Last week I wrote about the problem of fake cell towers in DC.
Well, the story has some interesting twists and turns.
First, the largest maker of these devices (at least as best we know) is Harris Corp., maker of the Stingray family. Harris has been so closed mouthed about them that they have made the FBI drop cases against crooks instead of disclosing that these things even exist.
Well, the cat is out of the proverbial bag regarding the fact that there are probably gobs of these things on the loose, made by who knows whom – probably some are home brew – and they are listening in on – maybe Congress critters.
You have probably heard that there is nothing worse than a Congress critter scared that his or her cover is blown – whether it is a mistress or payoff or leak or whatever – and now susceptible to blackmail. That’s why when you are getting approved for a security clearance, they want to know about all of your skeletons. Not because they care very much, but they don’t want to bad guys to use them against you.
It sounds like there may be Stingrays and Stingray-lookalikes all over the country, likely near sensitive facilities, and the FCC and DHS are playing stupid about it.
Why would they do that?
NOTE TO HARRIS CORP: JUST PICKING ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE THE MOST WELL KNOWN CELL INTERCEPTER. I SUSPECT THAT AT LEAST SOME OF THESE BOGUS INTERCEPTORS DON’T COME FROM YOU.
Who do you think is the largest (legal) user of Stingrays? U.S. law enforcement and spies – and since they don’t want people to know anything about what they are doing, there are no records kept, so no one really knows if a Stingray belongs to the FBI or the KGB or whatever China”s version of those two are.
You can count on all of those having deployed some of them.
But, we don’t really know, actually.
Some of those Congress critters now want to skewer Ajit Pai, head of the FCC. This could get entertaining, at a minimum.
Information for this post came from The Register.
So what can you do? Unfortunately, not a huge amount, but there are some things,
Number one is don’t use your cell phone.
Well, not like that.
If you make calls from the data side of your phone, these devices cannot intercept the calls in the same way.
Say you make a call using Signal or Whatapp. The call is just more data. Even the number you are calling is just data. And it is encrypted. Can spies, given the right motivation, crack the crypto? Probably, even likely. Even if it means hacking into your phone. But you would need to be a very specific target for that to be worthwhile.
Power off your phone when you are not using it. Truly a pain, but they can’t pick up a signal if the phone is off. If you want to be off the grid for some reason, you have to be off the grid.
If you are Edward Snowden, you put the phone in the oven (preferably OFF) or the freezer (Likely ON). Both are sealed metal boxes that don’t transmit radio waves.
If you are paranoid, Amazon sells RF shielding pouches, the portable version of Snowden’s oven or freezer for as little as $6.99. For an example of one, click here.
So, while there is likely some risk, unless you are at high risk for some other reason, I probably wouldn’t worry much about it. But, if you are concerned or just want to ‘stick it to the man’, there are some things that you can do if you are willing to be a little inconvenienced.