back to article Free Libyana: Gadaffi networkjacker speaks!

Ousama Abushagur stole a mobile phone network from Colonel Gadaffi's son, and has told El Reg how it was done and what the future holds for Free Libyana. The Wall Street Journal covered the launch of Free Libyana yesterday, how the Libyana network was subverted and hijacked to serve the country without reference to Tripoli. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't need a title.

    I'm amazed that El Reg is carrying an article which feels very much to me to be celebrating a crime. He stole someone elses network infrastructure and that's OK is it ? I take it you'll assume the same position when some twat comes along and steal your infrastructure ?

    1. koncordski

      not really a crime given the bigger picture.

      I would say restoring communications access that's free to everyone (civilian and authorities) at a time of civil war was pretty admirable. Stop being such a miserable jobsworth.

    2. Fluffykins Silver badge

      RE: Some twat HAS stolen my infrastructure!


      Found it.

    3. Ian 62
      Big Brother

      Celebrating a Crime

      I believe the fact that a number of Lybians are driving around in pickup trucks with heavy weapons bolted to the flatbed could be considered a crime by the 'Lybian Government'.

      But thats exactly the reason isn't it?

      Or are you suggesting that an armed uprising against a Government is ok. So long as you do it without impact on commercial companies?

    4. Chad H.

      Interesting Moral question Dave

      I guess the other part of the question is "Is it okay to steal from a theif"

      The victim company has Gaddaffi pawprints all over it. The network wouldnt exist except for business practices that are unnaceptable here in the west and is probably build on funds misapropriated from the libyan people in the first place.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: You don't need a title.

      "I'm amazed that El Reg is carrying an article which feels very much to me to be celebrating a crime."

      If you take back what is yours from a thief, does that make you a thief, too?

      Although we can all pace up and down pondering the "moral conundrum" - a luxury we have in places without civil war or oppressive dictatorships - I get the feeling that you're just miffed that some business (owned by the "governing family" of Libya, by the way) has had its toys taken away from it.

      I suppose your portfolio been affected by the asset write-downs, or whatever, and you'll be supporting the fund manager's robot-like pursuit of alternative unethical investments to bolster the bottom line in the coming quarter.

    6. mhenriday
      Big Brother

      Alas, Dave, there's nothing surprising

      about the Reg or a Reg blogger celebrating a crime - as long as it is performed by one of the official «good guys». Compare the manner in which Reg blogs deal with Wikileaks and Julian Assange on the one hand, and with the current version of «War is Peace» while the US and lackeys like the UK and France bomb Libya under the guise of «protecting» the civilian population (which, of course, «our» kindly bombs, don't kill or maim) on the other. Crowley, for example, who hotly desires to see you mugged and beaten while he stands idly by, gloating, might want to consider a situation in which he himself was «protected» by being bombed. But then again, the Bell curve of empathy, like that of other qualities, tends to be skewed according to our political preferences and what we read/see/hear in the media. So can it go !...


  2. Anonymous Coward


    I'd buy them a pint, or culturally acceptable alternative.

    1. Piloti
      Thumb Up

      I worked in Libya for two years.....

      .... and I'm pretty sure a lot of them would welcome a pint.

      And often with a whisky chaser.


    2. Steve Evans

      Great hack...

      From a technical point of view it's a great hack.

      From a political/legal point of view, ummm, I'm not going to even go there!

      So I shall raise a pint to their technical abilities, and audacity.

  3. mamsey


    we live in a country where the media and the public are tolerated by its government and can make comments such as yours to an article such a s this one without fear of government intervention, unlike the unlucky people of Libya.

  4. moosefudge


    I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I don't see your point.

    Just because it's a crime, doesn't mean it's bad. 'Amazed'? Have you missed the Wikipedia articles?

    I'm pretty sure some of the actions of the rebels/revolutionaries were criminal in Libyan law.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You still don't need a title.

      Sorry I've been too busy reading mainstream media articles, where our faithful free press have been fully supporting the government of the days illegal war. Reading all the articles where our glorious political overlords have been telling the world that the Libyan people should chose whomever they want to rule their country, just so long as it's not anyone with the name Gadaffi... cause if you chose him, we'll keep bombing you until you submit.

      1. Chad H.


        The Rebels also don't want Gaddafi... Does anyone with a surname thats not gaddafi want him?

      2. crowley

        Illegal war?

        "Protection of civilians...4. Authorizes Member take all necessary measures"

        That'll be to disarm/disuade/destroy those massacring the people then.

        Could you point out where they've exceeded that mandate?


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Title... Bah!

