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Government Cellphones Communications United States

CBS Reports 'Suspicious' Cell Phone Tower Activity In Washington DC (cbsnews.com) 188

"An unusually high amount of suspicious cell phone activity in the nation's capital has caught the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, raising concerns that U.S. officials are being monitored by a foreign entity," reports CBS News: The issue was first reported in the Washington Free Beacon, but a source at telecom security firm ESD America confirmed the spike in suspicious activity to CBS News. ESD America, hired preemptively for a DHS pilot program this January called ESD Overwatch, first noticed suspicious activity around cell phone towers in certain parts of the capital, including near the White House. This kind of activity can indicate that someone is monitoring specific individuals or their devices... According to the ESD America source, the first such spike of activity was in D.C. but there have been others in other parts of the country. Based on the type of technology used, the source continued, it is likely that the suspicious activity was being conducted by a foreign nation.
The news coincides with a letter sent to the DHS by two congressmen "deeply concerned" about vulnerabilities in the SS7 protocol underlying U.S. cellular networks, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Trailrunner7. Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Ted Lieu are asking if the agency has enough resources to address the threat. "Although there have been a few news stories about this topic, we suspect that most Americans simply have no idea how easy it is for a relatively sophisticated adversary to track their movements, tap their calls, and hack their smartphones."
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CBS Reports 'Suspicious' Cell Phone Tower Activity In Washington DC

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:36PM (#54067273)

    Everyone is being wire tapped oh shit...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cellphones don't have wires to tapp.

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @04:55AM (#54068357)
      Suspicious activity involving cellphone monitoring? Tell you what, start with the FBI, NSA, CIA, DHS, and local cops. On the remote chance that it isn't one of them, get back to me.
  • type of technology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:37PM (#54067277)

    "Based on the type of technology used, the source continued, it is likely that the suspicious activity was being conducted by a foreign nation."

    Is that because the US based three-letter-agencies just tap in at the service provider level?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. And they do not want anybody else to have everybodies dirty secrets!

      • Indeed. And they do not want anybody else to have everybodies dirty secrets!

        Um...

        OK, yes, the FBI, NSA, CIA wiretapping is not good. Regardless of what you think of that (some people here seem to think its OK for some reason), there's surely no way a foreign agency doing is it OK just because they did.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Indeed. And they do not want anybody else to have everybodies dirty secrets!

          Um...

          OK, yes, the FBI, NSA, CIA wiretapping is not good. Regardless of what you think of that (some people here seem to think its OK for some reason), there's surely no way a foreign agency doing is it OK just because they did.

          I was getting the impression that NSA wiretapping was only a problem when it was of Americans - that overseas tapping was fine. In which case foreign agencies tapping Americans is also presumably fine. Have I misunderstood?

          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            Have I misunderstood?

            You have. Americans are _more_ equal than anybody else!

            (Or at least they believe they are. Turns out they are just sheep, same as anybody else.)

        • I find it much simpler to just assume everything outside of my brain is public information.

    • You are assuming (Score:3, Insightful)

      by s.petry ( 762400 )

      The NSA has taps on the hardware, but other agencies do not. If people are trying to do things outside of NSA control, they would need to come up with their own taps.

      The US has let security go to shit over the last decade. Foreign workers for "cheap" is a big problem, low moral from shitty treatment by administrations (happened long before Trump so don't bother with the dumbass blame game), corrupt administrators, and of course shit morals at companies executive levels.

      Of course it "could" be a foreign ag

      • Re:You are assuming (Score:5, Informative)

        by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @10:05PM (#54067661) Homepage Journal
        Could be ex and former staff selling mi/gov grade product to their cult, faith, embassy, other parts of the US gov, the private sector.
        Once the devices got handed out to NATO nations, the different EU nation police forces all their ex and former staff can sell the US product to the private sector.
        The US is now been flooded with its own products as once very secret tech finds its way into every embassy and the private sector.
        Other nations front companies, US dual citizens helping their real nations.
        The UK had the same issues. Some ore gov, mil other are just random efforts by different groups.
        What the UK did can often show what could be in the USA.
        Fake Mobile Phone Towers Operating In The UK (09 June 2015)
        http://news.sky.com/story/fake... [sky.com]
        UK Cops Using Fake Mobile Phone Tower to Intercept Calls, Shut Off Phones (10.31.11)
        https://www.wired.com/2011/10/... [wired.com]
        Fake mobile phone towers discovered in London: Stingrays come to the UK (6/11/2015)
        https://arstechnica.com/tech-p... [arstechnica.com]

