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Engineers Hijack Libyan Phone Network For Rebels

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-see-what-you-did-there dept.

Wireless Networking 76

An anonymous reader writes "A team led by a Libyan-American telecom executive has helped rebels hijack Col. Moammar Gadhafi's cellphone network and re-establish their own communications. The new network, first plotted on an airplane napkin and assembled with the help of oil-rich Arab nations, is giving more than two million Libyans their first connections to each other and the outside world after Col. Gadhafi cut off their telephone and Internet service about a month ago."

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Gank! (1, Funny)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807576)

All Your Web Are Belong to Us.

WTG rebels!

Re:Gank! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35809048)

For being unarmed civilians (protected by NATO for Libya's oil), the rebels sure have a lot of guns.

Re:Gank! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35809090)

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Re:Gank! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811626)

It's not just NATO. The Arab League and the African Union are in on this too, so you've got better than three continents worth of humanity teaming up to curbstomp Gaddafi. I'd be terrified if he was actually winning.

First submission attempt's captcha: COLONIZE

Re:Gank! (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812860)

'Rebel' n.
Term indicating a CIA operative wearing location-appropriate clothing. Generally the clothing will cover an oversized Hawaiian shirt.

Come on guys deliver us too. (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807636)

Hope Gadaffi is merely the dry run, and the liberators would come to rescue the wretched masses suffering under the totalitarian regimes of AT&T and Verizon too.

Can you hear me now?

We need new laws! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807640)

Hackers are bad! We need to pass laws to prevent them from doing this!

Re:We need new laws! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807658)

Why, someone might transmit some data in a copyright-monopoly infringing way on such an unrestricted network! Everyone knows copyrights are more important than fundamental liberty!

Re:We need new laws! (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807754)

Think of the poor CEOs who will have to stay without their gold plated toiletseats because of your egoism.

Re:We need new laws! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807900)

Lends a whole new meaning to the phrase "Go for the gold", doesn't it?

We need to do this here... (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807724)

... and by pass the last mile thieves.

Oh, wait there are laws that prevent this.

Come on FCC get with the program.

This all sounds very nice, but... (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807646)

It really shows how brittle and easily compromised the infrastructure is. That, in my mind (what's left of it), is a 'bad thing'.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (2)

Alarash (746254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807760)

I'm fairly sure you need physical access to the infrastructure at some point in order to do this - if only to change the router's admin credential so you can't be "hacked back". In a country with an on-going revolution this is much easier to do that in a stable country where the security guards of the data center are certainly not going to let you in.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35808194)

I'm fairly sure you need physical access to the infrastructure at some point in order to do this - if only to change the router's admin credential so you can't be "hacked back". In a country with an on-going revolution this is much easier to do that in a stable country where the security guards of the data center are certainly not going to let you in.

Obviously neither of the 2 parents read the article, where it explains in detail all the high-tech hardware they needed to import in order to do this, with the help of sympathetic nations like Qatar because telecom companies won't sell this stuff to individuals. It was NOT easy, and yes, obviously physically access was needed.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812890)

Pray, tell us more about this 'article' thing. What else does it say?

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35826464)

They needed that equipment because they couldn't gain and maintain physical control of the facilities in Tripoli. Instead, they had to more or less replicate it elsewhere.

The sad part is the restrictions on sales. Apparently you have to be part of the "in" crowd in order to buy. Even more sadly, it appears that brutal dictators are "IN" but their opposition is "OUT". Thankfully, neighboring countries helped out.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (4, Informative)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807798)

They had to physically wrest control of the entire countryside surrounding the towers from a violent dictator and had to negotiate with foreign telcom providers to accomplish the takeover. I wouldn't say that infrastructure that requires both violent revolution and high tech support from outside the country is especially "brittle" or "easily compromised".

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807852)

A slightly more extreme version of social engineering, using the 'morality' angle.. What else is new? However... a system that could physically defend itself could very well be much worse :)

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807834)

Of course, one might wish to argue that, hey, you can always build your own network.

Except, of course, these corporate multinationals are, apparently, unwilling to sell the equipment to customers interested in purchasing it. Nice work, Huawei. Well done.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807968)

It really shows how brittle and easily compromised the infrastructure is.

They probably have rebel sympathizers on the inside assisting them.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (2, Insightful)

bigpat (158134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809470)

Actually, I think it was somewhat disturbing that it took a month to get this communication system back online. Even with fighting going on West of Benghazi it seems that getting the infrastructure back in place would have been a huge priority for a variety of reasons and that getting towers back online even just for local communication would have taken days not weeks. I think the delay was probably due more to organizational issues of who had the authority to award contracts in the new regime and how to coordinate restoration of services than any technical or even security reasons.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809628)

I can only think that you didn't read the article or anything about what is happening over there. You make it sound like it was politics holding this back. Awarding contracts? Seriously?

