Jul 07 2007

“KAABOOOOM”! Can You Hear Me Now?

That was the basic idea, it seems, behind the gasoline and nail filled cars parked in downtown London. If not for a lucky design flaw in the detonation system in an otherwise ingenious car bomb, the long distance triggering signal from halfway around the world would have not only detonated the bombs killing or injurying possibly hundreds of people, the long distance signal would have given the local plotters an excellent cover alibi – enabling them to stage other follow-on attacks:

TERROR suspects linked to the foiled car bomb attacks in London allegedly planned to blow up the devices from mobile phones in Australia.

Eight people, including an Indian doctor in Australia, are still being held by police for questioning in relation to last week’s two bomb attack attempts in central London and another at Glasgow Airport.
British tabloid the Daily Star today reported that during their investigations police had allegedly uncovered a plan to detonate one of the car bombs outside a London nightclub from Australia.

“They intended to blow it up by remote control – by calling mobile phones in the car,” the newspaper said.

Brings a whole new meaning to ‘reach out and touch someone’. People need to recognize what the global communications boon has brought this world. It always us to communicate from great distances in a near instant and from our own internet sites with links to knowledge and individual experience the likes of which humanity has never before experienced. But it has also brought our enemies much closer to us as well.

The reason we need programs like the Terrorist Surveillance Program at the NSA is because this fantastic technical wonder that is global communications means someone behind a computer in a small village on other other side of the planet can plan and execute a deadly attack all the way around the world – without even getting out of his pajamas. Sobering, isn’t it? There is no more “deploying to a safe distance” in this modern world. We either sit back and get hit or we go on the offensive and take them out first. There is no more neutral ground – no safe base.

18 responses so far

18 Responses to ““KAABOOOOM”! Can You Hear Me Now?”

  1. MerlinOS2 says:

    It is going to come to the point eventually that somehow unless the cellphone is used only by an external sensor to determine it is ringing or matching a “blow the bomb now” customized ring tone that manufactures will have to design into the phone anti-tamper mechanisms to disable the phone for bomb trigger usage.

    How easy that is would be for others to speculate on, it’s somewhat beyond my grasp.

  2. MerlinOS2 says:

    The only other alternative I can think of is for a requirement that all cellphones be required to respond to a government broadcast or cell provider broadcast signal to activate the ring circuit without the ring coming through to the user and doing so on a periodic basis of random timing to maybe cause a few detonations of bombs being built and thus making the cell phone trigger mechanism a bad alternative for bomb builders.

  3. AJStrata says:


    It is actually quite easy. You could put a sensor in that detects changes in voltage or amps in circuit legs and then disable it when a change is detected. Each section of a circuit has a designed in amperage or voltage (one for when on battery and one for when on charge). Any tapping into a circuit it would change the designed levels. The place to watch carefully is the ‘speaker’ which is the point you can tap into to get ‘a signal’. That would be the one point that could be tough (and the most obvious tap point).

    Good idea there mate!

  4. MerlinOS2 says:


    From my old Navy days dealing with alarm systems, I always dealt with “supervised” circuits.

    Rather than just a dumb on and off detection they had a resistor incorporated in the circuit to draw a minimal amount of current so that the detector module back at the alarm panel could tell if the wire pair going to the sensor was broken (when current would drop to zero) or shorted (which would give you a false alarm).

  5. MerlinOS2 says:

    The easiest to implement would be a tamper switch type arrangement for accessing the phone internals other than the battery compartment.

  6. crosspatch says:

    “this fantastic technical wonder that is global communications means someone behind a computer in a small village on other other side of the planet can plan and execute a deadly attack all the way around the world – without even getting out of his pajamas. Sobering, isn’t it?”

    Sure. It means that bombs could be planted years in advance behind walls in houses and apartments with cell phones on chargers that are tapped into building wiring. These explosives could be set off years later. If I were the government, I would be looking for cell phones on the network that never move and never power off.

  7. MerlinOS2 says:


    You have to remember, in Iraq car bombs are usually operated by the driver and use a lot of unexploded bombs found in quantity around Iraq.

    They have even added things like chlorine to spread the effects beyond the blast area.

    Conventional explosives are not as easy to come by in England for example, hence the need to improvise from other things like gasoline and propane which are more difficult to use for the desired effect.

    I mean it’s not like they have ready access to a lot of C4 to bury in walls.

  8. MerlinOS2 says:


    Regarding your situation about phones in walls , another filter is powered up phones that never make or receive calls.

    It would be interesting to see if phones used as triggers were old phones with a use history (unlikely since the call list could be processed for intel unless it’s a stolen phone) or new phones which have never had a use history since purchase.

  9. crosspatch says:

    “I mean it’s not like they have ready access to a lot of C4 to bury in walls.”

    Check reports of missing explosives from mining storage bunkers over the past 5 years in the US. The thing is, yeah, if you are going to make one bomb or a bunch of bombs overnight you need a lot of explosive. If you are going to build them over a long period of time as you gain access to explosives, set them in a rental apartment or house and move on and maybe not set them off for a few years, You can end up creating quite a show on X day and the people who put it there are long gone, maybe been out of the country for a year or two already.

  10. MerlinOS2 says:


    I will give you a personal example from my life.

    My wife passed almost two years ago, and I have a stepson by here who is handicapped and slightly retarded but not a dummy by any means (he would kick your butt on doing word search puzzles).

    Some times life requires me to be away from the house for hours at a time and I still want contact with him.