        The other US side would be to track US police, city workers to ensure they did not have a task force on any emerging private sector products or services.
        Once a map of every phone in a wide city area was tracked, tracking undercover officials would be easy given a lack of digital counter surveillance training.
        New "staff" or users reporting back into a government building every few days or weeks for a set time would be very easy to map.
        Another aspect would be to counter any journalist trying undercover work. Their origin and return to their place of work would be detected if they ever had two working phones with them. Their undercover story phone and their journalist phone.
        Other tracking could counter bloggers and web 2.0 attempts by citizen journalism to enter political parties or party political fund raising.
        They might make an error with two phones in use. One they used for undercover work in the past, one they use for their blog.
        Lack of cash could see device reuse and very easy tracking.
        Also the meeting of any gov worker, federal official, contractor, mil, political staff with any journalist would be tracked by the mil, gov, party, contractor. A vast database of journalist. A political and private sector version of the NSA's FIRSTFRUIT.
        The Most Intriguing Spy Stories From 166 Internal NSA Reports (May 17 2016)
        https://theintercept.com/2016/... [theintercept.com]
        “.. over 5,000 insecurity-related records” ranging from “espionage damage assessments” to “liaison exchanges.”
        Someone is not tracking the fake networks for some reason. Political over, mil, police or gov use? Gov workers detect the fake cell products and nothing is done?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The US has let security go to shit over the last decade. Foreign workers for "cheap" is a big problem, low moral from shitty treatment by administrations (happened long before Trump so don't bother with the dumbass blame game), corrupt administrators, and of course shit morals at companies executive levels.

        Don't forget the criminalization of security testing / research, demands for backdoors in security products for "law enforcement" purposes, further limiting / removing control of the device from it's owne

      • Re:You are assuming (Score:5, Informative)

        by Woldscum ( 1267136 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @11:13PM (#54067803)

        Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        FBI through an office in Quantico can directly tap ALL network main switches. The government PAID AT&T and Verizon to upgrade the switches to IP. The FBI added Colo cabinets at the main switch sites. The FBI can wiretap directly WITHOUT interacting with Verizon or AT&T.

        • Which leaves the CIA and DIA for American three letter agencies and everyone else's external intelligence agencies..

    • I assume that someone with service provider MiTM access could do a bunch of SS7 weirdness, in order to confuse attribution; but that's my understanding: if you have privileged access at the provider level, you don't need to do anything to traffic routing/redirection that might attract attention, you can just grab a copy as it passes by; while if you don't have provider-level cooperation;, you either need to try to get the traffic sent somewhere you do have access to(or run the comparatively great risk of se
    • Occam's razor tells me to first assume a local agency to be the suspect.
  • Relax... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:48PM (#54067315)

    It's just the President's Russian friends making sure he's safe from Obama's wiretaps.

    • Re:Relax... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:50PM (#54067325)
      It's probably just the local police trying out their stingrays. You need to experiment a bit to learn how to intercept phone calls without a warrant.
      • It's probably just the local police trying out their stingrays. You need to experiment a bit to learn how to intercept phone calls without a warrant.

        Experiment? Yeah right.

        The People no longer give a shit about privacy, security, or their Rights, so exactly zero education or experimentation is required in order for law enforcement to understand just how far above the law they are today.

        If the situation were otherwise, the entire IMSI-catching product line would have been shut down by now.

      • Nahh. I think it's the NSA trolling Trump into tweeting more insane shit at 5am.

        Just wait...

        Oh, look at the time.

    • Re:Relax... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @11:22PM (#54067821) Homepage Journal
      It is much simpler. Trump uses an unsecured easily hacked phone, so every spy agency on the planet is monitoring it. Which is a stupid waste of money as all they need is a twitter feed, a tv, and a membership at his golf course because he tweet everything he thinks, he releases classified information on tv, and public ally classified information during dinner on his every weekend vacation.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Refreshing to have a President who does what he says, instead of the nobama snake that spoke well but fucked over the entire world (destroying Syria, starting Muslim brotherhood/ISIS, antagonizing Russia, raping the Constitution (see Snowden/wikileaks), Fast and Furious, nobama care, etc etc et-fucking-c.)

