Feeds

Dutch get wound up over invisible SMS

Smoking a little too much?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Dutch tabloid De Telegraaf reports that 12 Somalis picked up in Amsterdam over Christmas were located using secret SMS messages, apparently bouncing back their GPS coordinates for the authorities.

The 12 suspects were arrested on Christmas eve following a tip-off that they were planning some sort of terrorist attack, but now De Telegraaf reveals that in order to make those arrests the local security forces relied on a hitherto secret capability to track mobile phones through the use of silent SMS messages.

Using the still-secret capability apparently required special permission – provided to the Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (Intelligence and Security Department) – and enabled the security forces to send out SMS messages to the suspects' phones, which helpfully reported back with their GPS coordinates and enabled swift arrest. But while that capability may worry some, it is really limited compared to what the security forces can really do.

Silent SMS messages are indeed part of the GSM standard, and they can be directed to the handset or SIM without alerting the user. Handset-targeted messages are used to alert the phone that an MMS message is waiting for it, among other things, while those addressed to the SIM often contain changes to preferred roaming partners, but could conceivably contain a request for location information – if the SIM had previously been configured to respond to such a request.

But there would be no point; network operators already know where every phone is – they have to in order to deliver the phone calls. In Europe network operators are also required to store that data, enabling the Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst – or any similar organisation – to find out not just where their suspects are, but everywhere their suspects have been for the last 12 months.

Providing that information in real time isn't hard, though UK operators are permitted to bill the security forces for the effort involved, so there's really no need to muck about sending secret SMS messages or relying on handsets equipped with GPS, when a text to the network operator would be so much more effective. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers
Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.