The Rise of SMS Blasters

By Jacob Howell, Director of Corporate Strategy at LATRO

SMS Blasters cover

What is “SMS Blaster” (or “IMSI catcher”)?

Fraudsters have uncovered an ingenious new way of bypassing mobile network operators’ SMS firewalls. They are beginning to use portable IMSI catchers to broadcast illegitimate messages at an alarming rate all over the world. These devices, also known as “SMS Blasters”, are portable devices capable of delivering unsolicited messages to nearby devices, with no ability to stop them.

Mobile SMS Blaster

These devices are also able to employ several methods to force nearby handsets off their home networks, deliver these messages and then release those devices back to reconnect back to their own home networks. It happens in an instant. It happens all without subscribers’ knowledge. And what’s worse, mobile network operators (MNOs) are powerless to stop it. Since these devices and messages do not touch the operators’ networks, they have no way of detecting where these rogue devices are operating.

SMS Blasters primarily use one of two methods to deliver their messages. One method is overpowering the local cell tower signal. By default, mobile devices are configured to connect to the closest cell tower within their network to ensure the best voice and data connection to the subscriber. When an SMS Blaster is being used, the device appears as a closer cell tower, thereby causing the cell phone to connect to it.

Another method is forcing the mobile device to downgrade to a 2G/3G connection. Contained within the signaling messages that handsets use to connect to their home network are configuration parameters which identify which mobile technology should be used—2G, 3G, 4G or 5G.  SMS Blasters send within the signaling messages parameters that force mobile devices to downgrade to older, less secure network technologies which then allows them to deliver their fraudulent messages.

SMS Blaster Process Flow

While both Apple iOS and Google Android have announced updates that will allow users to prevent their devices from being downgraded to an earlier network technology it is only being made available for their flagship handset devices. It will take several years for the hundreds of millions of older devices that are already in service to eventually be upgraded to a newer OS version or replaced with a newer device.

LATRO’s Solution to SMS Blasters

LATRO has developed a patent-pending solution capable of detecting and locating SMS Blasters within a mobile network operator’s footprint. The solution looks at the signaling messages of devices registering on the operator’s network and detects if, and where, mobile devices have been in contact with an IMSI catcher. Further, our solution can locate where these rogue devices are operating so that network operators, law enforcement, and regulators can take action to catch and to stop them.

Download the FREE SMS Blaster Brochure to discover more.

Don’t Let Fraud Eat Away at Your Profits. Contact LATRO Today!

🔗 LATRO is committed to helping MNOs combat SMS Blaster fraud and protect their bottom line. Contact us today or send email to info@latro.com and learn how our solutions can help you regain control, secure your network, and ensure a healthy revenue stream.