Cell Phone Trackers Detected in Washington, Source Unknown
It is unclear who is operating these devices.
Unknown phone-tracking or ‘Stingray’ devices are thought to be in operation within the D.C. area.
For the first time, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acknowledged that it has detected ‘anomalous activity’ consistent with the use of mobile phone surveillance equipment.
Known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers or ‘Stingrays’, these devices, which are about the size of a suitcase, have been used for years by government and law enforcement agencies both abroad and in the United States.
Capable of tracking cellphones, these devices can also be used to intercept calls and text messages as well as to access other types of private data.
What makes the presence of these devices in the Washington D.C. area particularly alarming in this case is that they may have been deployed by a malicious foreign agency.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s (OHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) has observed anomalous activity in the National Capital Region (NCR) that appears to be consistent with International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers,” the DHS stated.
“NPPD has not validated or attributed such activity to specific entities or devices. This information was reported to our Federal partners at the time it was observed.”
In a recent letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, DHS official Christopher Krebs noted that such activity ‘threatens the security of communications, resulting in safety, economic, and privacy risks.’
Wyden has since suggested that stronger encryption is needed to protect domestic communications.
“Despite repeated warnings and clear evidence that our phone networks are being exploited by foreign governments and hackers, FCC Chairman Pai has refused to hold the industry accountable and instead is prioritizing the interests of his wireless carrier friends over the security of Americans’ communications,” he said.
Image Credit: Susan Sterner