Are there really phony cell phone towers intercepting calls across America?

A article from Popular Science last week has seemingly sparked confusion around the internet as people pondered how an encrypted cellphone device was able to uncover 17 “fake” cell towers across America. As it turns out, however, these “towers” are not cell towers in the traditional sense.

As TheBlaze reports, a Popular Science article titled, “Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls,” focused on a device known as the CryptoPhone 500 (available for $3,500), which can detect when a call has been routed through a “phony” tower.

According to the article, the device recently discovered “17 different phony cell towers known as ‘interceptors.’” What the article never makes clear is these “interceptors” are not necessarily physical towers.

On radio this morning, Les Goldsmith, CEO of ESD America – the manufacturer of the CryptoPhone 500 – joined Glenn to talk about what these devices uncovered about these phony towers.

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“That’s the one misconception the media got from this,” Goldsmith said. “When we say a fake cellphone tower, that can be simply a laptop with two dongles plugged into it to actually give it GSM coverage.”

“It doesn’t have to be a large fully built tower,” he added. “So you can have somebody in a hotel room with a laptop that is collecting every phone within half a mile and having it run through there instead of a normal cell tower.”

As Goldsmith explained, it is better to think of these interceptors as a “cellular repeater.”

“You put a cellular repeater in your building to give you better coverage. All your calls pass through the cellular repeater,” Goldsmith explained. “Well, an interceptor pretends to be a cell tower and passes your call on like a cellular repeater. It just turns encryption off on the way so it can listen.”

Below is the map from ESD America showing the location of the “towers” they discovered:

ScreenSnapz024-620x351Photo Credit: ESD America

TheBlaze has actually been covering the capabilities of these types of devices for quite sometime. From the Stingray to the Hailstorm, interceptor devices capable of mimicking cell towers have existed for several years. Read a report from TheBlaze summarizing what is known about this technology HERE.

  • Yo Mamma

    There is no doubt that they’re owned by the Islamic State

    They’re disguised as Douglas firs

    • Jenn Harman

      That is just ignorant. Radio towers “disguised” as Douglas Fir trees are made that way because area officials think a “naked” radio tower doesn’t look good. Nothing more. Honestly.

      • JLI53

        a fir tree disguise was put on a tower in the middle of the Sonoran Desert next to Mesquite trees and cactus Looks like crap.

      • AJC1973

        Im pretty sure it was a joke.. lighten up francis…

        We have cactus diguised ones out here in AZ. . But most prevalent is the fake palm trees

    • IndigoRed

      …and then then logging companies cut down the Douglas Fir trees so rich people can wear the fir. Disgusting.

      • zemla

        Smiles……that was good

    • pacman925

      It is NOT the Islamic State with 17 cell towers in the USA.
      Guess Who does have the tools to do that though ???

      Revelation 2:9

      9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

      John 8:44 King James Version (KJV)

      44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

      http://www.end-times-prophecy.org/false-doctrines.html
      False Doctrines of Mainstream Christianity Exposed
      http://www.end-times-prophecy.org

      • Yo Mamma

        So sayeth messenger of God Creator

        יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה,
        וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ.

        יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו
        אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ.

        יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ
        שָׁלוֹם.

        • oopso42

          Giving again?
          האמת נזרק לאדמה”.”

    • Jack Adams

      You NEED to get back on your daily meds – or see a trickcyclist!!!!!

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  • http://truthofg.blogspot.com/ Connor Kenway

    Well I am glad I do not even own one that can do online shopping.

  • softwarementor

    http://www.wired.com/2010/07/intercepting-cell-phone-calls/

    Here is an article on a presentation made by a geek who made a home made device to demonstrate issues with the GSM standard that allow people to spoof being your carrier (the demo spoofed AT&T phones in the meeting room). The device to turn off encryption and capture your phone calls cost $1500 (including the cost of the laptop).

    • AJC1973

      Gsm is only the standard in europe.. att and tmobile are gsm here.. sprint and verizon cdma…

  • tonybigs

    Hmmm…. a couple around Groom Lake?

  • marlene

    i just don’t understand the ramifications of this technology. I’m going over to Glenn’s link to his Blaze report.

  • marlene

    OMG! I got it. I don’t like it. It’s a double-edged sword. In order to invade someone’s else privacy, you have to give up your own. Doesn’t almost any signal travelling in one direction leave a digital path of travel back to where it was initiated? If so, this would be useful to someone wondering how someone always knows their whereabouts and suspects it’s through the cell phone. Is there such a gadget as a reverse repeater and where can one be purchased? Or have i just made the dumbest comment in my life???

