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How a Cell Phone User Can be Secretly Tracked Across the Globe

How a Cell Phone User Can be Secretly Tracked Across the Globe

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Since we are living in an era of Mass surveillance conducted by Government as well as private sector industries, and with the boom in surveillance technology, we should be much worried about our privacy.

According to the companies that create surveillance solutions for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the surveillance tools are only for governments. But, reality is much more disappointing. These surveillance industries are so poorly regulated and exceedingly secretive that their tools can easily make their way into the hands of repressive organizations.

Private surveillance vendors sell surveillance tools to governments around the world, that allows cellular networks to collect records about users in an effort to offer substantial cellular service to the agencies. Wherever the user is, it pinpoint the target’s location to keep every track of users who own a cellphone — here or abroad.

We ourselves give them an open invitation as we all have sensors in our pockets that track our every move wherever we go.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG

The tracking technology takes advantage of the SS7, a global network, which is unfortunately vulnerable.

SS7 or Signaling System Number 7 is a protocol suite used by most telecommunications operators throughout the world to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data. It allows cell phone carriers to collect location information from cell phone towers and share it with each other. A United States carrier will find its customer, no matter if he or she travels to any other country.

The Washington Post published an awesome article on surveillance technology that can track cell phone users anywhere in the world. Surveillance vendors also now have access to SS7, so that their customers can home in on somebody’ locations as precisely as within a couple of city blocks (or in rural areas, a couple of miles).

These systems are so effective that it can even detect how fast a person on a city street is walking, or the speed a person’s car is traveling!

The system was built decades ago, when only a few large carriers controlled the bulk of global phone traffic. Now thousands of companies use SS7 to provide services to billions of phones and other mobile devices, security experts say,” explains the post.

All of these companies have access to the network and can send queries to other companies on the SS7 system, making the entire network more vulnerable to exploitation. Any one of these companies could share its access with others, including makers of surveillance systems.

SS7 TRACKING SYSTEM PAIRED UP WITH ‘CATCHERS’

It is believe that dozens of countries have bought or leased this surveillance technology in the last few years. Having a close look at such tools, it has been discovered that some of the companies that sell SS7 tracking system are advising their customers to pair them with “IMSI catchers” or StingRays.

StingRays are common surveillance devices that allow law enforcement to mimic a cell phone tower, and track users position who connect to it, and sometimes even intercept calls and Internet traffic, send fake texts, install spyware on a phone, and determine precise locations.

What’s interesting about this story is not that the cell phone system can track your location worldwide,”said Bruce Schneier, a senior security researcher. “That makes sense; the system has to know where you are. What’s interesting about this story is that anyone can do it.”

Privacy advocates are not only worried by governments getting their hands on these systems, but also about hackers and criminal gangs using it.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Technology

 

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Hackers Can Read Your Private SMS and Listen to Phone Calls, Security researchers have discovered

Hackers Can Read Your Private SMS and Listen to Phone Calls, Security researchers have discovered

By  Swati Khandelwal

Security researchers have discovered a massive security flaw that could let hackers and cybercriminals listen to private phone calls and read text messages on a potentially vast scale – no matter if the cellular networks use the latest and most advanced encryption available.

The critical flaw lies in the global telecom network known as Signal System 7 that powers multiple phone carriers across the world, including AT&T and Verizon, to route calls, texts and other services to each other. The vulnerability has been discovered by the German researchers who will present their findings at a hacker conference in Hamburg later this month.

“Experts say it’s increasingly clear that SS7, first designed in the 1980s, is riddled with serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers,” said The Washington Post, which first uncovered flaws in the system earlier this year.

NUMBER OF SECURITY FLAWS IN SS7

SS7 or Signaling System Number 7 is a protocol suite used by most telecommunications operators throughout the world to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data. It allows cell phone carriers to collect location information from cell phone towers and share it with each other. A United States carrier will find its customer, no matter if he or she travels to any other country.

According to the security researchers, the outdated infrastructure of the SS7 makes it very easy for hackers to hack, as it is loaded with some serious security vulnerabilities which can lead to huge invasions of privacy of the billions of cellular customers worldwide.

“The flaws discovered by the German researchers are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network,”the report reads.

BACKDOOR OPEN FOR HACKERS

So far, the extent of flaws exploited by hackers have not been revealed, but it is believed that using the flaws hackers can locate or redirect users’ calls to themselves or anywhere in the world before forwarding to the intended recipient, listen to calls as they happen, and record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption.

No matter how much strong or advanced encryption the carriers are using, for example AT&T and Verizon use 3G and 4G networks for calls, messages, and texts sent from people within the same network, but the use of that old and insecure SS7 for sending data across networks the backdoor open for hackers.

