By Kim Zetter
July 31, 2010
LAS VEGAS -- A security researcher created a cell phone base station
that tricks cell phones into routing their outbound calls through his
device, allowing someone to intercept even encrypted calls in the clear.
The device tricks the phones into disabling encryption and records call
details and content before they.re routed on their proper way through
The low-cost, home-brewed device, developed by researcher Chris Paget,
mimics more expensive devices already used by intelligence and law
enforcement agencies -- called IMSI catchers -- that can capture phone
ID data and content. The devices essentially spoof a legitimate GSM
tower and entice cell phones to send them data by emitting a signal
that's stronger than legitimate towers in the area.
"If you have the ability to deliver a reasonably strong signal, then
those around are owned," Paget said.
Paget's system costs only about $1,500, as opposed to several hundreds
of thousands for professional products. Most of the price is for the
laptop he used to operate the system.
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