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Rogue cell towers discovered in Washington, D.C.

Steve Ragan | Sept. 18, 2014
Towards the end of July, ESD America, the makers of the ultra-secure CryptoPhone, said that their engineers and customers had discovered more than a dozen rogue cell towers (also known as interceptors or IMSI catchers) around the U.S.

In the areas where the interceptors were discovered, they generated more than 40 alerts on the CryptoPhone.

While their most recent findings could raise alarm, this isn't a moment where the public should freak out, said Turner during an interview with CSO.

"This is a moment to say look, if you're a high value target, or if you have high-value information inside of your company, then you need to take precautions to protect your communications while you're on [cellular networks]."

Unfortunately, Turner added, not everyone can afford to go and buy a CryptoPhone, so an application-based solution could be a better fit. But details as to when IntegriCell would be releasing an enterprise version of the CryptoPhone base were not immediately available.

As mentioned, the problem of random interceptors existing on the cellular network is a major one. The FCC's task force is a step forward, but realistically, they might not be the best resource to deal with the issue.

This is because the FCC is not properly resourced to tackle the interceptor problem. If anything it would be up to the carriers (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile) to maintain and secure the spectrum they're using.

"Unfortunately, right now, the carriers are focused on revenue and availability...With all technology decisions, you always have to balance between integrity, availability, and confidentiality, and in this case the carriers have defaulted to availability," Turner said.

Moreover, their promised task force still isn't up and running at full speed.

"From what we can gather right now, the task force isn't very operational yet. At least, at this point, what we're seeing is they're showing a keen interest in gathering whatever technology they can in order to further their assessment of these sites to see whether or not they can locate these devices close [in real-time]," said Goldsmith, when asked about expectations.

"They're taking some steps, hopefully in a positive direction. But even if the FCC does locate them [the interceptors], I don't know whether their enforcement arm is really the one that would be dealing with the perpetrators."

It's possible that if the FCC detects something, the issue would require the involvement of other federal agencies, like the FBI, in order to determine if the interceptor is related to economic or industrial espionage.

"It's not going to be just the FCC going out there and dealing with potentially a spy ring or something," Goldsmith added.

Tuesday's test was just the first of many. Based on the successful testing in Washington, D.C., there are now plans to conduct more concentrated testing in other parts of the country.

"We think we've uncovered the tip of the iceberg," said Turner.


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