Fake cell phone towers – nearly two-dozen of them in major cities across the US – aren’t providing cell phone coverage, they are spying on us. The towers, dotted across the map and found in cities like New York, Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, have been erected with a singular purpose: To access our smartphone operating systems.
Writes Yahoo! Finance: “Rather than offering you cellphone service, the towers appear to be connecting to nearby phones, bypassing their encryption, and either tapping calls or reading texts. Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, used ESD's CryptoPhone 500 to detect 17 bogus cellphone towers. ESD is a leading American defense and law enforcement technology provider based in Las Vegas.”
Additional towers have since been discovered, pushing the number to 20 fake cell structures. Many are located near US military installations.
Who owns these towers, and where is this massive data haul of information being directed to? That’s the question that has yet to be answered.
“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,” Goldsmith said to Popular Science.
“Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith said. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”
Despite the views expressed by the video above, it’s unlikely that the NSA has erected the towers; VentureBeat interviewed a cloud security firm that said “the NSA doesn’t need a fake tower. They can just go to the carrier” to tap into your phone.
Some are suggesting that the towers are listening structures – called stingrays – and may be in use by police or FBI.
ExtremeTech.com describes how the controversial stingray tower works:
A stingray is a false cell phone tower that can force phones in a geographical area to connect to it. Once these devices connect, the stingray can be used to either hone in on the target’s location or, with some models, actually eavesdrop on conversations, text messages, and web browser activity.
It’s not clear how much the police cooperate with the cell phone carriers on this — in at least some cases, the police have gone to carriers with requests for information, while in others they seem to have taken a brute-force approach, dumping the data of every single user on a given tower and then sorting it to find the parties they’re interested in tracking. Stingrays can be used to force the phone to give up its user details, making it fairly easy for the police to match devices and account holders.
Critics of stingrays have long questioned their constitutionality. Grant applications made to the Department of Homeland Security show that stingrays have been petitioned for use in “regional terrorism investigations,” but in actuality, local police have been using them, absent warrant requests, to eavesdrop and track potential burglary and murder suspects, confirms the Daily Mail.
In an amazing coincidence, police departments in a handful of U.S. cities have been operating "Stingray" or "Hailstorm" towers, which — you guessed it — conduct surveillance on mobile phone activity. They do that by jamming mobile phone signals, forcing phones to drop down from 4G and 3G network bands to the older, more insecure 2G band.
What are your thoughts on these bogus cell towers? NSA? Police? China? Sound off below.