Security experts have been spotting so-called "fake cellphone towers" of unknown origin that could be spying on us. The "interceptors," as they're called, trick our phones into thinking they're regular cell towers; then, according to VentureBeat, they can listen to our calls or pave the way for spyware. The boss of ESD America, maker of an extra-secure phone, told Popular Science about the interceptors last week, but they remain mysterious. They're not part of known cell phone networks, VentureBeat reports, nor are they run by the NSA, say experts. "The NSA doesn’t need a fake tower," an exec with a cloud security firm tells VentureBeat. Those officials "can just go to the carrier" if they want to snoop.
These interceptors may not be physical towers, despite what some reports may have suggested, the Blaze reports. "When we say a fake cellphone tower, that can be simply a laptop with two dongles plugged into it," ESD boss Les Goldsmith says. He suggests the interceptors could be the work of the military or police. But such equipment appears to have been used outside the US "possibly to send spam or to direct unsuspecting victims to malicious websites," says another expert. What's more, the contraptions—simple versions of which cost about $1,500, per Wired—are likely "mobile," says a security writer at welivesecurity.com, as cited in the Smithsonian. (Read about a country where "every cell phone call" is recorded.)