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (2)

bigpat (158134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809948)

Seriously... "What followed was a race against time to solve the technical, engineering and legal challenges..."

You might want to carefully read the article yourself. This wasn't just a matter or resetting some routers and unplugging them from Tripoli and doing this while under fire from Gaddafi's mercenaries. At least some people, especially non-Libyans, had to know they were going to get paid for all this work and equipment. They basically had to set up a provisional national telecom company after setting up a national government in just a few weeks. Yes, most were probably doing so out of a sense of patriotism, but still you have to have set up some sort of corporate structure to organize this or else all you are doing is setting up unconnected "hot spots" for local calls. Yes, I think politics probably played a big role in the time it took to get this put together. That doesn't mean corruption, it just means that to put together a large communication system serving millions of people that requires a dispersed physical presence that you are going to have to work with the government, and in this case the government is just coming together itself. And I think the "contracts" part probably applies to external agreements outside of Libya, inside Libya it is whatever form of agreements with the transitional government that they could get.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35810402)

Are you responding to me or the OP? Seems to me like you hit reply to the wrong post. It was the OP who thought that one month was too long for it to take. All your arguments go against him - not me.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813170)

Uhh... it looks as though the GP has directly responded to your previous post.

Some chicken and egg problems. (1)

Greguar (1225686) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812806)

If you're a disorganized and scattered band of protesters-turned-rebels trying to go about restoring communications infrastructure, how do you communicate to coordinate everything that's required to restore communications infrastructure?

It wasn't "get it back on line". (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813256)

Actually, I think it was somewhat disturbing that it took a month to get this communication system back online.

It wasn't a matter of "getting it back on line". Doing that would have routed all the calls through its hub which was in Gadhafi's hands.

What they were doing was reengineering the network, cutting off its original (physical!) connections and route to its original hub, obtaining and installing a replacement network operations infrastructure, cell phone database server, and links to out-of-country telecoms, hacking and installing a siezed database into the server, negotiating peering agreements, and bringing it all on line. All without any help from the (Chinese) manufacturer of the equipment, which stonewalled them.

This was NOT "plug the ethernet into a new hub".

Four weeks, of which one was sitting on their thumbs while the replacement equipment was hung up in customs? Sounds like they've got some FANTASTIC people doing the work.

I recognize them as "hackers" (in the old-school sense). They earned it big time. Hats off to 'em.

Re:This all sounds very nice, but... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35826476)

The problem is that the entire network was deliberately designed to be completely dependent on facilities in Tripoli, which is still under government control.

En passant it legitimizes cyber warfare budgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807684)

Well done. You didn't even need a war, just an "armed conflict", to set an example why the MIC needs more money to defend against cyber attacks.

I'd like that too (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807716)

Maybe i'll actually have a signal on my cell phone if someone would hack a few t-mobile antennas

Great (0)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807738)

Now that's the porn shortage fixed.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35808308)

Exactly, you can't have a revolution without spank material!

Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807740)

Just what I want in the middle of combat in a civil war ... access to my facebook page.

Those rebels need to get disciplined and kick butt, not surf the net.

Re:Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (3, Funny)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807800)

Its not like communications and the invention of the radio changed warfare and coordination forever.

Re:Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807824)

You're an idiot.

Re:Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807940)

Just what I want in the middle of combat in a civil war ... access to my facebook page.

Well, how else are you going to move your millions?

Re:Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808502)

But this makes it so much easier to send out the message "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!"

Re:Important Victory for the Rebel Alliance (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809032)

Wrong Rebels. Tunisia [wikia.com] already had theirs. Tatooine style.

Yet another "ignorant" southerner (0)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807746)

"Ousama Abushagur, a 31-year-old Libyan telecom executive raised in Huntsville, Ala., masterminded the operation from his home in Abu Dhabi."

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808094)

Did he say, "Hold my beer... hey everybody, watch this!" just before he started?

