Phony cell tower discovered in Tri-State - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Phony cell tower discovered in Tri-State

(Flikr/KennyLouie) (Flikr/KennyLouie)

If you thought regular updates to your cell phone were enough to keep personal information private, think again.

A report released this week by Popular Science Magazine exposed more than a dozen ‘phony cell phone towers' across the county, with one of them located in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Known as interceptors, the towers are sophisticated computers that trick cell phones into thinking they're communicating with an actual cell tower. It leaves the device vulnerable to attacks such as eaves dropping on calls and texts, as well as other spyware.

The interceptors are mobile, not necessarily a tower, and can be moved from location to location.

"We're talking about a computer here with some specialized equipment, not a tower sticking up out of the ground somewhere," said Dave Hatter, FOX19 NOW'S technology expert. "That's one of the things that makes this a threat it is potentially mobile and there's really no telling where you could encounter one of these things."

ESD, a company manufacturing phones with beefed-up security systems that detect the interceptors recently tracked and mapped the threats. The company has a $3,500 specialized phone, known as a CryptoPhone, that is reportedly the only available phone on the market able to detect a potential breach.

"The main thing I would encourage consumers to be aware of, is like I say all the time, anything you do in an electronic form is not private and you can't assume it is," warned Hatter.

Experts say there are likely multiple agencies behind the phony cell towers and the government or foreign entities could own them.

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