"For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages," the AP's Frank Bajak scooped this afternoon.
- The acknowledgment was in a letter from the Department of Homeland Security to Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.
Why it matters: "The agency’s response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden’s office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments."
- "In a March 26 letter... the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation’s capital."
- "The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where."
- "Aaron Turner, president of the mobile security consultancy Integricell... [said] every embassy 'worth their salt' has a cell tower simulator installed... They use them 'to track interesting people that come toward their embassies.' The Russians’ equipment is so powerful it can track targets a mile away, he said."
The big picture: "Shutting down rogue Stingrays is an expensive proposition that would require wireless network upgrades the industry has been loath to pay for, security experts say. It could also lead to conflict with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement."
Go deeper: Full AP story, including the DHS letter to Sen. Wyden