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        Nah, by now the foreign countries realize that Trump is a one shtick pony. He has no nuance, no behind the scenes strategy and very little above the scenes. He's got the attention span of a gnat so there can be no behind the scenes strategy. In that environment, bugging his communications is pointless. He'll just respond immediately to crises or issues that develop. And his responses will have little to do with what he's said in the past and are likely to contradict any previous decisions.

        Oh, and to get on

        • Nah, by now the foreign countries realize [etc]

          "By now"? Everything- and I do mean absolutely everything- you said above should have been obvious to any individual paying the remotest bit of attention long *before* he was elected.

          The only "surprise" is that he didn't fulfil the (much) more-in-hope-than-expectation belief some people had that this might not be the case when he became president. That- contrary to the evidence- someone who had made it through his entire life to the age of 70 while still acting like a spoilt 8-year-old bully, who was clea

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I thought Trump was going to get into WW3 with Russia. It's hard keeping up with the lefties conspiracy theories these days.

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      Don't need to worry about Obummer anymore. He's in hiding after the lady michelle was busted. Just google it. It's the Yuge story that the press isn't saying a word about.

  • The US government (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:49PM (#54067319) Homepage

    is the preeminent spying, wiretapping, snooping, eavesdropping entity on Earth. Hell, we invented most of it. We should be proud that our snoopiness is so great that everyone wants to imitate us. What could possibly go wrong?

    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      No, the UK and Russia/USSR were better at spying and wiretapping for a long time. Russia has as good hackers as US and much better human intelligence, and no (long-lived) defectors.
      • citation please

        • The UK government were 'wiretapping' Germans in WW2 and cracked their encryption. They then spent a lot of time bugging the IRA. More recently they have foiled a large number of Islamic and Irish dissident plots thanks to various forms of wiretapping. However when it comes to wiretapping Israel are the top dog. Israeli companies write the software that controls US phone networks and have been caught spying on Americans many times. It usually gets brushed under the table. Google "Fox News Israeli Spying On
      • Lots of competent players. This sounds like cowboys...stingrays work, buy LOTS of stingrays. Look to the local or state police, political party, large corporation etc.

        Also look to someone smarter, tripping 'them' up so they show on RF power bills at the towers.

        I hope there is someway to fuck with a stingray and make it go 10kW until it melts on 'them'. Not likely, experts at such remote RF fuckery work for the stingray guys.

        • What happens when two 'stingrays' or similar try to intercept the same channel, in the same cellular space, at the same time?

          Could this be two, half competent bunch of clowns, running around DC trying to drown each other out with fake cell towers?

      • And people still use Kaspersky. LOL

    • ...is the preeminent spying, wiretapping, snooping, eavesdropping entity on Earth. Hell, we invented most of it.

      The Vatican invented most of it centuries ago, when it was still analog... and not electronic. Rest assured, it was still sigint.

      • The "collect it all" technology is purely American in origin. We put the "5 eyes" team together. We built the infrastructure for it. That had nothing to do with the Vatican. You can pretend otherwise, but you are only fooling yourself.

    • Well except that the US thought they invented most of it though often they copied it from the British then over time improved and extended it.
  • I'm shocked!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:54PM (#54067335)

    Every country on earth, barring North Korea has an embassy within pissing distance of the White House and Capitol and CBS "discovers" there's espionage. What grade did these people graduate from?

    I'm shocked to find out this is going on in this establishment.

  • the united states already has secretly deployments of armorments preventing these types of attacks. the attacks are thus normally conducted by the United States itself, sometimes in cooperation with foreign nations, or the government allows the attacks to occur.

    Signals Intelligence is secretly scanning us all from space, giving us electron spin resonance scans.

    There's no attack we aren't prepared for.

    Why is this in the media? To spread false fear onto the population.

    https://www.drrobertduncan.com... [drrobertduncan.com]

  • We're going to be safe as soon as we build Trump's $4 billion or $24 billion or $??? billion wall.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  • TFA says the exploit can be used remotely "thousands of miles away". So which is it? Local or remote? The article contradicts itself.
  • Trump is in a position where he needs to prove his wiretapping claim--and fast.

