Domestic Spying 101




 ” It’s become standard in spy thrillers for heroes to treat their cell phones as glowing red beacons that advertise their locations. Movie-goers know that action heroes should yank the battery from their phones if they don’t want to be tracked. What’s less well known is that reality long ago caught up with and surpassed cinema. Using devices that essentially mimic cell phone towers, police — or anybody with one of these widgets — can get a fix on your mobile device, whether or not it’s in use, and thereby on your gadget-obsessed self.

Generically salled “Stingrays,” which is actually a brand name for one such International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (you can see why “Stingray” stuck as a monicker), the Electronic Frontier Foundation says these deviceswork thusly:

A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower—to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not— and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations. “