News & Opinion | June 4, 2018 5:00 am

How Our Cellphones Are Being Turned Into Surveillance Trojan Horses

Spies can now track your location, read your texts, and listen to your calls via your smartphone.

cellphone
(Getty Images)

Security experts and U.S. officials now warn that surveillance systems can track the locations of American cellphone users as well as spy on their calls, texts and data streams, the Washington Post reports. A previously undisclosed letter from the Department of Homeland Security to Sen. Ron Wyden stated that there have been reports that “nefarious actors may have exploited” global cellular networks “to target the communications of American citizens.” The letter described surveillance networks that tap into the global messaging system that allows cellular customers to seamlessly move from network to network as they travel. The system, called SS7, has little security, allowing intelligence agencies and some criminal gangs to spy on targets without their knowledge, based solely on their cellphone numbers.

“I don’t think most Americans realize how insecure U.S. telephone networks are,” Wyden said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “If more consumers knew how easy it is for bad guys to track or hack their mobile phones, they would demand the FCC and wireless companies do something about it. These aren’t just hypotheticals.”