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Keeping a Cellphone System Going In a War 34

Posted by timothy
from the uplink-to-the-world dept.
dogsbreath writes "An Al Jazeera article provides fascinating insight about how engineers for one of the Libyan cell providers in the rebel held East have kept the system going in the middle of a civil insurrection. Administering a now-free cellular system in a war zone brings new meaning to the term BOFH as the engineers deal with bandwidth hogs and prioritize international traffic. A technical decision to keep a copy of the user database (the HLR) in Benghazi was crucial to keeping people's phones on line. There are reasons besides earthquakes and Tsunamis to keep your data backed up in geographically diverse locations. The report expands on and corrects the WSJ article covered on Slashdot before."
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Keeping a Cellphone System Going In a War

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @12:31PM (#36127346) Homepage

    All engineers take note of what they did and how they did it, it's up to us to do the same thing if something like that happens in our country.

    This is interesting (and it's better reporting than we get from most sources, thank you, Al Jezeera). Basically, modern network infrastructure is controlled by a relatively small number of technical staff. Even if a government manages to cut the major fiber optic backbones, there is enough expertise and equipment in the world to 'work around' that problem.

    Ghaddaffi (or how ever you spell it) made the mistake of allowing a small mobile provider to keep control of it's subscriber database. They used that info, along with a cobbled together satellite and land line network to patch things up well enough to essentially be a command and control system for the opposition.

    Could the US Government be more effective in a general meelee in the US itself? Perhaps. The US military has a higher degree of technical competence than Libya's but if there really was a new 'civil war' level of discontent, there would be defections left and right.

    The Internet is designed to route around damage. This is taking it to another level. May you live in interesting times, indeed.

  • Bad title (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @12:32PM (#36127352)

    The title of keeping the system running is completely inaccurate. They didn't keep it up. They preformed a network coup d'etat. It was really pretty cool. There are a couple write-ups around the internet on tech cellar type blog but I don't have any links handy.
    They basically brought a few key pieces of equipment in from outside the country, stole a few key peaces of info like subscriber database from the, at the time, shutdown system and then brought most of the towers back up linked into a new OAM system. Really, check it out, largest scale network coup d'etat I have ever read about.

  • Re:Sweet Deal! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by INT_QRK (1043164) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @01:05PM (#36127538)
    Were I in a cryptologic division of some security service, I would certainly wish to consider ensuring that the cellular infrastructure be maintained during an insurgency; especially where insurgents might be naive enough to not realize that I could thus not only sniff their voice and data traffic, but also triangulate locations, and through traffic analysis, discern their strength, force array and command structure.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near

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