          Try this one, it's a bit older, in line with the UN charter, and has the full support of the entire assembly.

          In that you'll note that your country reaffirmed it's commitment to the non interferance clause of the UN Charter to not interfere in anyway whatsoever in the internal affairs of a member state.

          That makes UNSC 1973 illegal.

          1. Blitterbug


            Are you going to come clean, Mr D? What exactly IS your interest in the Gaddafi regime that has you spouting these amazing comments (bearing in mind I backed Charles Kennedy when he protested the Iraq invasion, a *patently* illegal action)?

          2. Marcus Aurelius

            One resolution cannot make another illegal

            Its a general rule that parliaments (or their equivalents) cannot bind their successors, so the rulings of one assembly cannot prevent the assembly changing their minds and passing a resolution which does or may appear to contradict a previous one.

      3. usbac

        @Dave Dowell

        Since you have so much sympathy for Gadaffi, maybe you should go volunteer to be a human shield?

        I'm sure many of us commenters here would chip-in for the plane ticket...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          All donations gratefully received.

          Anyone making assumptions that are as stupid as the one you've made is obviously not clever enough to be left in charge of money, so please feel free to send it all to me.

  5. SteelPriest

    bloody hell

    How can you protest at this? This will save lives by allowing coordination between the rebels and those policing the no fly zone!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You still don't need a title.

      Ah! You mean it'll make it easier for the western airforces to murder Libyan soldiers, in the airwar that is being waged by western nations to support of the rebel forces... and that somehow makes it OK.

      TBH I'm a bit surprised the rest of the world hasn't stood up and demanded that Britain and France ceed their seats on the security council, given that their sponsored resolution is in direct contravention of the UN Charter, and therefore in breach of international law.

      But lets not let small details like international law stand for fuck all, I mean who gives a fuck, as long as only Libyans who we designate as being 'baddies' are dying.

      1. Chad H.


        Really Dave?

        You really want to argue Gaddafi has the moral High ground on International law?


        Targeting of Civilians?

        as for International law... Chap VII, Article 42:

        "Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations."

        Its legal, get over it. Its time for the libyan people, not the Gaddafi family, to have their way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ummm international... where?

          So Chad... now you can explain to us which bit of the Libyan Armed forces is threatening 'international' peace or security... it's your excuse, so you must be able to justify it?

      2. crowley

        Libyans who we designate as being 'baddies'

        That'll be the ones that started to massacre those crying for freedom then.

        I'd really like to idly stand by whilst someone kicks the shit out of you after mugging you, just so you can see your moralistic non-interventionism in full effect.

  6. Peter Simpson 1

    Leave it to the Libyans

    To determine whether a crime has been committed. Did you notice that there's not been a lot of uproar about NATO attacking Ghadaffi? Even from the Arab press? That's because he's managed to piss off almost everyone except the North Koreans and the Venezuelans during his time as dictator. Pretty much everyone (including his own people) would like to see the back of him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And still no title.


      Pretty much everyone (including his own people) would like to see the back of him.


      Oh! Yes, all those Libyan soldiers are dying because Gadaffi and his cronies are holding guns to their heads, aren't they?

      Try reading around a bit, you might find out that western governments and their associated 'free press' aren't telling you the whole truth.

      You might all like to look in the mirror and settle your conscience before the next plane is blown out of the sky by some Libyan who objects to western twats fucking around with his country.

      1. Marcus Aurelius

        Are you sure you want that link?

        If you read between the lines of that report, every country 'congratulates' Libya on its Human Rights progress, but then notes it would be much better if the regime reduced the amount of torture and capital punishment involved.

        I agree that it's not entirely certain how much support Gadaffi has, and that the West and some Arabic countries appear to be applying some double standards, but that report is a means of trying to tell Libya to improve its act whilst putting a nice gloss on it.

      2. Chad H.



        You're going to make the air terrorist example in favour of leaving gaddafi there?

        Really? For Gaddafi?

        Sounds like no change either way then.

      3. crowley


        ... all those Libyan soldiers are dying because they're holding guns to civilian heads.

        As for your link, we've already seen the underground pits in the opened palace complex where Gadaffi's opponents were buried in the dark in stiffling heat and taking turns to get to a pipe that supplied air for the sole purpose of prolonging their slow deaths.

        Yeah, that footage was a little more up-to-date than your report.

        Hell, I know a teacher whose school had an OFSTED inspection lately - the sociopath kid benefited from a sudden home-schooling budget that day to keep up appearances for the pupil rating. Somehow I suspect Gadaffi's regime can pull those tricks too, and fool the naive.

      4. Captain Thyratron

        Actually, yeah.

