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  • Julian Gehman

The Anatomy of Cellphone Eavesdropping

The Chinese and Russians reportedly are eavesdropping on President Trump’s cell phone calls. The Chinese supposedly drew up a list of the President’s confidants, seeking to persuade them to persuade the President to go easy on China. China reportedly learned who the President confides in by eavesdropping on his cell phone calls. This leaked intelligence comes on the heels of a report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that evidence of cell phone eavesdropping devices was found near the White House and other sensitive sites in Washington DC. In an earlier report on mobile security, DHS said “[a]s early as 1996, members of Congress experienced calls being illegally intercepted, however, no technological solution to this problem has been systematically deployed and it remains [so] to this day.”

Operations Performed by an ISMI-Catcher

The cellphone eavesdropping device is known as a cell-site simulator. Other names for the device include Dirtbox, StingRay and IMSI catcher. A cell-site simulator is a rogue base station (cell tower) that tricks mobile phones into divulging personal information. Commercial cell-site simulators range from the size of a large briefcase down to handhelds. These devices are mounted on poles or buildings, driven around in vehicles, flown overhead in airplanes or helicopters and carried on the person. The following summarizes some of the operations that can be performed by cell-site simulators, although specific techniques vary according to the circumstances and equipment involved. In general, attacks can be mounted in passive, semi-passive or active mode.

Passive Mode

In passive mode, an attacker sniffs ove