Sunday, September 02, 2012

Catching the IMSI Catchers

IMSI catcher catcher”—a device designed to snoop on the snoopers, 
sniffing out anyone operating an IMSI catcher in a given location.

Spying has been going on since one human wanted to know what another human was doing or saying. A common-sense expectation of modern Government is to limit or place a choke on how spying is conducted and, importantly, who can do it (spying, that is). Sadly, the warnings (loss of privacy, unlawful interception etc) to not allow 'pandora's box' [] to be opened rather than apply pro-active controls appears to be have ignored those warnings as some form of  'cry wolf ' [], particularly if those warnings had merit afterall. It comes as no surprise then to find a recent news report indicating spying devices such as IMSI grabbers/catchers now creating concern that such devices could be in use in the criminal community: [imsi_catchers_criminals_law_enforcement_using_high_tech_portable_devices_to_intercept_communications_.html]

The development of IMSI catchers is not a recent development. Indeed, in a number of long running court battles (that I have been following for some years) a recent 2012 Court of Appeal Patent decision concluded [] that shed light on the development of a particular IMSI Catcher. On the three cases they set out a history of development dates that uncover that this IMSI Catcher prototypes and the finished product appeared before (as a time reference) the Omagh Bombing of 1998.

IMSI grabbers/catchers present a huge potential for privacy rights abuses if one considers the pace at which mobile technology is causing redundancy of fixed landline phones and fixed PCs [] and unlawful interception at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale IMSI grabbers/catchers could undermine serious crime investigations (where investigating officers might have their contact details tapped etc).

The fight back against invasion of privacy has taken amplified recently through the annoucement of a new development of a prototype that has been dubbed the "IMSI Catcher Catcher" [] as shown in the image above and that might provide the solid proof privacy campaigners seek to uncover. But this device could equally backfire if those investigating officers in the field are being tracked in the operation of IMSI Catching.

The above represents a tip of the iceberg material that is available through research about devices development for the express intent of obtaining subscriber identity and other personal information without the subscriber/user knowledge or consent where a man-in-the-middle attack has taken place [].

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