        In fact, there are numerous reports from several sources (start with Al Jazeera, I guess, if you want a starting place; there are plenty to choose from, though) that large numbers of soldiers in Gaddafi's army have been tortured and/or executed for refusing to fight, and numerous other reports from several sources of people from places like Chad being offered work in Libya and subsequently being hustled into combat zones, basically at gunpoint (again, Al Jazeera has more on this, though they're hardly the only source--just search for "Gaddafi mercenaries"). A lot of this is coming from soldiers that the rebels have captured--soldiers who are thankful to be in a brig in Benghazi instead of living in perpetual fear of being executed by their own army for suspected disloyalty.

        There's also a nice video floating around out there in which recruits for the Khamis Brigade are forced to eat the raw flesh of a dead dog--and then kiss it. I mean, just in case you were still convinced that Gaddafi's soldiers would be living wonderful lives if only NATO hadn't started bombing their armor units. No, a lot of those guys are quietly hoping Gaddafi will lose soon because, for them, victory means the continuation of a living hell, while defeat means a better life. Why do you think Gaddafi has to hire(/abduct) so many mercenaries?

        By all means, though, go on whining about how cell phone service was restored to the eastern half of Libya after the guy whose government orchestrated the Abu Salim massacre cut it off. Seriously, the last thing Gaddafi wants is for people to be able to get information on their own. It rather undermines the efficacy of state TV broadcasts in which the bodies of executed protesters are mutilated (not always beyond recognition--oops!) and presented as victims of NATO airstrikes, or state TV broadcasts in which a bunch of people have been paid and/or coerced by threats (sometimes they spill the beans to reporters--oops!) to participate in staged pro-Gaddafi rallies. The free exchange of information is a grave threat to every dictator. It's (part of) why Arab autocrats can no longer just blame Israel or the United States to hoodwink their citizens anymore, and of why they can't blame every act of dissent on foreign plots (sorry, Bashar al-Assad) while claiming that their people either love them or are al-Qaida agents on drugs (Gaddafi's current explanation for the rebellion), nor exploit sectarian or tribal divisions to divide and weaken opposition as effectively as they once could. Damned awful cell-phone pirates!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protecting civilians my arse!

    Now go ask your local representative why your country is lying about it's intentions in Libya!

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      Why are you surprised

      "Everyone" knows that most countries really want regime change in Libya, and are trying to stretch the 1973 resolution as far as possible to achieve that objective.

      The US and other countries seem to have decided that they don't want to post their troops in yet another nation that would probably be ungrateful for their liberation, so were probably delighted that the 1973 resolution did not allow occupying troops. The countries are disappointed that the Libyan rebels can't off/oust Gaddafi on their own and are therefore trying to work out again how far they can bend the resolution to achieve their aims.

      You sound terribly shocked by all this - why?

    2. crowley

      Regime change

      I support the notion, though not directly in this case.

      (Mugabe should go too. Gbagbo has been done at least, a nice start.)

      Bombing the regime enough to disarm them and create a military stalemate (i.e. both sides ineffectual and so inclined to cease operations and just hold their territory) so that a political negotiation is necessary might be best.

      As long as territorial lines are drawn such that resources are split to create mutual dependency (i.e. water in the west, oil in the east), there will be good positions to start compromising from.

      With sanctions biting, a more representative position will soon appeal to the west.

    3. Blitterbug

      Will you *please* stop trolling's clear your grasp on objective reality is shaky at best. Your name and prose style sounds 'Western', for lack of a better term. Your stance sounds firmly pro-Gaddafi - a guy whom other Arab nations think is a nutter.

      1. neb


        ...a bit more Whet than Western...

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds about right.

    Having designed/developed HLRs for years, I'd say this has the whiff of truth.

    They'll probably have to go to the SIM manufacturer to get the KIs I expect though, not the GSM association. Given that there are can be multiple SIM suppliers - you're probably spot on, new SIMs probably easier.

    Might have a few interoperability problems with that HLR if they try anything fancy or go roaming, I've never seen nor heard of it before.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sounds about right

    ...but having though a bit more about this, routing incoming calls from outside Libya will be tricky - no way of knowing if the number is served by Gaddafi's HLR or the new one.

    That said, it seems unlikely that Gaddafi's network will be accepting international incoming calls anyway, so...

  10. Big Al


    It seems to me that regardless of whether or not they support what's happening in (or to) Libya, a whole bunch of Reg readers would be interested in knowing more about how the network was hijacked, and by whom. This being a techy kind of website and all.

    The article isn't a celebration of a criminal act. It's reporting on something that happened, with direct input from one of the key people involved, correcting errors that have been published elsewhere.

