Monday, April 9, 2018

Phantom Towers in D.C. May Be an Espionage Tool

Foreign entities may be surveilling U.S. cell phone calls in the nation’s capital; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it’s detected fake cell towers — called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI catchers) — in Washington, D.C. It could be the first time the federal government has acknowledged publicly the devices are in the area, reports the Associated Press.

The devices mimic real cell towers in order to collect metadata and potentially communication data from calls and texts. Some devices can force phones to downgrade to a 2G network to make such interception easier, reports the Register. Phones using 3G or 4G networks can authenticate towers.
Police officers and the federal government have used the devices, but concern is growing they may be used by foreign spies. A Department of Homeland Security official told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the issue in a memo released last week. But DHS needs more money to actually track down the IMSI device locations, reports NPR. Wyden asked DHS whether it had evidence of foreign IMSI catchers operating in the D.C. area in November.  Continue Reading

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