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.