Law enforcement already has the ability to track your cellphone location, but a new study from the University of Minnesota shows that cellphone hackers could obtain that information too — rather easily.
“Cell phone towers have to track cell phone subscribers to provide service efficiently,” Denis Foo Kune, a Ph.D computer science student, explained in a statement. “For example, an incoming voice call requires the network to locate that device so it can allocate the appropriate resources to handle the call. Your cell phone network has to at least loosely track your phone within large regions in order to make it easy to find it.”
This technology used by the cell company to provide you with adequate service could be intercepted using an inexpensive mobile phone and open source software. The researchers were able to track a test subject who was moving at a walking pace within a 10-block area by “forcing” messages to the phone but hanging up before it actually rang. This can be done without the subject’s knowledge.
The researchers see dangerous potential for this technique in oppressive regimes or in identifying the location of a prominent figure to cause physical harm. They also write that it could be used in situations like home left; it allows the hackers to deduce whether the owner is home or away.
The group has contacted AT&T and Nokia with low-cost techniques that could be implemented without change to hardware, according to the statement.
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