Tech

What are the risks of attacking a 5G relay antenna?

Telecoms installations destroyed by fire have been occurring since 2020, in particular because of a fear of 5G. These cases have given rise to convictions, because these degradations are punishable by law.

This is a degradation that illustrates the hostility towards cell towers, whether they are in 5G or not. In its September 11 edition, La Dépêche reports that two pylons were set on fire in, in Albi, in the Tarn. The two installations, separated by several kilometers, were rendered unusable, disrupting mobile telephone communications, but also digital terrestrial television (TNT).

The extent of the damage, although significant, was fortunately able to be absorbed rather quickly. The fact remains that nearly 50,000 people, according to our colleagues, may have experienced network disruptions, particularly at Bouygues Telecom and SFR. More seriously, emergency numbers may also have been unusable (15, 17 and 18, but not 112, which can pass through other operators).

The consequences of the incident were also the subject of comments from Cédric O, the secretary of state in charge of digital. The politician thusstrongly condemned the arson “, adding thatvandalism on mobile pylons is criminal and cuts off populations of vital services. These acts must be severely punished “.

This incident reported by La Dépêche is not an isolated affair. This is a phenomenon observed in Europe and which does not spare France, fueled by the fear that 5G arouses about health or conspiracy theories – for example, 5G would play a role in the coronavirus epidemic, which is not true. In fact, degradation flourishes on the territory and is more serious than simple graffiti.

telecom equipment destroyed by fire
Telecoms equipment destroyed by fire in Annecy-le-Vieux. // Source: Guilhem Vellut

Several of these cases have found an echo in the media. In Le Progrès, it was mentioned arson in the Jura on antennas, in the spring of 2020. La Voix du Nord for its part reported another case in Douai. Sud-Ouest noted that Brittany, Aude, Grenoble and Toulouse were not spared either. As for the Figaro, he described a ” worrying increase in acts of vandalism “.

But in this matter, one should hardly expect any impunity. It turns out that justice does not remain silent and that it provides a systematic response as soon as those responsible are found.

Proof of this is with the conviction reported in March 2021 by France Bleu, for actions that were committed in January and February. A 52-year-old man was sentenced by the Valence Criminal Court to three years in prison, including a farm, for having set fire to two facilities in Pierrelatte. However, he risks a heavier sentence, four years in prison, two of which are firm.

The justice granted a modification of sentence with the wearing of an electronic bracelet. It was also decided that he compensates Orange, the operator victim of the damage. The two vandalized sites are a relay antenna and a telecommunications room. The damage is estimated at more than 440,000 euros. This example is just one of many: there is no shortage of cases leading to fines from prison.

Thus, reports France Info, sentences of four years and three years in prison for two anti-5G were handed down last summer, for facts that occurred in April in the Jura. In Douai, it is also imprisonment that was pronounced against two men, notes Le Parisien, with one year and nine months. In another case that occurred in the Jura, reports Ouest-France, it also ended behind bars.

What does the law say in the event of degradation of telecom equipment?

It must be said that the courts have several articles of law available to determine the penalties. At the penal level, there is already a general sanction in the event of an attack on property, through article 322-1 of the penal code, which provides that ” the destruction, degradation or deterioration of property belonging to others is punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros “.

Sanctions are also provided for by the Postal and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE):

  • Article 65: The fact of moving, deteriorating, degrading in any way whatsoever, an installation of a network open to the public or compromising the operation of such a network is punishable by a fine of 1,500 euros. (he adds that in the case of an installation comprising several cables, as many fines are pronounced as there are cables concerned).
  • Article 66: Anyone who, by breaking wires, damaging equipment or by any other means, voluntarily causes the interruption of electronic communications, is punished by imprisonment for two years and a fine of 3,750 euros.
relay antennas geolocation tracking
Cell phone towers are used to connect smartphones to the network when they are in range. // Source: Frandroid

There is a third article, the 67, but its use can only be considered in “ an insurrectionary movement “. Here, the penalties amount to twenty years in prison and a fine of 4,500 euros. This includes the destruction of electronic communications lines or devices, the invasion of electronic communications exchanges or stations, and attempts to prevent the re-establishment of links.

But, enlightens us the lawyer Alexandre Archambault, specialist in network law, the incriminations via the CPCE are less relevant – except the specific case of article 67. ” It is most often the ticket of major road, therefore not being able to justify the implementation of more in-depth investigation techniques. He observes. Consequently, it is article 322-1 which is privileged.

