Mobile Call Interception is Affecting You

If your job involves security or intelligence, trade secrets, or research and development, you are a target for mobile call interception. When you use your mobile phone, either at work or in your personal life, you can't guarantee that you're actually connecting with a legitimate cell tower. While you might think your phone is connected to a secure AT&T or Verizon network, it's possible that your phone is connecting to a "rogue tower" without you knowing it -- and that your calls and data are under surveillance.

How Calls Are Intercepted

ESD, a defense technology provider, reported this July that at least seventeen fake phone towers have been identified across the country. By mid-September, ESD's CEO had identified 28 more fake towers, bringing the total known number up to 45. These rogue towers essentially disguise themselves as legitimate base stations so that nearby mobile phones will be forced to provide their individual International Mobile Subscriber Identities (IMSI) as they register with the rogue tower. While early versions of these "IMSI catchers" would only allow for the capture of the IMSI, newer versions offer call and message interception and surveillance capabilities. Once a phone is associated to a fake tower, the tower can turn off encryption and pass traffic on to a real tower, so that phone owners continue using voice and data services without realizing they are under surveillance. Even newer phones that have a higher level of protection (4G or 3G as opposed to 2G, for example) are vulnerable to this kind of attack.

These IMSI catchers, or interceptors, which are often smaller than the average briefcase, are set up to be the highest priority cell tower in an area so that all mobile phones coming into the area will immediately associate to this rogue tower. While 4G and 3G phones typically authenticate to cell towers, the IMSI catcher can jam the network and force the phone to use 2G, which has encryption that can easily be cracked. This allows a hacker to access calls and SMS messages sent and received by the phone. This man-in-the-middle attack even allows hackers to change SMS messages before they reach the intended target. These interception devices are commonly used in law enforcement agencies, but it's also possible for civilians to buy them online -- or for savvy engineers to assemble them from off-the-shelf components for less than $2000.

Who Should Be Concerned?

These call interception devices should be a cause for concern for anyone who regularly uses a mobile phone and requires mobile device security. The potential for interception is especially worrying for people who work in law enforcement or other government positions that require handling sensitive information. An undercover police officer who needs to use a cell phone to maintain their cover, for example, could end up in a dangerous situation if information about their identity is transmitted to the wrong people.

High-level executives should be wary of call interception, as well. These executives need to invest in extra security measures for their mobile phones because hackers are constantly attempting to steal trade secrets. For example, hackers working for the People's Liberation Army or other Chinese organizations were recently caught hijacking data from American companies. These acts of corporate espionage affect a number of industries, including manufacturing, engineering, IT, agriculture and most recently, the film industry.

How Can It Be Stopped?

Luckily, Charon Technologies now offers technologies that can protect companies and government organizations against mobile hacks and call interception. One of Charon's newest products, Network Guard, notifies users when calls are intercepted and provides advanced mobile network forensics. These mobile security devices can also be used to discover where the calls are being intercepted and even potentially who manufactured the interception equipment. Charon's solutions are the most comprehensive and innovated solutions available for mobile interception on the market today.


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Charon Technologies, LLC
13615 Dulles Technology Drive
Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20171

[Phone] 703.662.6061
[Email] [email protected]