Not just this, use of SS7 protocol also makes the potential to defraud users and cellular carriers, according to the researchers.

ACLU – STOP USING TELEPHONE SERVICE, BUT WAIT!! IS THAT POSSIBLE?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also warned people against using their handset in light of the breaches.

“Don’t use the telephone service provided by the phone company for voice. The voice channel they offer is not secure,” principle technologist Christopher Soghoian told Gizmodo. “If you want to make phone calls to loved ones or colleagues and you want them to be secure, use third-party tools. You can use FaceTime, which is built into any iPhone, or Signal, which you can download from the app store. These allow you to have secure communication on an insecure channel.”

Soghoian also believes that security agencies – like the United states’ NSA and British security agency GCHQ – could be using these flaws. “Many of the big intelligence agencies probably have teams that do nothing but SS7 research and exploitation. They’ve likely sat on these things and quietly exploited them,” he said.

However, the poor security capabilities of SS7 protocol is not hidden from the people and its not at all a new, just three months ago we reported How a Cell Phone User Can be Secretly Tracked Across the Globe. But the era where each and every person care about privacy and security of their data, things like this really publicize exactly how big this threat really is and make many worried of its consequences.

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Technology

 

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Top 5 Laptops of 2014

Top 5 Laptops of 2014

Microsoft Surface Pro 3: http://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/

 

Laptops are facing a lot of competition from tablets and even large smartphones, but they’re still the mainstay device for getting work done. Here are the best of 2014.

13-inch MacBook Air

The MacBook Air hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but that’s a testament to its design, which was introduced more than four years ago. The 13-inch MacBook Air has always been one of the lightest (just under 3 pounds) and thinnest laptops, and it has incredible battery life. Its most recent iteration packs Intel’s latest silicon and can run for 12 hours or more in common usage scenarios.

And let’s not forget its 11-inch sibling, which is probably the closest a laptop can get to the size and weight of a tablet like Apple’s iPad Air. The 11-incher’s battery life is comparable to the 13’s, but it’s even lighter at 2.4 pounds. And it starts at $899, a hundred bucks less than the 13.

The only notable drawback of both models is the screen. The MacBook Air 13 offers a modest 1,440 x 900 resolution display, a bit of a throwback to the days when screens were almost an afterthought in laptop design. But that’s easy to overlook when you have a design this good.

Surface Pro 3

This could be considered a controversial top pick because the Surface Pro 3 is not a laptop per se, and many business laptop users insist on a tried-and-true, traditional clamshell design. But Microsoft has reached a high degree of refinement with its third-generation Surface Pro after two generations of more or less experimental designs.

The Pro 3 is offered as a standalone 12-inch tablet, but almost no one would buy it without its Type Cover, the stellar detachable keyboard that essentially turns it into a laptop.

The design is impressive: At only 1.8 pounds (2.3 pounds with the keyboard) and 0.3-inches thick, it’s about the same weight (with the keyboard) as the uber-svelte 11-inch MacBook Air and packs all the power of a typical laptop, including the option for Intel Core i7 processors. And the gorgeous 12-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 resolution touch screen is icing on the cake.

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome operating system, and that’s just fine if you spend most of your time in the Chrome browser anyway, especially when the hardware comes cheap (below $400).

Topping the list is Toshiba’s latest entry, the 13-inch Chromebook 2, which goes above and beyond the typical stripped-to-the-bone hardware of this category and delivers a brilliant 1,920 x 1,080 display (high-end model), a plenty-fast Intel “Bay Trail” processor and a chassis with an easy-to-hold textured material.

The Toshiba offers probably the best experience you can have on a Chromebook, though it’s a minimalist one because of the limitations of the Chrome OS and the Chrome store.

Dell XPS 15

With the XPS 15, Dell has designed a laptop that might make you think twice about buying its Apple rival, the revered 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina.

For starters, it has a mind-blowing display with plenty of real estate. The 3,200 x 1,800 edge-to-edge screen is not only beautiful, it’s touch capable. Inside are a quad-core Intel processor and Nvidia graphics to push around those 5.7 million pixels. It’s reasonably light (4.4 pounds) for its size (a 15.6-inch diagonal display), and it’s only 0.7-inches thick at its widest point. The chassis is made of brushed aluminum with a carbon fiber bottom. It’s quality all around.

HP Stream laptops

The HP Stream laptops are exceptional for one reason only: price. The HP Stream 11 is available at the Microsoft Store for $199, a good deal considering that you get a full Windows 8.1 laptop with a one-year subscription of Office 365 Personal, to boot. The Stream 13 sells for $229. Think of it this way … based on pricing at the Microsoft Store, you could buy four Stream 11s for the price of one MacBook Air.

FOXNEWS -TECH

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Technology

 

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