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Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users !

MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - Makers ofsurveillance systems offer governments all over the world the technology to easily track any cellphone user’s movements, The Washington Post reported. “The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any country — including the United States — with relative ease and precision,” the newspaper wrote Sunday.

Modern surveillance technology makes it possible to track any cellphone user knowing only their phone number. The tracking systems exploit security problems with Signaling System No. 7 (SS7), a global network used by wireless carriers to communicate when directing calls. Queries sent over the SS7 network make it possible to establish which mobile tower a person most recently used, as networks must keep up-to-the-minute records of customers’ locations in order to deliver calls and other services. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, carriers may try to block SS7 queries, but protection against access is weak and easily defeated.

“You’re obviously trackable from all over the planet if you have a cellphone with you, as long as it’s turned on. It’s possible for almost anyone to track you as long as they are willing to spend some money on it,” telecommunications security researcher Tobias Engel was quoted as saying by The Washington Post. SS7 tracking systems can be paired up with IMSI catchers, fake mobile towers used to intercept mobile traffic and determine users’ precise locations. IMSI catchers work only if the target’s general location is known, which is made possible by SS7 technology, as it can determine a person’s location to within a city block in urban areas.

Dozens of countries have supposedly acquired such systems in recent years. According to the website of Verint, one of the companies offering tracking technology, their products are used by “more than 10,000 organizations in over 180 countries.” While many countries have made it illegal to track people without their consent, there is no international standard for the use of mobile tracking systems, the newspaper reported.

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