The investigative news “I-Team” of a local TV station in Washington D.C. drove around with “a leading mobile security expert” — and discovered dozens of StingRay devices mimicking cellphone towers to track phone and intercept calls in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The I-Team found them in high-profile areas like outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and while driving across the 14th Street bridge into Crystal City… The I-Team’s test phones detected 40 potential locations where the spy devices could be operating, while driving around for just a few hours. “I suppose if you spent more time you’d find even more,” said D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh. “I have bad news for the public: Our privacy isn’t what it once was…” The good news is about half the devices the I-Team found were likely law enforcement investigating crimes or our government using the devices defensively to identify certain cellphone numbers as they approach important locations, said Aaron Turner, a leading mobile security expert… The I-Team got picked up [by StingRay devices] twice off of International Drive, right near the Chinese and Israeli embassies, then got another two hits along Massachusetts Avenue near Romania and Turkey… The phones appeared to remain connected to a fake tower the longest, right near the Russian Embassy. StringRay devices are also being used in at least 25 states by police departments, according to the ACLU. The devices were authorized by the FCC back in 2011 for “federal, state, local public safety and law enforcement officials only” (and requiring coordination with the FBI). But back in April the Associated Press reported that “For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages… More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.”
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