Feeds

US Justice Department free to track mobile phone users

If you have nothing to hide...

3 Big data security analytics techniques

The American Civil Liberties Union has revealed that the FBI no longer feels the need for judicial or operator oversight when deploying base station-faking technology to detect mobile phones.

This capability is nothing new, but previously it was assumed that a warrant was needed before the FBI started tracking phones and that the network operator would need to be informed. These are optimistic assumptions in this age of fear embodied in the USA's Patriot* Act, as shown in the documents obtained by the ACLU. Instead the FBI just gets a pen-trap order, granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Bob's your uncle.

The technology, known as Triggerfish, pretends to be a base station so that mobile handsets happily connect to it and identify themselves. A Triggerfish deployment can wait for a specific handset to pass by, or just grab nearby identities for later analysis.

When the GSM security model was created there was no attempt to confirm the identity of the base station - it never occurred to the designers that fake base stations would exist so all the authentication is one-way. Worse still, while the IMSI (unique to the subscriber) is not supposed to be sent over the network, the standard allows a base station to claim to have "lost" the corresponding TMSI (temporary equivalent) and thus ask the handset to resend the IMSI in the clear.

Setting up fake base stations is pretty rare, but clearly the US authorities aren't alone in doing it, which is why the 3G GSM standard requires base stations to authenticate themselves too - making Triggerfish once again inoperable without network operator collusion, at least where 3G is being used by default. ®

*Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, since you ask.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Virgin Media so, so SORRY for turning spam fire-hose on its punters
Hundreds of emails flood inboxes thanks to gaffe
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
AT&T dangles gigabit broadband plans over 100 US cities
So soon after a mulled Google Fiber expansion, fancy that
AT&T threatens to pull out of FCC wireless auctions over purchase limits
Company wants ability to buy more spectrum space in auction
EE & Vodafone will let you BONK on the TUBE – with Boris' blessing
Transport for London: You can pay, but don't touch
NBN Co plans fibre-to-the-basement blitz to beat cherry-pickers
Heading off at the pass operation given same priority as blackspot fixing
NBN Co in 'broadband kit we tested worked' STUNNER
Announcement of VDSL trial is not proof of concept for fibre-to-the-node
Google eyes business service in latest Fiber trials
Lucky Kansas City buggers to host yet another pilot program
Huawei exec: 'Word of mouth' will beat Apple and Samsung in Europe
World Mobile Telephone Factory No.3 won't fling the big bucks around just yet
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.