(INTELLIHUB) — Over the past year or so we have heard how the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and even local law enforcement agencies have deployed cell-site simulators or cellphone-tower spoofing units. This technology is marketed via a variety of names: DirtBox, StingRay, and TriggerFish.

Technically they are known as IMSI catchers. IMSI is defined as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). A mobile identity is assigned to each phone which transmits its identity to whichever network it is transmitting and receiving through. Unfortunately for the general public these IMSI catchers scoop up most if not all cellphones operating within their transmission and reception perimeter, which in turn violates the privacy of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent citizens.

Additionally, many of these IMSI catchers are deployed by the handful on a daily basis throughout major American cities without a warrant.

According to GlobalResearch, “When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect’s wireless carrier. But not only does StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area.”

“Originally intended for terrorism investigations, the feds and local law enforcement agencies are now using the James Bond-type surveillance to track cell phones in drug war cases across the nation without a warrant. Federal officials say that is fine — responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and the First Amendment Coalition, the Justice Department argued that no warrant was needed to use StingRay technology.”

So much for our right to privacy. Originally this technology would set back a local law enforcement agency more than $100,000, but that is not the case anymore. Suitcase-sized devices are now available, hackers have assembled effective units for a few thousand dollars, and federal funds given to local law enforcement agencies by the Department of Homeland Security (via “Partner Programs”) is often utilized to purchase military-grade technology and weapons.

Now there is one solution to help avoid being caught up in this dragnet, or at least technology which will give you a heads-up as to when your cell-phone is linking up to an unknown tower. It is an easy-to-install software referred to as an IMSI-catcher-detector.

Now since technology rapidly evolves the detection software may not be fool-proof. As I have said many times, the feds have technology which is many (yes many) decades in advance of what the public is aware of. Therefore one can only guess what they have deployed without our knowledge. The software available to the general public is pretty easy to install and seems to be available only for Android phones.

Basically, once you install the software, you download a database of the cellphone towers your cell-service provider utilizes in addition to uploading a “ping” map once you have had the software installed for a day or two. Then if your signal is intercepted by an unknown tower (a.k.a. IMSI Catcher), an icon on the phone will change color, it will record the time and give you the latitude and longitude of the spoofing location.

spoofing cellphone

The software is available from SecUpwN and is quite user-friendly. Here is a screen-shot of the interface.

In addition to the free software, SecUpwN also gives a really good description of how the technology is being used by law enforcement. Once again since the IMSI-catching technology deployed by law enforcement is advancing so rapidly, this is not a fool-proof route to protection. But in many cases it should work for you and give you a bit more comfort considering what we are all up against in a society which is leaning towards such pervasive intrusion.

If there are any tech-savvy Intellihub fans who have more to add regarding IMSI-catchers and other protective measures, I encourage you to share what you know with the other readers in the comments section below.

About the Author:

The author of this article, who prefers to use the nom de plume “XKeyscore” in order to maintain his anonymity, is a Doctoral Candidate and multiglot with two Master’s Degrees and a Baccalaureate specializing in Middle Eastern Studies. He holds one Master’s Degree specializing in Intelligence and Counter-intelligence operations, and a second Master’s Degree in Security Studies. XKeyscore has studied under a United States intelligence agency analyst and now-retired, high ranking, American military officers. XKeyscore writes exclusively for Intellihub News & Politics. Read more articles by this author here.

Image: Carl Lender/Flickr