According to multiple reports, the Department of Homeland Security is investigating a rash of suspicious cellular activity monitoring, believed to be possibly conducted by a foreign entity, after being tipped off by a telecom security company. According to CNN, ESD America, which was hired by DHS in January for an unrelated reason, discovered suspicious activity around multiple cell phone towers in Washington D.C., including near the White House, which likely indicates that someone is monitoring specific individuals and devices. ESD said that spikes had been noticed in other parts of the country as well.
Earlier this week, two Democratic lawmakers wrote about their concerns with vulnerabilities in U.S. cellular networks, via CBS News:
“For several years, cyber security experts have repeatedly warned that U.S. cellular communications networks are vulnerable to surveillance by foreign governments, hackers, and criminals exploiting vulnerabilities in Signaling System 7,” wrote Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California). “U.S. cellular phones can be tracked, tapped, and hacked — by adversaries thousands of miles away — through SS7-enabled surveillance. We are deeply concerned that the security of America’s telecommunications infrastructure is not getting the attention it deserves.”
According to the DHS, the snooping devices that have been discovered are known as Stingrays, or IMSI catchers, which spoof cellphone towers and monitor the phone or device’s activity after it connects to the false tower. However, while the activity is consistent with activities of some foreign entities, DHS has so far refused to attribute the activity to any specific government.