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Fake cell towers are listening: Privacy becoming trade-off for convenience?

Fake cell phone towers listening in on your calls.
Fake cell phone towers listening in on your calls.
Wikimedia Commons

Mystery surrounds the fake cell towers discovered across the nation as no one knows who put them there or even when they were erected. These fake cell towers do the opposite of the authentic towers, they act as hacking tools to pick up reception of private cell phone calls and text messages, according to the Business Insider on Sept. 4.

The towers appear to be connecting to phones in use nearby and bypassing their encryption. These fake cell towers are littered throughout the nation and first brought to light in a report published in Popular Science last month. These towers were detected when the CEO of ESD America, Les Goldsmith, used their company’s CryptoPhone 500 to detect their locations and so far 17 of the fake towers are mapped.

The map released by Popular Science is dotted with the location of these fake towers. They appear primarily in big cities like New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles to name a few.

So far 17 of the fake towers have been discovered, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more out there that haven’t been found yet. A cell phone cannot tell the difference between the fake and real deal, so whoever is behind the fake cell phone towers have access to any of the transmissions coming from the phones in the area.

ComputerWorld offers a tip on avoiding being monitored as your phone has a way of telling you there is a fake cell tower out there. The performance of your phone goes from 4G to 2G while the intercept is taking place. If you see your phone operating on a slow download signal while you are out and about, this could be what is going on, especially if you are near a military base. Goldsmith said that several of these fake cell towers were found in areas near a military base.

Goldsmith reports that while more of these receptors are popping up out there, no one knows who is putting them in place and what are they being used for? While no phone is safe, the CryptoPhone 500 is a customized Android device that is disguised as a Samsung Galaxy S III but has highly advanced encryption to guard against this type of hacking.

This just puts emphasis on the price you pay for the convenience of wireless. The luxury of making a call from most anywhere you happen to be comes with a trade off of your privacy. As technology is developed to stop such hacking, more technology is developed to bypass it and the circle of wireless technology goes on.