The U.S. government recently detected suspicious surveillance devices in Washington D.C.
According to reports, the Department of Homeland Security admitted in a letter sent to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden dated March 26th that they have “observed anomalous activity in the Washington D.C. area” that appears to be consistent with surveillance devices.
The so-called spying devices known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers or Stingrays are only legally sold to law enforcement and public safety agencies. Nevertheless, these devices do fall into the hands of bad actors. Whether by anonymous hacker or foreign spy, these devices can be used to track mobile phones or intercept calls and messages.
“IMSI catchers trick cellphones into thinking they’re connected, as normal, to a network like Verizon or AT&T. But the devices hijack the phone’s signal, and in some cases, intercept the contents of calls and texts,” L. Carol Ritchie from NPR explained.
“The IMSI catchers take advantage of a vulnerability built into the system. Phones using 3G or 4G technology can authenticate cell towers, but phones on older 2G systems cannot tell between real and fake towers.”
Back in November, Sen. Wyder reportedly requested the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate the Stingray technology since the said agency regulates the United States airwaves.
“Despite repeated warnings and clear evidence that our phone networks are being exploited by foreign governments and hackers, FCC chairman Pai has refused to hold the industry accountable and instead is prioritizing the interests of his wireless carrier friends over the security of Americans’ communications,” Sen. Wyden said in a statement.
The DHS letter mentioned that the agency still hasn’t tracked down where the alleged surveillance devices exist. At the moment, the identity of the organization or people behind the deployment of the said devices in D.C. is also unknown.