    That's called journalism, and I for one am glad to see it here.

    The lawyers can argue about the legality of the acts reported upon later, if they want to.

  11. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Gentlemen (and ladies), some decorum please

    I agree that there is a great conundrum about the situation in Libya - just like the old saying that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Personally I have mixed views (which I'm not going to expand upon here) both about the legalities and about the inescapable fact that people are being injured and killed.

    But putting that aside, I have to admire the ingenuity of the people who pulled this one off. I suspect the article makes it sound easier than it is, but however hard or otherwise it was, hats off to them for their "can do" approach.

  12. ShaggyDoggy


    Gaddafi used ant-aircraft guns fired horizontally into a crowd who were doing nothing more than shout slogans and wave placards and flags.

    Then calmly said that they were all on hallucinatory drugs, as if that somehow made it all ok.

    Well fuck him off.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Commentards abound!

    Yes all you thickos who can't understand that there's a vast difference between being against my country breaking international law, and murdering Libyans in their own country just because they dare to stand on the side of someone we dislike, and me personally supporting Gadaffi in anyway shape or form. I mean how thick do you have to be to see the world in such black and white terms?

    So feel free to shove your stupid comments and assumptions up your arse, and consider this, don't you dare to claim you and yours are any better than Gadaffi and his hencemen, don't you dare to claim your country and countrymen have any high ground, because when it comes to it, you're as willing as him to ignore international law, and to murder people for your thoughts and beliefs, people who at least have some rights to decide who should rule Libya, which is more than a single one of you can claim. You've just chosen to use technology to do your dirty work from 20,000 feet. It doesn't stop it being murder!

    Your support for the interference in the internal matters of the Libyan state makes you no better than him and his henchmen.

    1. Blitterbug

      Wow! You just don't get it, do you, Mr D.

      For once, just once, I have been proud at the reaction to this crisis by a government (mine) that lied and cheated to start the Iraq war, and whose members I still believe should be rounded up and prosecuted like the scum they are.

      But you have the infernal arrogance to accuse of being uninformed, Western zombies who just want to spank some ignorant Arabs into submission yet again for their oil.

      You'll recall how the Libyans begged and pleaded for help while being brutalised for weeks? Were you thinking 'tough luck. You guys need to sort this yourself', or were you, like the rest of the world, chomping at the bit for someone - anyone - to get stuck in on their behalf?

      You, Sir, sicken me. And I doubt if I shall *ever* say that online to anyone ever again.

    2. Chad H.

      Is it murder

      When you're acting to defend another?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... In fact it's not good, it's fecking wonderful. I can think of no better way to start any day, than to sicken someone who is supporting the illegal killing of people.

    You will all remember what it is YOU personally have sanctioned and supported, the next time YOU decide to condemn scum like Gadaffi, won't you ? Because as far as I can see you're all just like him. He's willing to sanction civilians being murdered, and so are YOU, because that's exactly what you're doing with the support you're expressing here.

    For reference you might like to look up the word propaganda, it's the first part of any war. It's where the truth goes by the wayside, and both side tell horror stories of the other side. It's where your rebel supporting YouTube videos come from, it's where the "he's going to come to Benghazi and murder all the civilians" claims come from. Why on earth you're unable to work out for yourself that the rebel fighters have families who are quite capable of fielding women and children to participate in their propaganda I have no idea, maybe it's a lack of imagination on your part?

    Then maybe you can go ask the rebels why they're hiding in amongst the civilian population of Benghazi and other towns... using them as human shields. Not forgetting of course that you'll want to be asking your political overlords why they're allowing the rebels to hide amongst civilians, thus putting the civilians in harms way. Or did you think the Libyan Amy had driven past the waiting rebel Army in the desert to go kill some civilians?

    You, Sir, fully deserve to be sickened!

    1. Chad H.


      NATO seem to be doing a lot to avoid civilian casualties...

      Whats' Gaddafi doing? Oh yeah, thats right, Disipearing women who go to reporters with stories of soldiers raping them.

      Are you sure you want to defend this guy? Really?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Downvoted and out.

    I recognise that I'm in the minority here, and that my expectation that my own country and countrymen should behave better than Gadaffi and his henchmen, and at least show some intention to act within international law and the treaties we committed to, isn't a widely popular belief around here.

    So I shall bow out of all your gung-ho "kill all the bad Libyans!!! Yaayyy!!!" discussion.

    1. amanfromearth

      That's the most sensible thing you've said.

      a minority of 1

      Don't let the door hit you in the arse on your way out.

