FCC to Look Into 'StingRay'-Style Cellphone Snooping Devices

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The FCC has established a task force to look into the illegal use of devices that imitate cell towers and enable covert interception of signals and data. One well-known such device is called the "StingRay," made by Florida-based Harris Corporation, and its existence and specifications are classified despite widespread use by law enforcement. But they're not the only ones. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is concerned that criminals and spies may be using StingRays or equivalent devices, and that the cellular infrastructure of the U.S. is at risk — so he wrote a letter asking Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to look into it.

Wheeler responded, writing that he recently created a task force to "initiate immediate steps to combat the illicit and unauthorized use of IMSI catchers," as the devices are called generally. But beyond that, few practical measures are set forth to address the vulnerabilities of the networks. Grayson may have more to add on the topic as the task force acquaints him with its work. Neither Grayson nor Wheeler, however, mentioned the extreme secrecy with which law enforcement agencies themselves use the devices — something that has caught the attention of the public in recent years.



—Devin Coldewey