Above: From the Indiegogo campaign for the Road Trip
Is there an unauthorized cell tower in your area sweeping up phone calls?
The Tinfoil Hat Road Trip intends to find out.
The company, which makes the $3,500 military-grade Cryptophone, is behind the recent revelations that there are apparently illegal interceptor cell towers in at least some parts of the country.
ESD America has already detected and publicized the existence of such towers in parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, Idaho, Texas, and New York as well as a cluster of them surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve had over 5,000 inquiries [from the public] about whether there is something in their area,” ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith told VentureBeat, and those inquiries are prompting this trip. Some people have sent photos of suspicious-looking towers, he said.
While often described as a tower because of the cell tower it mimics, an interceptor can be a briefcase-sized transceiver unit that is mobile or sitting in almost any location. It acts as a kind of “honey pot” that prompts nearby cell phones to transmit through it rather than through regular towers.
Goldsmith in the past has told us that the ones surrounding the Capitol could be the work of “foreign entities” — unless, that is, the U.S. government is conducting operations to either protect legislators from security threats or to spy on them.
VentureBeat has reported on connections between the manufacturer of at least some of the interceptors and the U.S. security apparatus. Recent news reports indicate that the Department of Justice has been using interceptors on aircraft that sweep an area for transmissions involving particular phone numbers. Goldsmith said that this would be a “most efficient” way to target specific phones.
To answer the questions about how widespread the interceptors are, the Tinfoil Hat Road Trip will randomly conduct sweeps across the lower 48 states via various unmarked vehicles. Indiegogo contributors can recommend areas for inspection for $100, get a guaranteed inspection at some point for $1,000, and, for $3,000, get a “drop everything inspection” within 30 days of the road trip’s launch.
The inspections, which will not include government facilities, will also be looking for network vulnerabilities where encryption has been switched off. ESD America does not yet have directional capability to pinpoint the precise location of an interceptor, but it will be able to confirm if there is one in the area.
Goldsmith said his company will be “covering the majority of the costs” for the trip, and the funds raised will be used entirely for vehicle and airfare costs for two staff members. As they go, the Tinfoilers will be tweeting and Facebook-posting their progress.
“We believe we’ll find several hundred interceptors,” Goldsmith told us, and possibly several thousand unencrypted network soft spots.
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