When it comes to the rise of the surveillance state there really isn’t much that is surprising anymore so the story about rogue cell phone towers is par for the course. According to multiple reports, such towers are popping up across the fruited plain in another massive incursion on the privacy of Americans. In addition to the number one growth industry in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks – selling fear – technology is evolving so rapidly that it has far surpassed the ability of the courts and government to implement adequate protections.
According to Kim Zetter of Wired, who writes in her story “Phone Firewall Identifies Rogue Cell Towers Trying to Intercept Your Calls”:
Rogue cell phone towers can track your phone and intercept your calls, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re as ubiquitous as GPS trackers. But at least now there’s a way to spot them.
A firewall developed by the German firm GSMK for its secure CryptoPhone lets people know when a rogue cell tower is connecting to their phone. It’s the first system available that can do this, though it’s currently only available for enterprise customers using Android phones.
GSMK’s CryptoPhone 500, a high-end phone that costs more than $3,000 and combines a Samsung Galaxy S3 handset with the CryptoPhone operating system, offers strong end-to-end encryption along with a specially hardened Android operating system that offers more security than other Android phones and the patented baseband firewall that can alert customers when a rogue tower has connected to their phone or turned off the mobile network’s standard encryption.
The problem with rogue cell towers is widespread. The FCC is assembling a task force to address the illicit use of so-called IMSI catchers—the devices that pose as rogue cell towers. But the task force will only examine the use of the devices by hackers and criminals—and possibly foreign intelligence agencies—not their warrantless use by law enforcement agencies bent on deceiving judges about their deployment of the powerful surveillance technology.
While the Supreme Court recently ruled that police required a warrant to search cellphones, there has yet to be any serious action on reigning in the use of such devices such as Stingray and other surveillance tools that allow cops and the feds to circumvent the laws. Given that Congress is a gaggle of corrupt clowns with an approval rating that ranks somewhere between genital herpes and pedophilia it would be naive and silly to expect any serious action on their part. Obama is even worse and his open contempt for the rule of law, in particular when it comes to the privacy rights of Americans is example of just how low that we have sunk in this “democracy”.
A federal government that only encourages the militarization of the police can’t be expected to reign in the use of such towers and technology. It will need to be up to private industry to work to provide better encryption and tools that are able to block the invasive and warrantless snooping of law-enforcement on the citizenry. I am certainly not suggesting that police should not pursue criminals but there is still a necessity to honor the U.S. Constitution when doing so – at least for now anyway.