The person concerned adds that aggravating circumstances exist: an arson is considered a crime (article 322-6 of the Penal Code) and therefore gives rise to a passage before an assize court, with the result of ten years in prison and 150,000 euros fine. In an organized group, as in this case, this can increase to 20 years and a fine of 150,000 euros (article 322-8). And if there is a death, life can be considered (322-10).

Various approaches exist to find the perpetrators

In the event of an infringement triggering a criminal investigation procedure, he explains, the first thing that the investigators will do is obtain the list of terminals which have bounded on a given zone and cross this with the neighborhood numbers, the members of the associations against the antenna or the black blocks of the corner “. And even without a terminal, other avenues exist to find suspects.

As L’Essor notes, CCTV cameras can be used to monitor a site, including to question individuals in the act. This is how two men were arrested in the Alpes-Maritimes, after damage observed around a 4G relay antenna. Finally, the collection of testimonials is also a solution.

Furthermore, it is misleading to think that using WhatsApp or Telegram (two messaging applications offering communication encryption) to commit mischief will be of any help. ” The terminal, it continues to limit on the networks of the operators », Explains Alexandre Archambault. ” Thinking that we’ll stay invisible is just an illusion “.

In the case of the Pierrelatte affair, the man was more classically confused: DNA was found on a piece of wood which was used to set the relay antenna on fire. Another person, also anti-5G, denounced him, and various other clues were found at his home. In addition, he also consulted the location of cell towers near his home – this information is however public.

WhatsApp
If the WhatsApp application offers encrypted communications, the smartphone on which it is installed is clearly visible on the network. // Source: Webster2703

In this case, the Code of Criminal Procedure makes article A43-9 available, “ which provides valuable information and confuses suspected perpetrators “. For example: identification of a subscriber from his call number, history of the allocation of a call number, copy of the subscription contract, detail of traffic with location of a subscriber’s terminal, etc.

Other charges may be accepted. By acting as a gang against an electronic communications installation (this does not stop at relay antennas: street cabinets for example are also covered), it is possible to seek out the criminal association, Pointe L’Essor, whose article 450-1 of the penal code provides for at least five years in prison, or even ten, as well as heavy fines.

On civil liability, the suspects expose themselves to article 1240 of the civil code, which states that ” any fact whatsoever of man, which causes damage to others, obliges him through whose fault he has arrived to repair it “. This can be quantified: for a telephone relay which was set on fire, Le Figaro reported damage estimated at 20,000 euros. During the yellow vests movement, writes DNA, the cost of damage to nine mobile telephone pylons was estimated at several million euros.

Warning, Alexandre Achambault alert: this does not only concern operators whose facilities have been destroyed. ” Subscribers who find themselves deprived of communications may well be plaintiffs in order to be compensated. »Individuals of course, but also companies or even emergency services, such as firefighters or Samu, who can then no longer have a network.

Beware of certain positions

As for those who do not commit acts of vandalism, but who might want to encourage them in one way or another, beware: it would be quite possible to put their responsibility into play, considers the lawyer. . For example by going through article 27 of the law of 1881 on the freedom of the press if one disseminates false, erroneous or truncated information, which borders on the theory of the conspiracy.

This article punishes a fine of 45,000 euros ” the publication, distribution or reproduction, by any means whatsoever, of false news, fabricated, falsified parts […] when, made in bad faith, it will have disturbed the public peace, or will have been likely to disturb it “. This could potentially relate to an anti-5G infographic that appeared this summer in France.

This infographic received some media and social media attention this summer. Several media, however, pointed out that several claims were unfounded.

Finally, recent events have made it possible to consider another legal avenue: that of article 421-2-5 of the penal code. In other words: the apology for terrorism. ” This may in some respects fall under article “, Thinks Alexandre Archambault. He refers here to an elected member of the Nice city council who approved the violent action against the 5G antenna of Contes, Nice Matin reported, before backpedaling in the face of the controversy.

We strongly condemn these acts of vandalism and violence. We are shocked by the words of an elected representative of the Republic who says “approves” these acts of violence. », Reacted the French telecoms federation, which brings together Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécoms in particular. Under this incrimination, a defendant risks a basic five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.

(update of the article with the intervention of Cédric O on a fire case in the Tarn)

Sure: you are paying too much for your 4G plan

Article originally published on October 02, 2020 and updated on September 14, 2021

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