STINGRAY STINGERS

About Stringrays and Cellphone Surveillance.

IMSI catchers, commonly known as Stingrays, are cellphone surveillance devices used by police forces and state intelligence agencies around the world. There is also speculation that they are used in industrial espionage. Stingrays, at their most basic, mimic cellphone towers, tricking nearby phones into believing they are the strongest cellphone tower in the area. When this happens, your phone connects to this device and provides it with a unique ID number (your IMSI number). Stingrays can be used to track people, but also to intercept text messages, cellphone conversations and mobile internet use.

International border crossings, whether they be located at a physical border or in the symbolic space of airports, are places where we regularly submit our bodies and our belongings to surveillance and probing. While it’s been shown that Stingrays are regularly used by law enforcement, the detection of Stingrays in airports is a somewhat recent phenomenon. This year, a CBC reporter detected one in Montreal’s Trudeau Airport with the use of a $3000 Cryptophone.

As part of the Border Probes project, we are actively evaluating and helping to develop cheap and open-source solutions for detecting Stingrays. Our current primary focus is SITCH, an open-source RaspberryPi-based system which we are planning on porting to the Canadian regulatory environment in the near future.

If you are interested in collaborating or speaking with us about Stingrays, please email Dr. Evan Light at elight@glendon.yorku.ca.