Fake Data-Collecting Mobile Towers Discovered in London

A joint investigation by Sky News and German security company GMSK Cryptophone has uncovered up to 20 fake mobile towers in London that are collecting user data from nearby mobile phones. The “towers” are effectively Stingray boxes – recently used illegally by police in the US to monitor citizens – that mimic mobile towers, tricking a passing phone into revealing its international mobile subscriber number (IMSI) and electronic serial number (ESN), making it possible to track the location of the phone.

The Metropolitan Police has responded to the revelation, but its statement is about as vague and non-committal as it gets. Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told Sky News, “We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.”

Human rights watchdog Privacy International (PI) has described the Metropolitan Police’s position on the matter as “laughable,” adding that it is possible that the Police themselves could be responsible. “We can’t be sure that all these are used by law enforcement agencies,” said Matthew Rice, advocacy officer for PI. “They can be used by criminals, and are easily bought from the internet for about £1,000. The police need to explain what they are doing to protect the public from criminals using such equipment as well as explaining how they use it.”

“Even when used by police, IMSI catchers are very difficult to use in a targeted manner, meaning when used in urban areas thousands of people’s mobile phones would be swept up in that dragnet,” he added. “What police do with that data, we don’t know. With 20 IMSI Catchers now confirmed to be deployed across London – we need law enforcement to step up, have an honest conversation about their use, so we can ensure the public are being properly protected.”

The Metropolitan Police has refused any further comment.

Thank you BBC News for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of High Tech Forum.