Hackers to get cellphone snooping lessons at DefCon

A security expert said he has devised a simple and relatively inexpensive way to snoop on cellphone conversations, claiming that most wireless networks are incapable of guaranteeing calls won’t be intercepted.

Law enforcement has long had access to expensive cell-phone tapping equipment known as IMSI catchers that each cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Chris Paget, who does technology security consulting work, says he has figured out how to build an IMSI catcher using a $1,500 piece of hardware and free, open-source software.

Paget will teach other hackers how to make their own IMSI catchers on Saturday during in a presentation at the annual Defcon security conference in Las Vegas.

His technique only works with wireless systems based on GSM technology, which is used by most of the world’s wireless carriers. In the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG operate on GSM systems.

Thousands of hackers will attend the Defcon conference in Las Vegas that starts on Friday, where researchers like Paget will disclose security vulnerabilities in systems from cell phones and business software to systems that run the electrical grid.

They will all swear fealty to the vaguely religious rationale that they’re only involved in proving to hardware and software manufacturers better ways to provide security.

One would hope that advances in contemporary sophistry might eventually provide them with more believable rationales. Something better than the usual crap copouts.

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