    I find the timing in which the CIA was hacked, very interesting as well.
    • Trump is in a position where he needs to prove his wiretapping claim--and fast.

      Why? His campaign was built on lies which people willingly believed. I don't see how adding one more to the pile makes the slightest bit of difference.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Trump doesn't feel the need to prove his wiretapping claims. He's already trotted out his alibi, it was those naughty people at Fox, shame on them for reporting something that would be picked up and amplified by Trump and his poodles.

      Actually, Trump doesn't feel the need to prove anything. His entire life is a lie, it's all he knows. By now, his staff is realizing he's been lying to them as well, it is who he is.

  • I've said it many times, and you can check my history, that if the average American knew how much their cell phone leaked data, they would not only refuse to own one, but refuse to allow them on their property.

    I don't have anything to hide. I don't do anything illegal (that I know of, but look how many laws there are, and I'm sure I break some without knowing it), but the point is that cell phone data is only used to build a case, and only vary rarely does it exonerate someone. It isn't' your friend. It's a

    • I find it hard to believe that

      I think in the years I've owned one (shackled to me for employment, really)

      You never once used your phone except to call for a tow truck once. No company would pay for a phone for an employee if they were never going to be called on it.

      • You never once used your phone except to call for a tow truck once.
        Not what I said. I said: I've used it exactly once when I could not have used a VOiP or POTS.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've said it many times, and you can check my history, that if the average American knew how much their cell phone leaked data, they would not only refuse to own one, but refuse to allow them on their property.

      This seems to be a common fallacy among computer nerds, that people don't take steps to protect their privacy out of ignorance. Unfortunately, many studies have now shown that people simply don't care. If you ask them, they would prefer to keep private things private. But the value they place on that privacy is really small, to the point that they would give up such info willingly, with full explanation of what they are giving up and that it will be used by others for something (much stricter than the re

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Wow!! And you say you've told us this before? I'm impressed.

  • Now "we're" totally fucked. Everyone panic!
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @10:25PM (#54067705) Homepage Journal
    There is literally no way you can communicate with another person where you can be assured that your communication is not monitored. Even face-to-face communication in code is compromised, if the other party is compromised. Cell phones only work by collecting a lot of data about the caller and the caller's recipient. If CBS is only now figuring out that D.C. is a hotbed of cell data leakage, they are fantastically bad at their jobs.
    • by skids ( 119237 )

      CBS reported on the recent snowstorm. By your logic, "If CBS is only now figuring out that it snows in winter, they are fantastically bad at their jobs."

      Just because it isn't new to you doesn't mean it isn't news.

    • Even face-to-face communication in code is compromised, if the other party is compromised.

      You say this as if it is a new thing, and hasn't always been true.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's people playing Pokemon Go

  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @11:38PM (#54067847)

    It's not like America's Commander In Chief would be stupid enough to refuse a secure cell phone just so he can continue his 3am Twitter on the shitter regimen.

    Oh god. We're all doomed.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday March 19, 2017 @12:00AM (#54067891) Journal

    File this under, "no shit, Sherlock". I mean, has anyone gotten a load of the White House staff lately? We had a registered agent of a foreign government receiving national security briefings and holding the post of National Security Advisor before he was thrown to the wolves for being too obvious.

    The president just signed a license deal to use his name on a string of Chinese brothels. I mean, what the fuck? I miss the days when the worst thing a president did was get a blowjob from a 20 year old and lie about it.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/07... [cnbc.com]

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/0... [nytimes.com]

  • We all know Obama is doing this. Just waiting for Trump to figure this out, and regurgitate it back out to Twitter to feed his babies.
    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      I wonder how long Trump can continue to blame Obama. I suppose the right wingnuts will never lose their fear of Obama. For a crowd that claims to be about he-boy More Power, the right wingnuts act like a bunch of "girly-men" at the slightest threat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It must be horrible to be a foreign spy these days. Risking your life, working with the latest technology that only the brights engineers understand, only to spy on Trumps communication. And then again risking your life while using the latest technology to try to communicate the stolen information back to the mother country only to hear "We already knew that, we read it on Twitter this morning".

  • because all gear is made in China that has backdoors connected to systems in China. No need to tap or intercept guvmint comms because Russia already has interactions with high level people appointed by Trump.

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