Law enforcement and military officials are increasingly using secret devices sometimes called “stingrays” to locate people via their cellphones, even when the phones aren’t in use, the Wall Street Journal reported recently. But finding people isn’t all that this type of gear can do.
These types of machines mimic a cell tower and cause your phone to connect to the machine instead of a real cellular site. Once that happens, there’s a lot that can be done to your phone.
For starters, “they can be set up to do wiretapping of the actual content,” said Matt Blaze, a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former researcher at AT&T Labs.
Such devices also can jam phones, fake calls and text messages and drain the phone’s battery, according to documents available online for companies such as Advanced German Technology that sell these types of devices.
Other gadgets can listen to calls “passively,” meaning that instead of forcing the phone to connect to a fake base station, they simply grab signals transmitted between the mobile phone and the cellular network, allowing the operator to capture conversations.
One such device, available on the helpfully named spyshops.com, claims to be able to monitor a radius of up to about 3 miles and intercept 100 conversations simultaneously, according to the site. The device is “completely STEALTH – invisible and non-detectable, high performance and upgradeable,” the site says.