Mobile phone spying? In order to be able to intercept mobile phone calls around you, either encrypted or not, all you need is 1500 dollars to invest.
At least, this is according to a demonstration showcased by a researcher during the yearly conference of hackers, called DefCon 2010, which recently took place in Las Vegas.
Those with a constant eye to privacy will certainly be worried, but just to make the picture clearer, it must be said that along with the money to buy the equipment, one must also have the necessarily technical knowledge to make it all work. In short, the material that this hacker used consists in just a portable computer and two radio antennas, connected with each other.
By connecting to the cellular network, thanks to this device it is possible to be identified by the repeating tower as if the device were a normal mobile phone. To demonstrate its capabilities, our friend has activated it in the conference hall, asking some people from the audience to make a phone call.
The audience had then the opportunity, with great surprise, to listen to these calls in real time through the computer. This happened because the 2G GSM network has a major flaw, which allows for the signal of mobile phones within a certain coverage area to be automatically routed to the tower with the strongest signal, no matter where the signal actually comes from.
How mobile phone spying works?
Thanks to this flaw, all that the interception system needs is that its signal be stronger than other antennas around it, in order to capture all calls (only outgoing) placed within its range. If a cellphone receives a call while it is being intercepted, the network operator would find the phone off, and would reroute the call to the voice mail system.
This device used for mobile phone spying, invented by researcher Chris Paget, would also disable all call encryption with the network operator, just like it would happen with mobile phone interception devices used by police forces. Thanks to this, any intercepted calls can be listened to, without any encryption, by whoever uses this cheap device.
The device for mobile phone spying created by Paget only intercepts 2G GSM type calls, a technology used by operators such as T-Mobile and AT&T, which expose themselves and their subscribers to risks that would not be present by using the interception-proof 3G technology.
Of course this is a purely experimental solution with no commercial goal whatsoever, also because telephone eavesdropping should always be carried out only by law enforcement. In fact, there are much more powerful telephone wiretapping devices available on the market; their usage, for obvious reasons, is only available for police forces.