Feeds

Afghan networks start nightly shutdown

Taliban threats turn into action

High performance access to file storage

Mobile phone companies in Afghanistan have started shutting down their networks at night in response to attacks from the Taliban, who believe the masts are being used to locate their bases and guide night-time attacks.

The BBC reports that ten mobile-phone masts have been attacked in the last few weeks - other reports vary, but it does seem that all four operators in the country have suffered damage to their networks.

Mobile telephony has grown spectacularly in Afghanistan since the first GSM licence was awarded in 2002. The two largest operators (Roshan and AWCC - The Afghan Wireless Communication Company) have around three million subscribers between them, and the market is growing rapidly as for much of the population mobile telephony is the only available telephony.

The Taliban had threatened to disrupt the network infrastructure if the operators didn't agree to shut down during the night, as they believe that coalition forces are using the networks to coordinate night-time attacks. But given that turning off the handset* would prevent such tracking, it seems likely they have an alternative motivation.

It has been suggested that this is a show of power, demonstrating to the people that the government (or even the coalition) is not in control and that the Taliban still wield the real power. If that is the intention then it seems to have backfired; the local population have been quick to embrace the convenience of mobile telecommunications and anyone interfering with that is unlikely to endear themselves.

The other possibility is that the Taliban believes the network towers are being used in some more nefarious fashion, in addition to their usual function as mobile phone masts - though in that case it's hard to understand why they would want the mobile phone network shut down.

The Afghan government has been trying to get mobile operators to stand up to the Taliban, and a spokesman for the telecommunications ministry told the BBC "We will persuade the companies to turn the signals back on again," he said", though he also admitted that "the mobile phone companies had promised us that they would not bow before the Taliban demand".

Mobile phone antennae are very soft targets for terrorists - easy to attack, impossible to conceal. In most developing markets antennae are clearly marked as they lend value to local properties, and the most serious problems are theft of copper and generator fuel, so protecting the network against attack may not be practical.

Preventing people making phone calls at night might annoy the soldiers in the area, but is unlikely to seriously disrupt military communications, and it could really piss off a local population on whose good favour the Taliban survives. ®

* Or removing the battery, if one prefers, or wrapping it in tinfoil.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
Beat it, freetards! Dyn to shut down no-cost dynamic DNS next month
... but don't worry, charter members, you're still in 'for life'
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.