Unknown mobile phone towers across the US fuel espionage concerns

Saqib Shah
September 3, 2014

Fake mobile phone towers are being spotted across the US on a regular basis, leading to concern over their operators’ intentions.

A report in Popular Science magazine claims the towers, which have been spotted from North Carolina to Florida, can attack smartphones, eavesdrop on the devices and even install spyware.

The mysterious mobile phone towers were spotted by individuals using a highly-customised Android smartphone known as the CyptoPhone 500.

The device is built on top of a Samsung Galaxy S3’s body and contains ultra-secure encryption software that notifies its users of what’s known as a baseband attack.

The CyptoPhone 500 did exactly that in July of this year, leading to the first set of discoveries of the fake mobile phone towers. However, the report states that many more could still be out in the wild.

The Cryptophone 500

The CryptoPhone 500

According to ESD America security analyst Les Goldsmith, several of the unidentified towers are lurking near US military bases. This has led him to believe that they might even be controlled by China.

“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of US military bases,” Goldsmith told Popular Science.

“So we begin to wonder – are some of them US government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?

“Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the US military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don’t really know whose they are.”

Government telecommunications espionage is not a new occurrence. In fact, the US has been embroiled in its fair share of mobile spying cases, most recently when it came under fire for tapping German PM Angela Merkel’s smartphone.

The theory that the Chinese have managed to infiltrate the US via these fake mobile phone towers is decidedly more far-fetched. Nonetheless, until the true source of the towers is discovered, it remains a possibility.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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