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (4, Informative)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808122)

To be fair, Huntsville has arguably the single largest concentration of engineering and technology talent between Atlanta and Houston (Alternately it could be argued that nearby Knoxville does, with ORNL right there). I should know, I live here. Among other things, the US rocketry program was born here (Werner Von Braun immigrated here, and is considered more or less the father of the modern city), NASA and MDA both have huge presences here, and we have the headquarters for much of the Army's weapons R&D. There's not many places like this in the South.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (2)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808366)

I live in Huntsville too. There are plenty of companies here that are/were innovative in computer hardware/networking/telecom separate from government business. I'd like to see more diversity in what the city does, but being in the south it carries such a stigma for the residents being stupid it is hard to attract other industries. Hence my sarcastic comment as GP to stir up discussion. BTW there is plenty of technical expertise around the South, Huntsville just shines so bright because of the government funding. Birmingham and Nashville both have strong but smaller technical businesses. TVA has scattered electrical and structural engineers all through the Tennessee Valley.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (0)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808778)

Of course there are smart people scattered all over the South. There are smart people scattered everywhere, but there are very few concentrations of smart people in the South. Places like NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Fransisco that just have huge numbers of really smart people attracted to some industry or just attracted to the concentration itself. Atlanta, Houston, Huntsville, Knoxville... I'm already stretching. It's also worth noting that of the four places I mentioned, and the two you mentioned, four of them are in or really close to TN. All except Houston are concentrated within a few hours of each other. You could drive from Atlanta to Nashville and hit every one of them without going to far out of your way in six or seven hours. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas have no centers of note at all (New Orleans, Lafayette and Lake Charles in Louisiana are extremely minor engineering centers, but they're more or less in Houston's orbit.. Vicksburg has ERDC, but it's not big enough to attract a large group of engineers). Alabama lacks any south of Birmingham (basically the lower 3/4s of the state.)

It's not that southerners are universally stupid (though it sometimes feels that way living down here), but as an Engineer/Technologist there are a pretty limited number of places that you can settle down and just have a career without wondering when you're going to have move to get your next job. There's definitely a nice tech corridor here in the Tennessee Valley, but it's the exception not the rule.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (1)

VIPERsssss (907375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809338)

The south is a cesspool of bigotry.
The women are fat and ugly. The people are rude.
There's no heavy industry and the coastline is polluted.

No one should move here^H^H^H^H there.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (1)

bostongraf (1216362) | more than 3 years ago | (#35819206)

The women are fat and ugly...There's no heavy industry .

You seem to have contradicted yourself there.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811324)

Places like NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Fransisco that just have huge numbers of really smart people

No, they hold huge numbers of people. Full stop. You can't be that bright to live in ridiculously over crowded metropolis, if nothing else due to the damage it causes from a long term environmental perspective and the raw inefficiency of a large city.

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811616)

The evidence is that cities are less (or at least no more) resource-intensive per capital than rural areas...

Besides, some of us like to be able to walk places, meet people, and aren't agricultural specialists.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Yet another "ignorant" southerner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812712)

Greenville, SC I know has GE.. not sure what else is located in that area though.

Slashdot Solution (1, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35807902)

1) Hijack Libyan phone network.
2) Restore rebel communications.
3) Route Gadhafi loyalists calls through your $5.99/min sex chat line or call forwarding service.
4) ????
5) Profit!

Re:Slashdot Solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35808264)

Sorry, but the "Slashdot Solution" to anything is to just sit on your 400-pound rear and complain.

Re:Slashdot Solution (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808532)

4) Blackmail Gadhafi loyalists by threatening to reveal their $5.99/min call to you sex chat line.

world+dog; we're not leaving until it's even (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35807944)

no guns. no rulers. no god based crusading terrorist profiteers. more advanced dna babys.

Which port do I insert my penis into? (-1, Offtopic)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808132)

It would fit RS232 but my new PC doesn't have one

Re:Which port do I insert my penis into? (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808692)

It wants your Thunderbolt.

Re:Which port do I insert my penis into? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811026)

I think for you, the 1/8" audio jack oughta do the trick.

US state propaganda - good; anything else - bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35808136)

Let some guys do the same with the american networks and everybody around them will turn up dead as they are terrorists.

Key to spread of democracy in the Middle East... (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808676)

In our quest to achieve peaceful, democratic government in the Middle East...

Sanctions have failed for 30 years.
Negotiations have failed for 80 years.
Bloody conquest has failed for over 1,000 years.

Turning off Facebook and Two Girls, One Camel has gotten it done in 8 countries in six months.

Re:Key to spread of democracy in the Middle East.. (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35811126)

To be fair, we haven't been trying to spread democracy in the middle east until W. used it as an excuse for his holy war. Our foreign policy has been mostly based on keeping a dictator we like in power and giving him as many guns, tanks, and jets that his poor country could afford with oil wealth. When they started to get a little sassy with us like Saddam or the Ayatollah did then we worked covertly and overtly to subvert their regimes.

Re:Key to spread of democracy in the Middle East.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35811748)

Uh you're aware that we never backed "the Ayatollah", right? He was the guy who replaced the brutal dictator we did like. We didn't even install that one, the UK did, though certainly with US backing.