    I purchased a specialty cell phone designed for kids that doesn’t even have a dial pad on it. It has several push buttons on it for one touch dialing with icons above the buttons to clue him in for their purpose.

    911 is programmed in by me and several buttons are for neighbors who are nearly always home and available for assistance and one reaches my cell phone if I am away from the house.

    However this phone has a usage pattern.

    If I am away from the house for a long time, I call that number to check on him and on several occasions he picked up the phone just to call me to say hello or report something odd around the house (like a rattlesnake he saw in the back yard). The phone normally is in a charger next to his chair on a table, but he knows if he goes out to the back yard to sit out in the sun and enjoy the day, he takes the phone with him at all times along with his gameboy or whatever he choses to occupy his time where he tends to sit at one of the picnic tables in the BBQ area I have out back.

    He doesn’t know the combo to the pool gate so he can’t endanger himself there with access to the back yard.

  11. MerlinOS2 says:


    But still the cellphone idea still has someone paying the bill on the phone which may have varying degrees of traceability.

  12. crosspatch says:

    Nope, they now sell very cheap cell phones (that for some reason Muslims in the US have been buying by the truckload) that come with a certain amount of minutes, basically prepaid cell phones. There is no “bill” until the minutes are used up and if they never place a call, there it can sit there basically forever.

    What I would do is make it mandatory that cell phone manufacturers create a mechanism to either automatically power down a phone that has been constantly on for more than 30 days or build it in such a fashion that a signal can be sent from the cellular network to power the phone off and a provider that sees a phone that has never moved, never powered off, and never received a call for 30 days can then send a “power off” signal to the phone.

    A legitimate phone will be powered back on as soon as the owner notices that it is off. A phone sitting behind a piece of drywall won’t be powered back on.

  13. crosspatch says:

    Of course you can defeat the use of cell phones as triggers by simply allowing telemarketers to call cell phones (tongue only partially in cheek). Then they would get called at some uncontrolled random time. Not good for someone in the business of constructing such things.

  14. MerlinOS2 says:


    Way back in the days of the IRA bombings a bunch of us guys in the military used to brainstorm ways to improvise and trigger all sorts of make boom stuff during our boring evenings of months running racetracks in the ocean in hot spots around the world.

    I won’t expose the best ideas, but we had a high tech very capable bunch of people who came up with a lot of ways you could do a whole bunch of bad things with over the counter available stuff.

    I simply will not post them, because I don’t want to give anyone ideas of how to create bad outcomes on a budget.

    The root here is the cellphone as you suggest has to be paid for with or without a bill history and potentially can go back to a store video of the purchase or even dumber credit card or atm tracking.

    Also in the thing AJ proposes an Australian call activates a UK bomb. Well that pretty much tracks it back to an origin and you work from there.

    You have to remember how cell phones came into existence.

    The phone companies had all those phone booths for people out of the house away from a land line. They had a lot of money tied up in the booths and the phones inside and still had a lot of vandalism and theft resulting in damage to the phones.

    Phone execs finally said we have a lot of green tied up into making money off of people away from the house and material and personnel costs as overhead expense to to process the calls giving us a thin margin.

    So they chose to encourage cell phones and and let the phone booth fade into history. Even now most pay phones tend to be inside things like stores where the counter people can see the phone isn’t being vandalized with a very few outside for emergency use if the store isn’t open 24/7.

    So now the phone company doesn’t have the overhead of phone booths and you provide the security for your cell phone. So it’s not just your monthly bill they are making money on, they have also swept a loss leader high maintenance thing out the door.

    Think about the cost nationwide just to collect all that change from millions of phone booths each month.

    So back to our original thought. To remote activate the phone to go boom, you still have a traceable call to somewhere which gives you clues.

    The hardest to trace are VOIP calls somehow processed through an anonymous portal, but with enough pressure put in play even those can be forced to give up the data.

  15. crosspatch says:

    I wouldn’t worry about posting em because I figure there are a lot brighter people than I who sit around practically every day of their lives thinking of stuff like that and frankly, one could terrorize a good portion of the US for a total cost of about a hundred bucks if they really want to.

    I doubt you would ever be able to track a cell phone call back to the person that dialed it. I steal a phone or simply “borrow it” to make a call, call the bomb, toss the phone in the nearest dumpster. Whoever owned it will probably have some explaining to do but they wouldn’t be of much help.

  16. MerlinOS2 says:

    Technical wise cellphone triggers have two security weak points.

    The planter of the phone has to know the number and send it to someone.

    There has to be a list of numbers somewhere to activate the phones trigger. And eventually some way to correlate phone number to location.

    Both are subject to compromise.

  17. MerlinOS2 says:

    Even if you set off a mass 50 cellphone trigger events you have to have a lot of people making calls that are at least traceable to an origin and then even stolen phones or whatever you have a starting point and you can look at prior bad guys known to be near that location.

    If you envision thousands of calls, then you have the possibility of intervention to literally shut down the cell system to cripple call ins or the other fact that if there would be that many trigger attempts the cell phone structure would be flooded with valid calls of those checking on loved ones and you may have issues with getting your make boom call go through.

  18. crosspatch says:

    That list of numbers can be someplace in the Northwest territories of Pakistan or any other place outside the reach of US assets. My point is that it isn’t all that hard to do and if someone wants to really create havoc, they don’t even need any cell phones or explosives. All they need is a car and about $100.

    The reason there hasn’t been a terrorist attack here since 9/11 isn’t because they can’t, it’s because I think they are afraid of what would happen to them if they did.