In September 2019, attribution was given to Israel for the IMSI catchers discovered in Washington, D.C. two years earlier, shining light on the prevalence of these types of spying devices. Once used solely by law enforcement as a way of finding the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) linked to a criminal suspect’s SIM card for investigative purposes, now just about anyone can acquire or build an IMSI catcher to intercept a target’s communications. With such low barriers to entry, it’s no longer just the bad guys who need to be worried about these devices.
Today is Data Privacy Day, a perfect opportunity to learn how to keep your smartphone from being used for tracking purposes. While it can feel like a daunting challenge to escape the intrusive tracking practices employed by tech companies, advertisers and other players in the surveillance economy, use the four tips below to start taking back control of your digital privacy.
Over the last couple of years I’ve become much more security- and privacy-focused. Why?
The first time I heard about “Fake Cell Towers”, I thought to myself, Hold up. There is such a thing as a “fake” cell tower?!? Why would someone want or use a fake cell tower?
Personally Identifiable Information, commonly referred to as PII, can be broadly defined as any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. Additionally, it may include any information that can de-anonymize a person from other persons or a set of anonymous data.
How many of us have shared secrets, disciplined our children, sought council on how to address a work or family issue, discussed sensitive financial challenges or had a private moment with our children or loved ones in the presence of our smartphones? Most of us? All of us? These are common occurrences in our daily lives which typically happen behind closed doors due to the sensitive nature of the information being discussed or the actions occurring. People say, “you never know what goes on behind closed doors”, until now.
You either know somebody or it has happened to you – you have a conversation around your smartphone, check your social media or news feed, and boom, the topics of your conversation are being advertised on your smartphone. Most people’s reaction is usually some combination of “WTF?!?” and “Is my phone really listening in on me?” This isn’t new news, but mobile espionage (the modern catch phrase for smartphones listening, watching and tracking your every movement without you knowing) is certainly getting discussed a lot more, and on many levels.
We hear this when we discuss the breaches to smartphones with people who are often not government intelligence or security professionals – users who are all too aware of these mobile security concerns. Breaches that are executed by competitors, governments and malicious actors of all types like those mobile surveillance attempts on a human rights activist being or a Mexican journalist. When we elaborate on how everyday apps over-reach their intended purpose to pry into the personal lives of users with mobile tracking to listen in on conversations or to track user location data; people say they have nothing to hide. To help shed some light on smartphone vulnerabilities, your smartphone privacy and what’s really at risk when your phone has been compromised, we set out to hack a smartphone and reveal the information that may be accessed through its sensors.