Re:Key to spread of democracy in the Middle East.. (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813016)

I think calling it "a democracy in the middle east" is funny. Imagine this, what if we set them up as a "democracy" and they all come out and vote in a government that ours HATES! Haha...oh the irony. Frankly I don't have any problem with Imperialism as long as we iron out states rights more. The individual states need to wrestle back whatever power they can from the Feds, but that will be tricky considering the big purse strings that the feds hold.

But over all, we should be adding stars to the flag. Lets go for United States of Earth before the next century? That would make us all U.S.E. and that smacks of an invite for extraterrestrials to have their way with us. "But they call themselves USE...we couldn't resist. It was futile."

Didn't that already happen? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813306)

Imagine this, what if we set them up as a "democracy" and they all come out and vote in a government that ours HATES! Haha...oh the irony.

Didn't that already happen in Gaza with Hamas (for some value of "we")?

Re:Key to spread of democracy in the Middle East.. (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35818026)

Holy shit O_O you are a scary fucker...

Another reason for Mesh networks (1)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35808726)

Help support the open802.11s project to bring mesh wifi to linux
http://open80211s.org/ [open80211s.org]

The IEEE is in no rush to finalize the standard, and the companies are in no rush to produce products, so once again it's up to the open source community to get this started.

Re:Another reason for Mesh networks (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809270)

What's wrong with BATMAN? Serious question...

Re:Another reason for Mesh networks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35809824)

Why? To build a massive 32 nodes mesh in Lybia?

Now they're really fucked (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809078)

First they've got the most incompetent rebel army in the world, now they're going to spend all their time on the phone boasting about their magnificent "victories".

Re:Now they're really fucked (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809672)

What exactly qualifies them as "the most incompetent rebel army in the world"?

Re:Now they're really fucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35810298)

not being able to win while being backed by the most powerful naval and airforces in the world.

going home to bed in the middle of a battle.

hell, going home for LUNCH in the middle of a battle.

Re:Now they're really fucked (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35810380)

The most powerful navy and airforces in the world doesn't help if you aren't really fighting a naval or air battle. Surely the air helps but the fighting is on the ground and they are sorely under-geared for fighting Ghadafi and his sons.

It's hard to fight a rebellion when the current government couldn't care less how many civilians and innocents get killed. Contrast against Egypt where the army was almost independent of both parties.

Verizon ads in Libya. (4, Funny)

Roskolnikov (68772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35809586)

Can you fear me? How about now?

Re:Verizon ads in Libya. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35810924)

Verizon hired Charlie Sheen?

Re:Verizon ads in Libya. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35855478)

:)

Tea party baby shower food [baby-showe...ideas.info]

Eavesdropping by Kadaffi forces? (1)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35810736)

TFA says that the rebels wrested control of the infrastructure away from Kadaffi. However, I expect that Kadaffi's government has the equipment and know-how to monitor calls. Therefore, I wonder if the rebels' calls will end up being insecure.

Still, it's probably worth having some level of telecom. And they could come up with some kind of code to obscure their messages.

Re:Eavesdropping by Kadaffi forces? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35810942)

Didn't the rebels basically sever all the connections to Tripoli and set up a new master routing system with its own satellite uplink? It would be stupid if they still had fiber going into Gadaffi's territory.

On another note, being an amateur radio operator, I wondered why they didn't set up less infrastructure-intensive radio comms, but that kind of equipment is hard to get, especially military radios with any kind of encryption. Everybody has cell phones already so they didn't need to get lots of radios and train people to use them for it to be useful.

Re:Eavesdropping by Kadaffi forces? (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812284)

remember that there was also active jamming going on..

RTFA. That was much of the point. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813404)

TFA says that the rebels wrested control of the infrastructure away from Kadaffi. However, I expect that Kadaffi's government has the equipment and know-how to monitor calls. Therefore, I wonder if the rebels' calls will end up being insecure.

If you'd read it more closely you'd have seen that this was much of the point of the exercise.

The original network, physically and logically, worked through a NOC in Tripoli and under Gadaffi's control. Yes they turned it off and jammed the signals - no doubt when spying on it was less effective than cutting it off. But a big part of bringing it back up was cutting the rebel-held equipment off from the Tripoli infrastructure and replacing that core with a new one that was under rebel control.

Assuming they got it right and don't have any leaks, all the traffic is now going through a satellite uplink in rebel-held territory and doesn't travel through Gadaffi-held territory. To tap it now Gadaffi's people would have to intercept and decode the satellite link or the individual cellphone-cell links, or make their own (probably physical) crack of the wire/fiber infrastructure in rebel-held areas.

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