When it comes to cell phone security in the digital age, do you know how protected your information truly is? Naturally, your cell phone service provider has access to your cell phone records, but who else can see this sensitive info?
You may not be surprised that law enforcement has access to any and all cell phone records through subpoenas and warrants, but the scope and method of this accessing this information through Stingray cell-site simulators has been a highly contested topic over the past year.
On Monday November 2nd, a bill was introduced that would make it illegal for law enforcement agents to use highly controversial Stingray surveillance systems without a warrant. With little guidelines currently in place for their use, the bill would push for stricter limitations on when Stingrays can be used, as well as establish a penalty for their intentional misuse.
Stingrays (otherwise known as cell-site simulators or IMSI catchers) work by mimicking a cell phone tower and essentially force mobile phones in the area to connect with the device. By making this connection, the Stingray can gather information about a target phone’s location as well as track and store text messages, call logs, contacts, and other sensitive data.
Officials claim the mass collection of data through Stingrays is an essential tool in the fight against domestic crime and terrorism, but agencies are using them more and more for routine crimes that don’t necessarily justify their use. Typically, law enforcement officials would need a warrant before using Stingrays, apart from a handful of extenuating circumstances. Unfortunately this is not the case, and they’ve been used widely without warrants by all levels of law enforcement.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the one responsible for introducing the bill, states “The fact that law enforcement agencies, and non-law enforcement agencies such as the IRS, have invested in these devices raises serious questions about who is using this technology and why. These questions demonstrate the need for strict guidelines that carry the weight of the law.”
While proposing legislation is a solid step towards curbing the unconstitutional use of Stingrays without a warrant by government officials, it still doesn’t address the problem of criminals using Stingrays to collect data for their own gain. The average person who has “nothing to hide” may not be bothered by the legal use of Stingrays by law enforcement, but their overall privacy is still at stake.
So how do you take action towards protecting yourself against cell phone surveillance? A company called Tunnel may have the solution.
Tunnel has come up with a simple way to block intelligence gathering through cell phone data. Modeled after the same techniques the NSA uses to keep their locations and equipment safe from surveillance, Tunnel has started manufacturing phone cases that are comprised of layers of copper.
Because copper possesses a unique conductive property that allows it to block electromagnetic fields (EMF), surrounding your phone with a barrier of copper renders your phone free from any prying eyes.
It’s important to note that the Tunnel case blocks all EMF within the operating range of your phone, essentially rendering it completely useless while the case is on. Regardless, having access to this level of security as a consumer can be rare, especially in an age when our privacy isn’t always guaranteed.