Your Calls and Texts Could Be Intercepted by Fake Cell Towers

Mysterious, fake cellphone towers have cropped up across the country, and it appears they're being used to spy on Americans.

Your Calls and Texts Could Be Intercepted by Fake Cell Towers Photo (cc) by acidpix

It turns out your phone calls and texts may be even less private than you think.

According to Popular Science, the ultra-secure CryptoPhone 500 smartphone detected 17 phony cell towers across the U.S. in July alone. The fake towers, known as interceptors, look no different from an ordinary tower, but they can be quite snoopy and even harmful to your phone.

“Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of ‘over-the-air’ attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device,” Popular Science said.

While it would be great if you were able to identify a fake cell tower on your own, it’s not likely. Standard smartphones won’t give you any indication that you may be under an over-the-air hack attack. But the CryptoPhone 500 identified the interceptors with ease. According to Popular Science:

Though the standard Apple and Android phones showed nothing wrong, the baseband firewall on the CryptoPhone set off alerts showing that the phone’s encryption had been turned off, and that the cell tower had no name – a telltale sign of a rogue base station. Standard towers, run by say, Verizon or T-Mobile, will have a name, whereas interceptors often do not.

And the interceptor also forced the CryptoPhone from 4G down to 2G, a much older protocol that is easier to de-crypt in real time. But the standard smartphones didn’t even show they’d experienced the same attack.

I’m fairly certain that the texts and phone calls on my cellphone are pretty boring, unless you like pictures and stories about toddlers. But I wonder: Who owns the interceptors, and what do they want with the call and texting data and other phone information they’re able to obtain?

Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, which markets the $3,500 CryptoPhone in the U.S., told Popular Science that the U.S. government may be behind it.

“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of U.S. military bases. So we begin to wonder – are some of them U.S. government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?” says Goldsmith. “Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the U.S. military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: We don’t really know whose they are.”

According to Newsweek, local police across the country are getting in on the cellphone spying action as well. “A growing number of police departments are using tower-mimicking devices, ‘stingrays,’ to track a cellphone’s location and extract call logs,” Newsweek said.

Wow. What an incredible invasion of privacy.

Who do you think runs the interceptors? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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