Earlier this week a news story came out that in Canada the RCMP had admitted to using surveillance technology to gather information on cellphone users. I thought that this of course was done in order to catch some suspected criminals. Now however, it would seem that this is becoming somewhat disturbingly routine.
So… I decided to see if there was a way to discover if a “Stingray” device was in use in my area. You see, these devices pretend to be actual cell towers. Your phone naturally gloms on to the nearest/strongest cell tower and happily uses it. The Stingray device now has access to all your phone calls, texts, and anything else you use your data plan for. It then passes the info to a real tower and you never know the difference. Freaked out yet? Also known as “IMSI catchers (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) the government or police force now have the exact identity of the target cellphone in question. This of course helps no end in investigating and charging alleged criminals or terrorists. But what about us regular folks interested in privacy?
Now what do I do?
Enter Cell Spy Catcher. I found this app on Google Play after a bit of searching. Some of them require root access, which I happily don’t have. This app searches for a pre-determined time what cell towers are in your area. It then maps them out and creates a database of said towers. After that, it just sits there waiting for an anomaly.
The anomaly is the addition or removal of a cell tower. This radical change in your cell tower map is a red flag to you. If something changes in your area you get a screen like this…
This would indicate the addition of a tower or possible Stingray/IMSI catcher in your area. The only way to avoid being snooped on at this point would be to put your device in “airplane mode”, or just turn it off.
There are lots of options to toggle on and off and/or discover for yourself. The two that are immediately impactful are:
- Self Learning Period – This is the initial amount of time that the app will map your area. 1, 2, 5, and 10 days are the choices.
- Periodic Check of Networks – This is how often the app checks for changes in the cell tower map. Default is one minute I believe.
In the beginning, this app is a battery hog. You have been warned! I didn’t really care as I was running the experiment because I have power at my work desk, in my car, and of course at home. Now I have the checking happening every 10 minutes it’s not so bad.
Are you under surveillance?
So what about you? Is the government or police in your country/area using an IMSI catcher or Stingray device? I know that they are in wide use in North America and have been in use for at least 10 years. I’m interested to hear from our readers what they know about the usage there.
Are you going to try this out? Let us know in the comments below!
***EDIT/UPDATE. Tested and seems to be working well on my Passport, so BB10 users included!***