Posted on June 12, 2017 at 12:55 PM
Security experts in the capital city the University of Washington have unveiled a new technology called SeaGlass to identify irregularities in the telephone landscape that can help identify when and where cell phone monitoring devices are been utilized.
With details in a paper released in the month of June 2017 edition of Proceedings on privacy enhancing technologies, the system was utilized during a two-month time frame. SeaGlass sensors installed in ride-sharing vehicles in Milwaukee and Seattle. Leading to the identification of quite a number of irregularities that conform with patterns that can be linked to cell site simulators.
International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers are known to be capable of attacking the privacy of cell phones. This technology is also known as cell-site stingrays or simulators. It is able to accurately locate cell phones and invade the privacy of the user without permission, getting access to their conversations.
Until this moment in time, the application of IMSI-catchers around has been a secret affair, and this lack of concrete data is an impediment to free public discussions. This much was implied by the comments of the co-lead author Peter Nay, a Computer Science doctorate student at the Allen school of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington.
Cell site simulators function by behaving like a real and authorized cellular tower that a cell phone will normally exchange correspondence with and then deceive the phone into relaying its identity information concerning its location and how it may be communicating.
This device that is easy to carry now varies in size from a suitcase size to a walkie-talkie. The price ranges from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars.
Although the relevant authorities in charge of law enforcement to locate people who might be of interest. Also to find the tools used in committing cyber-related crimes, the tools cyber crooks are using to commit their various atrocities. Most especially as they become increasingly cheap.
In order to apprehend these IMSI catchers’ red handed, SeaGlasses make use of sensors which are built from off the shelf components that can be installed in cars. Ideally the ones that are able to drive through long distances and hours across the city, such as ride sharing cars.
These sensors identify the signals disseminated from the tower network which is quite constant. Then SeaGlass averages the data through time to create a map of the “normal” cell tower response.
The team of researchers at the University of Washington security and privacy research lab developed codes and other methods to identify anomalies in the phone network that may be capable of exposing the presence of simulators.
These includes a very strong signal in an unusual location or even at unusual frequencies that have not been there ever before. Short term towers that cease to exist after a short time frame and signal configurations that are quite different from what a carrier would relay.
For example, nearby an immigration services building in Seattle, which holds the reputation of being the largest city in the state of Washington, operated by the department of homeland security America. SeaGlass identified a cell tower that relayed on six diverse frequencies through a two-month period.
This was easy to identify because about 96 percent of all other base phone towers broadcast on one channel, and other four percent use just over two or three channels more. Furthermore, the research team identified an unusual signal around the Seattle Tacoma International airport with suspicious elements that were quite different from those used by network service providers.
In conclusion, the SeaGlass glass technology is a promising technology that has the potential empower private individuals to monitor this type of privacy invasion.