New York mulls terrorist cell phone jamming
Not as simple as it sounds
New York Police officials are studying whether it's possible to disrupt cell phone communications among terrorists during an attack on the city following reports that gunmen in Mumbai used hand-held devices during a deadly rampage in November.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly discussed the possible tactic in Washington on Thursday during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. He said plans are still in the "discussion stage," and that any final plan would have to balance a variety of complex issues.
"Law enforcement needs to find ways to disrupt cell phones and other communications" during attacks, he said, according to The New York Times. "Our communications and technology people are looking for ways to disrupt cell phone and hand-held devices in a pinpointed way."
Among the prickly concerns officials are grappling with is the need for emergency personnel and civilians to make emergency calls during such a crisis. Law enforcement might also benefit from monitoring the communications of terrorists during an attack.
The police department's study comes two months after Islamic militants armed with automatic rifles and grenades besieged Mumbai for three days, killing 165 people and wounding 304. They used hand-held devices to coordinate attacks, order the killing of specific hostages and adjust tactics while their attack were under way.
Electronic jamming of cell phones is certainly possible, but it can usually be carried out only by blocking communications for a wide geographic area. That means the blocking of cell phone calls during an attack would also prevent large numbers of law-abiding citizens from communicating during a moment of crisis.
It would also do little to prevent the use of satellite phones. ®
... keeping comms open so that the "security" forces know what is happening is good. Mobile phone mikes can be used as eavesdropping devices, so Terry doesn't even have to be making calls! And how accurate is cellphone tracking theses days - a few yards? Basically, when the bad guys are using a device that gives you lots of information, why discourage them?
To defeat a mobile jammer
use a walkie-talkie, Satellite link, CB radio- or even a directional WiFi link- to get a signal out to a non-jammed area. Then from there have the signal stuck into a pre-placed mobile phone / Wifi connection / etc.
Alternatively, use the landline phone of the building you're holed up in. Or create a wireless link (ideally directional to prevent anyone from noticing it) to carry a signal to the next building along, a building down the street, etc.
This is actually a pretty good idea- it'll utterly screw up the plans of the most stupid (so probably most numerous) terrorists, while not screwing up the plans of the more advanced (or better prepared) terrorists.
Oh, and it doesn't stop people who work alone. Or suicide bombers. Or people who actually have a timed, properly rehearsed plan and stick to it. Or people who are holed up together. Or people who hijack planes and fly them into New York. Or people who release a biological agent / dirty bomb in a subway then walk away.
You know what, it's not that good an idea. It won't stop anyone except people too thick to spell Terrorist.
It appears that NYC may have been reading about the (planned, sued and not carried out) cell-phone jamming demo at a prison last week and gotten the idea that if everyone else could be prevented from talking to each other, the police would enjoy a tactical advantage. However, their plans do not stop at cellular telephones, 2G, 3G or Nth generation; they envision jamming Media feeds so damage assessment isn't available to attackers, and other radio communications that might be used by or exploited by terrorists.
In the United States that encompasses an astounding array of technologies. Let us start with 3-transistor toy walkie-talkies, CB radios, Family Radio Service, (and the higher power GMRS usually included and illegally used by FRS-buying public), MURS -- a limited channel low VHF service needing no license -- licensed business VHF and UHF, 900 MHz unlicensed Part 15, which includes cordless telephones, 900 MHz exempt (this is a cool radio, frequency hopping and practically indetectible by all but The Black Helicopters). Then add WiFi and its relatives, and 5.8 GHz NII and UWB gadgets. Ham radio too, which at up to 1500 Watts allowed power might be a harder job, though presumably we are considered loyal. (A long superseded US Army manual once listed an increase in Amateur Radio activity as an indication of upcoming guerrilla action.)
I suspect that technology has advanced beyond any agency's ability to shut down all commmunications. In any case, -- and this is why the prison demo was canceled – it's unlawful in the USA for anyone to make, import, market or sell jammers for communications regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
During WW2, when information was needed on what German forces in France were up to, USAF P47's were called in to shoot up telephone wires and force the Jerries onto the wireless. That may be further then the NYPD is willing to go.
Or is "Speed Limit enforced By Aircraft!" for real?