Cities won't talk about spying devices disguised as cell phone towers


How long before people get so fed up that they start ripping these things out of the ground?


Make it profitable to

Presumably building permits would provide a clue as to which were legit and which weren’t…

Just to be clear, Stingrays are compact, portable spying devices that act electronically like a cell tower. They are not physically disguised as a cell tower, just in case the photo of a physical cell tower gives people the wrong idea.


I thought this might be about spying devices that otherwise look like a piece of infrastructure. There’s one on my way to work, it’s at least as tall as a utility pole if not as tall as a cell tower. So it’s pretty nondescript although it looks like they put speed sensors/cameras on top (there had been a portable trap there at one point).

I accidentally stumbled upon the local DHS HQ, which looked like a drab elementary school with few windows. On Google maps it’s labeled “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” but their entrance has an electronic security gate and DHS logo.

The DHS is an umbrella agency. DHS includes:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Transportation Security Administration
U.S. Coast Guard
National Protection and Programs Directorate
U.S. Secret Service

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I would make no such presumption. I presume the towers are erected by legitimate subcontractors in accordance with local, state, and federal code. Whose equipment is at the base of the tower is the question here.

it gave me the wrong idea.


Stingrays are portable devices that fool cell phones into thinking they are talking to a cell tower, tricking cell phones in the area to give up information such as location data. Florida based Harris Corporation sells the devices to the government and tries to keep their capabilities secret from the public, and even the judiciary, through NDAs.

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Maybe this explains why I don’t get more bars when driving next to certain “cell towers”.

Uh, more likely, those cell towers are for different cell providers. You know they don’t all share the same towers, right?

Once again, stingrays are portable spying devices. When cops want your data they don’t even need one of them, they can just demand it from the cell providers. Stingrays are just handy because they can take it anywhere for real-time results and skip that pesky paperwork that gets all of those darn civil libertarians (aka citizens) all riled up if they discover it.


Have never tried it, but this is out there…
SecUpwN/Android-IMSI-Catcher-Detector · GitHub
This project:

  • Detects IMSI based device location tracking
  • Provides counter measures against device tracking
  • Can provide swarm-wise-decision-based cellular service interruption
  • Can provide secure wifi/wimax alternative data routes through MESH-like networking
  • Detect and prevent remote hidden application installation
  • Detect and prevent remote hidden SMS-based SIM attacks
  • Prevent or spoof GPS data
  • Does NOT secure any data transmissions
  • Does NOT prevent already installed rogue application from full access
  • edit: looks like work in process… at the simplest level, they are compiling a database of gsm base stations – since they really don’t change much, if a new, strong, station shows up, then it is likely that it is a catcher.

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    Aren’t ALL cell phone towers essentially spying devices now?


    There was a back and forth dialogue between the neo900(uber geeky community full hardware upgrade for the amazing Maemo linux N900 phone) team and Richard Stallman over at on including a plug in POCSAG pager circuit for the prototyping port and having an app that could call back numbers paged to you when you desired. It turned a mobile phone into an untrackable passive receiver until you were ready to activate the GSM system and make an outgoing call. The exchange got bogged down in discussing the firmware upgradeability of the modem chip module but it was interesting that RMS was actually showing interest in finally owning a mobile phone.
    It might be inconvenient forcing all incoming calls to hit voicemail first, but especially at protests and the like it breaks the utility of these police state gadgets.


    I really need to take the time to repair my n900 usb connector… I miss having a really hackable device.

    Should’ve clarified… I was describing my initial impression after (only) reading the headline.

    It seems to me that they could get a good jumpstart by teaming up with folks from OpenSignal, Mozilla Foundation and the data being collected through MozStumbler, etc. There’s a couple rich sets of data that they could employ for this, although you have to assume that those sets of data aren’t already compromised.

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    That tower has more constitutional rights than you do, citizen…

    Also, since all the telcos cooperate like craven lapdogs, it’s really a question of ‘spying devices disguised as cell phone towers that also provide cell service’ and ‘spying devices disguised as cell phone towers’…

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