The US government publicly acknowledges for the first time that it took up unusual and unauthorized surveillance activities on mobile page simulators in the country's capital last year – devices that can intercept calls and SMS secretly.
But the Department of Homeland Security says it has not determined the type of equipment that could possibly be used or who could have used it, though it says that its use by "foreign governments endangers US national and economic security could."
The agency also did not say how or where any devices could have been used, only to admit that the observed "abnormal activity" with the simulators for mobile phones "seems consistent" and that it "does not know any current technical DHS Ability to "recognize them.
The activity was reported at the time of the appearance of a partner agency of the federal government, the DHS stated.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security last November, sounded the alarm and sought answers to the possibility of foreign intelligence agencies and criminals using the devices to spy on senior members of the US government.
Surveillance technology, also referred to as identity traps or "stingrays," allows mobile phone masts to be used to locate and identify nearby phones.
This means that a mobile phone can be made to access the monitor instead of a legitimate mobile phone mast to indicate the exact location of a particular cell phone.
In a letter dated March 26 that responded to Wyden's questions, the agency acknowledged that they had detected abnormal surveillance activities in the country's capital and other major cities that agreed with IMSI catchers.
Christopher Krebs, the chief official of the US Department of State Protection and Program Directorate, also acknowledged in his letter to Wyden that the agency did not have the technical ability to detect the surveillance equipment before the malicious one Use of the devices called. real and growing risk. "
The devices are used in the United States by local and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies in 25 states, including the District of Columbia, under the American Civil Liberties Union.
While it's illegal to use the devices for commercial purposes, anyone can build a similar device by using parts purchased online for less than $ 2,000, sources in the congress said.
The agency warned that the devices would be used by "malicious actors" to track and monitor mobile phone users. This would be unlawful and could threaten the privacy of Americans.
ABC News has approached the Federal Communications Commission and DHS for comment.
Krebs, in his response to Wyden, pointed out that the FCC has authorized the use of the equipment only for federal, state and local public safety and law enforcement officers.
And any use of these devices "by malicious actors to track and monitor cellular users is unlawful and threatens the security of communications …"
"Leaving the security to the phone companies has proved catastrophic and shows once again why it is extremely important to protect strong encryption to protect Americans' private information," Wyden told ABC News on Tuesday ,
"Despite repeated warnings and clear evidence that our telephone networks are being exploited by foreign governments and hackers, FCC chairman Pai has refused to hold industry accountable and is instead putting the interests of his mobile network friends above American security. " Communications, "Wyden said.