In Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, cell-site simulators like StingRays are generally utilized by law enforcement. Continue reading to discover more about these devices, the data they gather, and how you can safeguard yourself from them.
If you’re interested in surveillance, you have heard the phrase “StingRay” used to describe how law enforcement organizations track cell phones. This blog will explain what a StingRay is, what it does, and how to prevent it from spying on you using techniques like network selection and VPNs.
Although the word “StingRay” has become somewhat of a grab, it relates to only one type of device. “Cell-site simulator” or “IMSI catcher” are more appropriate descriptive words for these devices. IMSI relates to the unique identifier found on each SIM card.
Real StingRays and other, more powerful cell simulators have considerable variations, which we will discuss later in this blog.
- IMSI-catchers, such as StingRay devices, focus on outdated 2G or GSM networks by imitating a mobile tower that connects with your smartphone.
- Disable 2G on a jailbroken device, living in a region with actual 5G coverage, or always utilizing a Virtual private network while connecting to mobile data are all strategies to safeguard oneself from StingRays.
- Because several 5G networks are simply 4G networks with faster speeds, it isn’t easy to discern if 5G’s security measures secure you or not.
- There’s presently no regulation in the United States that restricts the utilization of cell-site simulators for surveillance. Still, a measure is in the works that would require government agencies and police to acquire a permit before using one.
If you had preferred to skip forward to what you may do to secure your online activities, the simple answer is always to use a Virtual private network, so remember to check out our list of the top VPNs. Our obvious choices are NordVPN and ExpressVPN. VPNs, on the other hand, will not secure your text messages.
How to Block Stingray Surveillance?
We will discuss what a StingRay is and how it varies from more recent alternatives. Then we will go over the most basic precautions you can implement to avoid being tracked by StingRay.
What Is StingRay Surveillance?
What Is StingRay Surveillance?
StingRays work by manipulating your phone into believing that the surveillance equipment is a cell tower. Consequently, any traffic — like phone calls, text messages, or web queries — is routed thru the device. If the traffic is not secured, whoever is in charge of the StingRay device will have accessibility to it all.
A StingRay device is one kind of a category of devices called “cell-site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” which use as a blanket term. It currently operates on 2G networks, which is becoming less and less helpful for law enforcement as 4G and ultimately 5G networks take over.
As a result, StingRays are not as effective as they once were. Fortunately for surveillance agencies and law enforcement, this technology isn’t gone yet.
StingRay vs Hailstorm
Since StingRays are confined to monitoring cell phone users linked to a traditional 2G network, the Harris Corporation also makes the Hailstorm (or simply “StingRay-II”).
A Hailstorm device, unlike StingRays, can collect information on 4G and 3G networks, which comprise the great bulk of mobile networks globally.
Safeguarding yourself from a Hailstorm threat is significantly more challenging than StingRays and similar technologies. Whether you reside in a region with existing 5G networks (more on that later), using a Virtual private network is the only method to protect data like Text messages protected from Hailstorm devices.
Block StingRay by Disabling 2G
Disabling 2G connectivity on your device is the most straightforward approach to defend yourself from StingRay threats. However, only a couple of phone manufacturers enable you to accomplish this, with all of the major brands (including Samsung and Apple) allowing you to disable only 4G or 3G.
You can disable 2G networks by jailbreaking or rooting your device and installing 3rd party software like the Xposed Framework. However, this only safeguards you if your device joins directly to a 2G network; it does not secure you from the security flaw in 4G and 3G mobile networks that transfers the signals to 2G if necessary.
Furthermore, the StingRay is an out-of-date tech in and of itself. Government agencies now have accessibility to more advanced cell-site simulators that aim 4G and 3G networks, rendering them considerably more difficult to ignore completely.
Carriers in the United States are phasing out their 2G connections. In 2017, AT&T discontinued servicing its 2G connection, and Verizon followed suit in 2020. T-Mobile and Sprint are not quite there yet, but their 2G connections will shut down by Dec-21 and Dec-22.
Can Virtual Private Networks Safeguard You From Other Cell-Site Simulators?
Yes, to an extent. A VPN will muddle any traffic or data collected by IMSI catchers, including a StingRay device. Still, it will not be sufficient to hide your geographical location (or, at least, that of your mobile).
Traditional text messages are not secured. Therefore if you wish your communications secure by the Virtual private network, utilize an alternative messaging software like Signal, WhatsApp, or even Facebook Messenger.
If all law enforcement needs are your geolocation, they can get it by triangulating GPS signals or cell-phone towers, so they do not require a cell-site simulator like a StingRay.
Final Words: Blocking StingRay Technology
This article concludes on how to defend oneself against spying with StingRays and related devices. While legislation to regulate the use of such devices is in the process, it is now a total free-for-all, which indicates it is up to you to safeguard yourself.
Utilizing a Virtual private network for any cellular data connection you access is the best way to safeguard your safety. Another security action you may take is to stop sending SMS messages and instead use an application like Telegram, Signal, or Wickr to send encrypted messages. Further, you can subscribe to Efani as it will help you block StringRay surveillance on your mobile phone. Still, Efani also provides a VIP security program that will assist you in protecting against cybercrimes and Sim Swap attacks.