    2. OrsonX

      Don't go yet Dave, I +1'd you!

      A few weeks back, after passing of the resolution, I saw PM Cameron being interviewed on the Politics Show. He was asked what the "exit strategy" was. Cleary there wasn't one. He was repeatedly asked were we attempting to achieve regime change, he repeatedly said "absolutely not". And yet, it would now appear that this is exactly what we (France/USA/UK) ARE trying to achieve. Having watched the news footage we are clearly providing nothing short of close air support to the rebels. Let's not forget that these repels are rising up against the sovereign government.... ok, a sovereign despotic government, but none the less, who are we to change the government of another country?!

      I do agree that if there are atrocities being committed against the populous then of course we should intervene (but why Libya? why not Somalia, Mogadishu etc, etc). After all, we do not want a recurrence of the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Yugoslavia. However, neither do we want a repeat of the utter farce that was the Iraq "war" (read regime change / US oil grab).

      Back to the current situation, it would seem people are waking up to Dave's position (& mine), a politician was on the Ch4 news this evening wanting the UK Government reconvened in order to discuss the situation and our actions. I am in agreement with him!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    downvoted and out

    Dave Dowell, I for one am not gung-ho.

    But if our intervention is in support of democracy activists, and not just a shabby contrived excuse to install a puppet regime (as in Iraq), then I only hope to see more of it.

    My objection is the total hypocrisy regarding Bahrain. The rulers are banning the political opposition such as it was, locking people up and beating them to death in custody. They're shooting down unarmed protestors. They even need foreign mercenaries from Pakistan, and Saudi and UAE troops to prop up the corrupt dictators.

    The US has a large military base on the island to 'defend freedom', and yet they sit on their hands and watch their friendly dictator slaughtering people to prop up his corrupt regime. And our politicians utter weasily worded support of the Bahrain regime and try to make excuses as to why we don't hold Bahrain to account for violent attacks on unarmed civilians, and why we believe dictatorship is acceptable there.

    What is going on in Libya should have our full support.

    It is what is not happening in Bahrain, Saudi and all the other 'friendly' arab states that routinely oppress and kill anyone who voices dissent that we should really hold our politicians to account for.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re: downvoted and out

      Personally, I can see where Dave is coming from - he doesn't blindly support the Gadaffi regime, and more importanly he's not fallen for the polarisation bear trap that so many others have - he doesn't blindly support our own puppet masters either.

      Like everything in the world, things are a bit more complicated than 'ugh me good ugh you bad ugh me hit you with rocks'.

      I'm all for true democracy, I'm sure Dave is too.

      I don't believe there is a country on this planet that has a system of democracy that could in any way be called true. Any country to start approaching that state rapidly finds itself on the wrong end of the West's faux-democracy shit-stick.

      Dave, I already picked up our coats...

  17. Brute

    Communications and guerrilla warfare

    While many people have quite rightly condemned this for its criminality, there is the other side to the coin. Communications for 'normal' people (civvies) can be a life saving tool in an ever changing war zone with blurred lines and dynamic flow.

    Given the lack of encryption, its clear to see that the use of the network for military purposes is limited, wile it cannot be ruled out, the lack of security makes its use a liability that most would steer well clear of. For the civilian population however it is a vital lifeline for survival and moral.

    Contacting loved ones can be just what a person who has lost everything else needs to get back on their feet. A warning of an impending attack or ongoing disaster can give options and a greater chance of survival to those who otherwise would be caught up in an engagement.

    As simple and black and white as this viewpoint is (not being there non of us can really comment to much on actual effect or application) the greater picture can justify this sort of action.

    On a technical level, an audacious and unparalleled attack on communications infrastructure, to be applauded and studied by others worldwide (the security of communications in a war/fall situation? some one must have had a look in to this)

    From a political or legal prospective, massively illegal by one side and a moral boosting lifesaver to the other. Only the outcome of the current situation will determine what light this will be finally viewed in.

    Morally and ethically, well that is for each to decide, but given the situation, i believe, as long as abuses of the system do not occur (odds of that, probably not great lets face it, some one will abuse this) then this action is justifiable.

    Personally, were i to be in a similar situation to many of the people embroiled in this situation, i feel being able to contact friends and family would be more important to me than anything else.

  18. Major Variola

    The NSA has the cell numbers

    But probably won't leak them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protecting civilians my arse - take 2

    Isn't it interesting to see the RAF destroying Libyan Army equipment in direct contravention of international law... this definitely isn't covered by UNSC 1973, even if it were legal.

    Come on oh gung-ho ones, explain to us all how these abandoned and probably unservicable tanks were destroyed to protect civilians?

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