Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mysterious Cell Towers Infiltrate Phone Companies' Systems

Who built them? Who owns them? What might they do to your cell phone, and on whose behalf? Why are many of them near military bases? Peter van Buren at FDL: The Dissenter discusses the matter, in terms that are necessarily speculative given how little is known at present.

I can't help thinking of Sir Terry Pratchett's later Discworld novels and their clacks, a mechanical optical semaphore long-distance communication system that is the focus of many intrigues, plots and assassinations. If you're not reading Pratchett's Discworld novels, you're missing one of the most thoroughly enjoyable series out there. Call it s/f, fantasy or humor; you'd be correct with any of those categorizations. The first novel in which I remember the clacks appearing is Going Postal, and reading the later novels won't spoil the earlier ones if you choose to read about the clacks out of publication sequence. (Correction: Wikipedia says the first such novel is The Fifth Elephant.)


  1. In general the military doesn't allow cell tower construction on their facilities, so there are a lot of them around the perimeter. Generally local governments control the buffer zone around the perimeters of bases and would have to build any structures on that property. They are probably, legally owned by the local governments who lease space to the providers.

    Cell service sucks on Eglin, or driving through because of this.

    The military uses fiber for its communications whenever possible. They consider cell signals, even garage door openers as 'noise' that occasionally wanders into the reserved military radio spectrum.

    1. Bryan, the following paragraph from van Buren's post leads me to discount coincidence or the impossibility of building towers on military bases:

      “But for governments or other entities able to afford a price tag of $100,000, high-quality interceptors are quite realistic. Some interceptors are limited, only able to passively listen to either outgoing or incoming calls. But full-featured devices like the VME Dominator, available only to government agencies, not only capture calls and texts, but actively control the phone, sending out spoof texts, for example. Edward Snowden revealed the NSA is capable of an over-the-air attack that tells the phone to fake a shut-down while leaving the microphone running, turning the seemingly deactivated phone into a bug. And various ethical hackers have demonstrated DIY interceptor projects that work well-enough for less than $3,000.”

      These things are clearly spy devices for intercepting cell phone message content, whether by government, military or privately funded and used. I probably can't be persuaded of their intrinsic innocence, not with the track record of our current and recent past government in invasive surveillance of innocent citizens.



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