Mysterious fake cellphone towers found across US

The structures appear to be connecting to nearby phones and either tapping calls or reading texts.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 4, 2014 10:18AM
Credit: © Gene Blevins Reuters

Caption: A cell phone tower stands in Moore, Okla.By Jack Dutton, Business Insider

Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week, according to a report in Popular Science.

Rather than offering you cellphone service, the towers appear to be connecting to nearby phones, bypassing their encryption, and either tapping calls or reading texts.


Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, used ESD's CryptoPhone 500 to detect 17 bogus cellphone towers. ESD is a leading American defense and law enforcement technology provider based in Las Vegas. 


With most phones, these fake communication towers are undetectable. But not for the CryptoPhone 500, a customized Android device that is disguised as a Samsung Galaxy S III but has highly advanced encryption.


Goldsmith told Popular Science: "Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”


The towers were found in July, but the report implied that there may have been more out there.


Although it is unclear who owns the towers, ESD found that several of them were located near U.S. military bases. 


"Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that's listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the U.S. military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don't really know whose they are," Goldsmith said to Popular Science.


It's probably not the NSA -- that agency can tap all it wants without the need for bogus towers, VentureBeat reported:

Not the NSA, cloud security firm SilverSky CTO/SVP Andrew Jaquith told us. "The NSA doesn't need a fake tower," he said. "They can just go to the carrier" to tap your line.


ComputerWorld points out that the fake towers give themselves away by crushing down the performance of your phone from 4G to 2G while the intercept is taking place. So if you see your phone operating on a slow download signal while you're near a military base . . . maybe make that call from somewhere else.


In an amazing coincidence, police departments in a handful of U.S. cities have been operating "Stingray" or "Hailstorm" towers, which -- you guessed it -- conduct surveillance on mobile phone activity. They do that by jamming mobile phone signals, forcing phones to drop down from 4G and 3G network bands to the older, more insecure 2G band.


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567Comments
Sep 4, 2014 11:00AM
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accidentally knock the tower down and wait to see who comes to fix it!
youre welcome!
Sep 4, 2014 10:57AM
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Can someone explain how towers like this get erected without getting any attention from private land owners or government owned property? Sounds like big brother to me, people were either duped by the installers or paid to keep their mouths shut. Or they were installed on government owned property to spy on us.
  If these were installed near military bases, and they did not pick up on it, it doesn't give me the warm fuzzies about our protection.
Sep 4, 2014 10:55AM
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So what does the FCC have to say about this? as it is under their control.
Sep 4, 2014 11:01AM
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How can you say "Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that's listening to calls around military bases?" wasn't there a building permit, a construction contract there has to be a paper or money trail.  If this is like an iceberg this is only 10% of what's out there.  This is far more serious than just a mystery of who, the real question is who & why for what purpose!
Sep 4, 2014 10:55AM
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The story doesn't state what they are going to do about these towers....dismantle them?  How do we know they weren't put their by terrorists, in yet another attempt to plan another attack on US soil?  Why else would they be in such close proximity to military installments?
Sep 4, 2014 11:01AM
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Why are these "fake" (illegal?) towers not removed? Someone is not doing their job!

They should not be allowed if they are not legitimate cell towers.  We live in a very different & dangerous world today!  This cannot be good news.

Sep 4, 2014 10:59AM
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Wouldn't someone (anyone?) have noticed when they were being constructed ...  especially near military bases?  So much for (personal or cyber) security.
Sep 4, 2014 11:07AM
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Msn used to have comments on just about everything. Now they spoon feed us to give us the illusion we have a voice.  But the reality is they are all over the place, ummm big news. Hey msn how about comment sections on many subjects, are you afraid of the real voice of Americans ?
Sep 4, 2014 11:00AM
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People who depend on modern technology for every aspect of their existence are just leaving themselves wide open to surveillance. There is nothing you do online or via a cell phone that someone else doesn't have access to. Privacy is a non-existent commodity.
Sep 4, 2014 11:04AM
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I have always thought that there was something fishy with those towers.
Lazy people that do their banking on their cell phones instead of going to the bank,
or doing it online more securely, are at a huge risk of being hacked.
Got a friend that right after doing it the first time on her mobile, she was slapped with
a $3,700 fraud on her credit card.
SO,BEWARE PEOPLE, DO NOT DO YOUR BANKING FROM YOUR MOBILES.
No matter how easy and convenient it sounds, you will regret it later, show the crooks
that you are one step ahead of them and don't swallow everything the media says.
Sep 4, 2014 10:52AM
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Invasion of the cell phone tower snatchers?

The corporations running this country have turned it into a freak show.
Sep 4, 2014 11:03AM
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Friend or foe? We just don't know! On the other hand if they are tapping into phone calls or text messages they are no friend of mine.

It would be so easy for a foreign power to come in and lease space for a tower and hire a contractor to install it. Most people would never think twice about leasing space for a cell tower to the phone company. They never know who really owns the tower or what it is doing. 

Sep 4, 2014 10:53AM
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Just one of the better reasons I do NOT have a cell phone.
Sep 4, 2014 11:47AM
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I say BULLSHlT to this story. Permits have to be pulled, elec. meters have to be installed for the juice running the system. The FCC has to be involved as well.

They know who owns those towers.
Sep 4, 2014 10:58AM
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"Although it is unclear who owns the towers, ESD found that several of them were located near  bases."  They don't huh?  My guess would be the military...a.k.a. govt.  SHEEPLE - SHEEPLE-  quit being so..... sheeple.
Sep 4, 2014 11:03AM
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seems no one has a right to privacy any more. Maybee everyone needs to start tapping the feds and see how they like it. If its ok to tap my phone and devices then hell its ok to tap the federal government. Maybee someone smart enough should tap the nsa fbi cia. Hit their computers and do what ever and make this a level playing field.
Sep 4, 2014 11:07AM
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Meanwhile, in other more important news, Obama got it up and down from just off the green on the 14th, but only after taking 3 shots to get it out of the bunker.  He also recorded a snowman for 4 consecutive holes on the front nine, a new POTUS record.
Sep 4, 2014 11:03AM
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This country has no security because of this everything is open to all administration . Our borders are so open even children have no problem walking in . Trucks carrying Isis militants could cross the border set up a command post and Hussein Obama would call a meeting or ask the justice department if it would be leagal to do something about it .
Sep 4, 2014 11:03AM
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Need a wire tap, look they will never leave us alone you don't have to wonder what is next I can see the computer world hack and in dire need of so much security equipment it isn't funny to anyone now.  They will hack all the way into the future and it will all be corrupted by extreme hackers they will take over when there is a money collapse.
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