Apple has filed for a patent (number 20200162925) for “fake base station detection.” A fake base station (FBS) attack is a great security challenge to wireless user equipment (UE). It can compromise the privacy of user equipment (UE) in LTE networks.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that the security and privacy of a user of a wireless device may be attacked by a malicious party. One class of attacks is based on the malicious party placing a piece of radio equipment out in the public where a legitimate mobile network operator (MNO) is providing services. The equipment placed or in the control of the malicious party transmits signals which appear to be legitimate base station signals.
Such a piece of radio equipment is referred to as a fake base station. A wireless device may place some trust in the signals from the fake base station and proceed to attempt to establish or maintain communications using the fake base station. The fake base station may send a sham message to the wireless device.
Serious problems can occur if a user of the wireless device mistakenly understands the sham message as being a genuine message routed via a legitimate MNO. A user may also be referred to as a subscriber herein. Apple wants to protect the users of its devices from such issues.
Here’s the summary of the patent filing: “A mobile device collects received information and processes it. In some instances, the mobile device detects, based on the collected information, that a base station is likely not legitimate, i.e., it is likely a fake base station, and the mobile device bars communication with the base station for a time.
“In some embodiments, the mobile device determines, based on the received information, that the base station is a genuine base station. When the mobile device determines that the base station is a genuine base station or the mobile device does not determine that it is likely the base station is a fake base station, the mobile device allows or continues communication with the base station.”