Tags: fake | cell | phone | towers

Fake Cell Phone Towers Used by DOJ to Scoop Up Calls, Locations

By    |   Friday, 14 Nov 2014 09:41 AM

Fake cell phone towers on airplanes reportedly are being used by the U.S. Justice Department to gather data from thousands of cell phones of criminal suspects and innocent Americans.

According to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the program run by the U.S. Marshals Service since 2007 as saying Cessna planes with the special equipment are flying from at least five major airports and covering most of the U.S. population.

The planes use devices made by Boeing Co that mimic the cell phone towers used by major telecommunications companies and trick mobile phones into revealing their unique registration data, the report said.

The devices, nicknamed "dirtboxes," can collect information from tens of thousands of cell phones in a single flight, which occur on a regular basis, according to those with knowledge of the program, the Journal said.

Justice Department official would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, saying such discussion would allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance abilities, but that department agencies comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval.

A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment to Reuters.

The program is similar to one used by the National Security Agency which collects the phone records of millions of Americans in order to find a single person or a handful of people.

The Journal cited the people familiar with the program as saying that the device used in the program decides which phones belong to suspects and "lets go" of non-suspect phones.

Although it can interrupt calls on some phones, authorities have made software changes to make sure it doesn't interrupt anyone calling the 911 emergency number for help, one person familiar with the matter said, the Journal reported.

It also bypasses telephone companies, allowing authorities to locate suspects directly, people with knowledge of the program said.

The Journal quoted Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, as calling it "a dragnet surveillance program. It's inexcusable and it's likely, to the extent judges are authorizing it, they have no idea of the scale of it."

The newspaper said it was unknown what steps are being taken to ensure data collected on innocent people is not kept for future perusal by authorities.

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Fake cell phone towers on airplanes reportedly are being used by the U.S. Justice Department to gather data from thousands of cell phones of criminal suspects and innocent Americans.
fake, cell, phone, towers
377
2014-41-14
Friday, 14 Nov 2014 09:41 AM
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