    • Mark Christopher

      Not a dumb question at all. These devices are produced so they are SOLD. This false cell tower is a device that allows someone to target a cell # and intercept all calls, text, videos, all information on your phone. Individuals can purchase them but the best ones are restricted. Only Government, Military, and Police can purchase those. But it allows police to search or dump anyone’s cell phone without a warrant. Total invasion of individual privacy.

    • Phydeux

      I won’t call it dumb, but signals don’t quite work like that. Signals radiate out like ripples in a pool. So you can’t just follow them backwards like a line of footprints.

      Yes, you can trace a signal back to its source, but you have to have at least two receivers to do it, its called triangulation. And the further apart those receivers are, the better the accuracy.

      You take the strength of the signal each of you receive, the distance between you and your partner, and apply the Pythagorean Theorem, and you can calculate the approximate distance and direction to the source of the signal.
      Its also how cops use cell towers to find a suspect (happens a lot on Law & Order SVU) or a lost/injured hiker. You use the cell towers themselves to triangulate, but only the cell carrier has that kind of access.

      The problem with these devices is that they spread HUGE amounts of interference in the 3G and 4G bands (called “stepping on” the signal). This forces your phone to drop down to 2G signalling which is not very well encrypted, and therefore easier to listen to.

      Easy way to stop this from happening on most phones…… disable off-network roaming. You shouldn’t need roaming in urban areas anyhow. If you’re out in the country, then re-enable it as you need to. But disabling roaming forces your phone to only use the 3G or 4G service which is heavily encrypted.

      • Greg Collins

        Triangulation is not the only way. There are Doppler effect tracking equipment that can also be used instead. There are also directional antennas that are also used for transmitter tracking. Triangulation is good to locate the transmitter’s general location. to narrow it down you need the Doppler or directional antennas.
        When you are using the Cell towers to track a phone, you are using the tower overlay areas and handoffs to figure out where the person is, not triangulation. I do believe some towers have Doppler type equipment to assisnt in narrowing down the direction from the tower.

  • jenna rogers

    FBI says these towers are normally located near military bases yet the military says they don’t own them. they said they don’t know who owns these towers- they look like routers so no town permits required. they work on 2G so if your phone goes from 4G to 2G you may be getting listened into

  • http://heliumdream.blogspot.com heliumdream

    good coverage.
    not a whole to argue with =)

    wish more beck stories were like this one.

  • Sail Away

    Must be a bit more of the transparency we were promise .
    Little did any of us know it will be us who MUST be the transparent , looks like more of the upside down country we are learning to have to live with .
    Only one side is transparent and more and more us as Americans are those people .
    I guess the new definition of transparency is US .

  • Michael DeVita

    Isn’t DEA using this in their STINGRAY PROJECT?

    • Jack Adams

      Is that why ALL the drugs are still coming across the border from mexico – EVERYDAY????

    • Phydeux

      Disable roaming and Stingray won’t work against you. If Stingray is active you’ll lose the 3G and 4G bands, and therefore all service. But at least your phone won’t drop into insecure 2G mode so the DEA can listen in.

  • Scott Olenik

    Lol, hilarious. This company ‘discovers’ the interceptors… But they also sell the cell phone that’s not effected by it. That’s like making up a bogus plague and selling tonic to cure it…

    • zemla

      Yup, more and more “security” and privacy “protection” is being sold that way. Kinda like the gov’t hiring phone phreakers back in the “good ‘ol” days

  • 18Echo

    i don’t know about others but my AT&T repeater required each phone to be registered before it would allow the phone to use it. I don’t remember if the phone was able to ‘see’ the repeater before that.

  • norm

    This is just another reason why I refuse to join the ‘smart phone’ craze….

    • zemla

      If you typed that message onto this website you are just as tied in as those with a phone, or we can pretend that living half in the system is somehow different because we don’t understand technology.

      That’s an option too I suppose.

  • Letiche Garou

    I know you won’t believe this, but I know for a FACT that my animals can detect this government crime…just wait.

  • Kymberly Bade

    Mark Christopher, where did you get your information?

  • Isabella1709

    When I become a spy this will be very important info, and I will for sure buy one of those phones. In the meantime I note that there are two in my area and I will be aware.

  • IT 2 IT 678

    “Understand, when you so much as touch a keyboard
    [ cellphones included ] everything you say and do is
    instantly collected and stored in over 45 agencies worldwide.
    REALIZE too, that the number 1 weapon of ANY spy [ or criminal ]
    —————————————-is BLACKMAIL.”
    Dr BARRIE TROWER
    Veteran Brit mcrowaves specilaist
    WIFI HOLOCAUST whistleblower
    Informed online
    2013

    KEEP ADDICTING yourselves to that ‘SO SHELL’ — — -‘MEDEA’.

    KEEP carrying those SILLY phones!

    KEEP A’ GOIN’!

    GIT!

    LOL