Are you the proud owner of a snazzy, new smartphone? Thrilled with the convenience and utility of having this clever device in your pocket, connecting you to friends, colleagues, and information? Guess who else is excited about your purchase? Law enforcement. Meet the Stingray, essentially a honey pot, fake cell tower. Your phone connects to it, and you're done.
A stingray is a false cell phone tower that can force phones in a geographical area to connect to it. Once these devices connect, the stingray can be used to either hone in on the targetâ€™s location or, with some models, actually eavesdrop on conversations, text messages, and web browser activity. Itâ€™s not clear how much the police cooperate with the cell phone carriers on this â€” in at least some cases, the police have gone to carriers with requests for information, while in others they seem to have taken a brute-force approach, dumping the data of every single user on a given tower and then sorting it to find the parties theyâ€™re interested in tracking. Stingrays can be used to force the phone to give up its user details, making it fairly easy for the police to match devices and account holders.[Ed. note: Time to give up your cellphone and go back to using public phone booths? Oh, wait â€¦]