Fake mobile phone towers found “actively listening” to calls in the UK | The Independent

More than 20 “intrusive” fake mobile phone towers that overhear public conversations have been found active in the UK, the first time the technology has been detected in the country.

The IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays, were found operating in London, but Metropolitan Police declined to say who is monitoring them or what is being done with the information they are collecting.

IMSI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Identity – a unique number that identifies users on their telephone network.

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The controversial surveillance technology, used by police forces around the world, is supposed to capture the communication of criminals by capturing information en route to the network.

It tricks cell phones into thinking that the Dazi radios are telephone poles, so that telephones connect to the tower and all the data flowing through them is collected – but the masts are unable to distinguish between criminals and everyone else.

A Sky News survey located the masts using technology made by GSMK Cryptophone, a German security firm, and found more than 20 of the rogue towers in three weeks.

Encountered Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe would not confirm or deny that his force was using the technology, telling the channel that “the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away such a thing”.

He said: “If people think we have the means to do so much intrusion on what they care about, I would reassure them that it is impossible.”

Dazibats are often used in the United States by police to monitor suspects, although their use is inevitably subject to heated debate because they can overhear anyone’s calls, even without a warrant. The U.S. Civil Liberties Union called the towers “incredibly impenetrable.”

Scotland Yard reportedly bought some of the IMSI towers in 2009 and began using them last November, according to reports, although this is the first time evidence has been found to work. Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said: , what we have to do is intrusive, it’s uncomfortable, and the important thing is that we show that openly and recognize that it’s a difficult choice to make. “

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said it was time for police forces to stop pretending that the IMSI towers did not exist so that the public could understand the legal framework behind them. He said: “This spy has appeared in everything from The Wire to Zero Dark Thirty. Companies are selling them on the gray market to anyone who can afford it. The only thing we don’t know is what the police are doing to protect people. against their use by criminals, and when they use them, what legal frameworks ensure that they are used correctly?

“In an urban space, thousands of people’s cell phones would be swept away on that train network. What they do with that data, we don’t know. We know the police have been using them for years, but this is the first time it has been shown that they are deployed in the UK. “

Tim Johnston, a lawyer who specializes in surveillance law, told Sky News: “Because it’s neither confirmed nor denied, we just don’t know on what basis. [IMSI catchers] are being used – if they are being used. We don’t know how they are controlled. We don’t know the legal basis on which we depend, so we don’t know who – if anyone – controls that use. “

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