Britain’s largest police force has been using covert surveillance technology that can masquerade as a mobile phone network to intercept communications and unique IDs from phones or even transmit a signal to shut off phones remotely, according to the Guardian.
The system, made by Datong in the United Kingdom, was purchased by the London Metropolitan police, which paid $230,000 to Datong for “ICT hardware” in 2008 and 2009.
The portable device, which is the size of a suitcase, pretends to be a legitimate cell phone tower that emits a signal to dupe thousands of mobile phones in a targeted area. Authorities can then intercept SMS messages, phone calls and phone data, such as unique IMSI and IMEI identity codes that allow authorities to track phone users’ movements in real-time, without having to request location data from a mobile phone carrier.
In the case of intercepted communications, it is not clear whether the network works as a blackhole where intercepted messages go to die, or whether it works as a proper man-in-the-middle attack, by which the fake tower forwards the data to a real tower to provide uninterrupted service for the user.
In addition to intercepting calls and messages, the system can be used to effectively cut off phone communication, such as in a war zone where phones might be used as a trigger for an explosive device, or for crowd control during demonstrations and riots where participants use phones to organize...