A security company selling mobile devices with encryption technology claims to have found several “phony cell towers” across the United States, including one in Chicago, that can track phones and eavesdrop on calls.
ESD America, which produces the Cryptophone 500, a cellphone that boasts “completely confidential encrypted telephone calls,” released a map of 19 so-called GSM interceptors.
The interceptors appear to be cell phone towers and “trick” a phone into connecting to them, allowing an attacker to eavesdrop on calls, interfere with communications, or collect data from the phone.
The map was created by Cryptophone cell users and employees whose phones detected signals from the interceptors.
Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, says the map is likely a small representation of the actual number of interceptors active in the United States.
“This is just the ones that our users detected that month that were active,” he said. “We’re presuming there’s a lot more.”
Goldsmith said the technology for these interceptors is nothing new, but devices like the Cryptophone 500 are now allowing users to determine when their phone is connected to an actual cell tower.
“All we can see is the connection and we can analyze the connection to see whether it’s legitimate or not,” Goldsmith said. “The majority [of interceptors] are in commercial areas. We’ve seen them in business districts, around shopping centers, around residential areas.”
It remains unclear who is behind the towers, but Goldsmith said the more advanced technology used in these towers has the ability to access a user’s email, texts, contacts, photos, internet browsing history and more.
News of the towers comes at a time when concerns over security issues are high.
In the wake of several reported “hacks” and Edward Snowden leaks, the vulnerability for consumers continues to be exposed.
Most recently, several celebrity accounts were the targets of an attack compromising the victims’ usernames, passwords and security questions.
ESD claims that the use of phones like the Cryptophone 500 can help prevent the vulnerability presented by these GSM Interceptors. The phones are reportedly being sold for $3,500, according to MIT Technology Review.