Homeland Security confirms phone spying incidents in Washington DC

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For the first time, Homeland Security has publicly acknowledged that some people were using phone surveillance devices in Washington DC for malevolent purposes. However, the federal agency did not name any state-sponsored hacker or hacking group conducting such espionage but confirmed that the devices were being used to track down mobile phones and intercept calls & text messages of high profile dignitaries from political and defense stream.

In a letter sent to Associated Press on March 26 this year, Sen. Ron Wyden, the department head of Homeland Security admitted that some kind of anomalous activity was being observed in the US capital and suspects could belong to a team of International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) sorting criminals.

Although the Department of Homeland Security knows the details of the devices used for spying activities, it doesn’t want to disclose the info to the public for obvious reasons.

In the past few years, the use of mobile phone tracking devices has become a cause of concern for American Intelligence and law enforcement agencies of United States. As they themselves use such activities in the name of the “National Security” they chose to remain silent on the issue until now.

The US police departments named such devices as stingrays or cell site simulators and even issued a commission in 2014 to regulate the usage of such devices amongst normal circumstances. But the commission hasn’t provided any report on the issue in the past 4 years.

Cost of such devices ranges from $1000 and can also reach to the range of $200,000 depending on the features the device offer. Some are programmed to just track down cell phone users while some are used to eavesdrop on calls and text messages of the victims and some even attempt to induce a malware.

As such devices are in the size of a small tablet PC they can be placed in a car next to a government building and be used for eavesdropping. These devices potential is as such that it makes the victimized cell phones connect to the nearest towers through them and all the data exchanged along with the other communication is then done through the device.

Also as Washington area is populated with those working for NSA, CIA, FBI and the defense sector, use of such devices has increased to many folds in recent years.

Currently, the DHS lacks the equipment to detect such sophisticated equipment but is planning to hunt down these devices from May this year.

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Naveen Goud
Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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