombs. Investigators believe the three bombs that exploded in the subway were detonated by cell phones that had alarms set to 8:50 a.m.
"Those details from the July 7 London bombing emerged Wednesday at an unusually wide- ranging briefing given by the New York Police Department to city business leaders.
The briefing - based partly on information obtained by NYPD detectives who were dispatched to London to monitor the investigation - was part of a program designed to encourage more vigilance by private security at large hotels, Wall Street firms, storage facilities and other companies."
Picture from the BBC.
July 30, 2005
Italian investigators say police used cell phone records to track down one of the suspects in the failed suicide bombings in London on 21 July, reports the BBC.
"Osman Hussain was arrested on Friday in his brother's flat on the outskirts of the Italian capital, Rome.
He was traced using call records from two cell phone numbers, supplied to the Italians by UK police.
The suspect's constant use of cell phones betrayed his attempt to find refuge. As well as calling his brother in Rome, he talked to his father who lives in Brescia, in northern Italy."
July 17, 2005
A cell phone expert says mobile phone makers are partly responsible for turning cell phones into an ideal tool for terrorists. [via Reuters]
"Take the alarm function, says Howard Melamed of CellAntenna. He asks, "Do you really need your phone to be an alarm clock?" The alarms are also good at triggering co-ordinated explosions.
Melamed admits that if manufacturers were to produce cell phones that were completely safe, terrorists would find some other tool.
But he says, "We don't have to make it easy for them."
Related ariticles on Cell Phones used by Terrorists
July 13, 2005
It looks like shutting down cellphone service in at least two of the four NYC commuter tunnels over the past few days was the result of a “miscommunication” between the NYPD and the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), reports Engadget.
"Service to the Midtown and Battery tunnels was restored yesterday after whatever the miscommunication was got cleared up. Service remains suspended in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, which are overseen by the Port Authority of New York — they never consulted with the police in the first place, deciding to shut down service in the tunnels on their own authority amid fears for public safety following the London bombings.
Related article: - NYC shuts off cellphone service in tunnels
July 12, 2005
Service is back to normal yesterday afternoonm but NYC pulled the plug on four places underground where the wireless carriers had extended their coverage: the Holland, Lincoln, Midtown, and Battery tunnels.
Following last week's bombings in London, the MTA and Port Authority were worried about terrorists using cellphones to remotely detonate bombs in the tunnels. [via Engadget]
June 9, 2005
Iraqi insurgents have increased their use of car bombs to an average of 30 per week, a move that has changed U.S. tactics, according to the head of a Pentagon task force that deals with remotely detonated bombs, a huge jump from the one-bomb-a-week average in January 2004, according to the Marine Corps Times.
...] The insurgents continue to use wireless roadside bombs that can be exploded by using consumer electronics devices such as garage-door openers or cell phones.
[...] Improvised explosives have been used in previous wars, Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the Pentagon's Task Force on Improvised Explosive Devices said. But what's new in Iraq is that they've become a primary weapon.
[...] The Pentagon now has about 4,200 portable electronic jamming devices in Iraq and more are on the way".
May 19, 2005
Emma Rebaldi on mobuzzTV reports that according to Spanish daily El Mundo, a Spanish police officer of Siryan origin and renowned expert on islamic terrorism, is now himself under investigation. It appears he's the owner of the shop that unblocked the mobiles phones that were used as detonators in the bombings in Madrid on March 11 of last year.
May 3, 2005
From May 10, the government wants Thailand's four mobile phone operators to start registering the identity of people buying prepaid SIM cards, the so-called subscriber identity module that identifies a phone to its network. That means collecting data on close to one million people a month, reports the IHT.
"The impetus for this initiative apparently came from a series of bomb blasts in Thailand's mainly Muslim southern provinces, where security forces face an insurgency. The bombs were mostly detonated by cellphones, Thai authorities say.
Every time a bomb goes off, the government closes down local cellular networks in case the bombers have planted a second device designed to hit security forces or rescue services rushing to the scene of the first.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, says he is confident that registering SIM card holders will solve the problem of bombers using mobile phones".
April 19, 2005
Thailand has asked telecommunication agencies and mobile phone operators to register all users of prepaid services to prevent militants from using the phones to trigger bombs, reports the Khaleej Times.
"Most of more than 120 bombs detonated over the past 15 months, including a deadly blast earlier this month at the international airport in Hat Yai, southern Thailand's business hub and a tourist gateway to the region, were triggered by mobiles, the Matichon Daily newspaper reported, citing figures from its own tally and a security analyst."
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April 3, 2005
Three apparently coordinated explosions tore through the city of Hat Yai in Thailand's Muslim south Sunday, killing one person and wounding dozens of others, reports CNN.
The first blast occurred at 8:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET), when a bomb hidden inside a suitcase detonated at a check-in counter at Hat Yai International Airport, about 800 km (500 miles) south of the capital city of Bangkok, killing one person and wounding more than 20 others, four seriously, police said. The airport was immediately closed.
Within 30 minutes, two more bombs erupted in commercial centers of the tourist and business center.
All three of the bombs were activated by cell phones, police said. No immediate claims of responsibility were made, they said."
March 22, 2005
Moroccan police arrested five suspected Islamic militants near the main business hub of Casablanca, reports Reuters.
The Arabic-language daily "Al-Ittihad al-Ichtiraki" quoted a security source as saying the five were being trained to use bombs controlled by mobile phones.
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