But they would have to be experts in GSM signalling. And those experts tend to have better things to do. Also, a laptop and a antenna would not suffice, software-defined radio would be required and currently there is no SDR design on market with sufficient performance.
If the unwashed masses suddenly gain access to such capabilities effortlessly then it would be a concern. Presently it is not, because smart phones have GSM subsystems carefully separated and ‘dumb’ phones have certain limitations built in. Behaving graciously is assumed a mobile station's role in the GSM system.
Recall the Nokia 1100 rumor eariler this year where underground allegedly gained acces to frimware memory map of certain series of this phone and its price skyrocketed on second hand market.
It can't be a tower, at most a sort of bridge and barely at that. Harald Welte's OpenBSC is more advanced http://bs11-abis.gnumonks.org/trac/. It is built on Siemends industrial design and not USRP as the BTS.
It doesn't surprise me that OpenBSC is more advanced given that my understanding is that the Siemens hardware does a lot of the hard work. OpenBTS is more impressive (and more customizable for evil) since it has to do everything in software.
Cell phone tower infrastructure has always been a walled garden, with the presumption that the carriers will always control the software and hardware used to communicate with the network. This might arguably have been a valid assumption when the cell system was engineered. It is certainly not a valid assumption now.
Jailbreaking is a fact of life. What are they going to do? Make it illegal? Let's assume they do. Does that make the network more secure? Did outlawing SPAM decrease the amount of SPAM? Did criminalizing cyber-attacks even decrease the number of said attacks?
To beg a legal remedy to circumvent the threat of cellular attacks in itself means that Apple, or rather AT&T (who is, of course, behind this claim), has a security methodology that is utterly broken, and absolutely begging to be exploited.
They might as well have hung a sign on the towers which said, "Hack Me. I'm Easy".
The idea that anyone would take Apple's argument seriously illustrates the growing gap between people who understand what computers are and people who don't.
It's easy for us to say "well, obviously that makes no sense, because you could do the same thing with an Android phone or a laptop" because we understand a computer to be a universal machine, but the people making the law usually understand computers as no more than a glorified wrench or hammer, capable of doing some particular subset of Useful Things.
There has ALWAYS been a "gap between people who understand what computers are and people who don't"; the growing problem is people who THINK they understand computers because they use them, but don't really have a clue beyond what to button to click to get their email.
a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data
Far be it for me to comment (as I have no experience in the software) but does that not seem like something of a MAJOR flaw in the tower software?
Yes and no. When the software was written for these towers, they weren't taking into account phones such as the iphone. Compared with the phones available just a few years ago, the iphone is a relative supercomputer. So I'd say if anything, its more of a lack of foresight rather than a flaw. Who, save for Steve Jobs, saw the iphone coming a few years ago with the force that is has.
It hasn't to do with the kind of phone and if it has more power or not. Years back I saw a quite detailed document on how to modify certain areas of memory in low-end Siemens phone so it would agree too cooperate on exhausting timeslices form unsuspecting BTS. BTS's trust mobile stations by design.