Recently I wrote a post titled “Cellphone Surveillance: The Secret Arsenal” that includes interesting information about the principal cellphone surveillance equipment available on the market. This equipment is reserved in the majority of cases for a military or law enforcement usage, but is also possible to buy it elsewhere.
Recently I read an interesting post published by Ben Bryant on MotherBoard that describes the offer in the black market of tactical surveillance equipment.
Bryant discovered a Hong Kong tech company, HK Medsourcing, that is offering for sale state surveillance equipment, it is an IMSI-catcher operated via an Android app.
An IMSI-catcher is a surveillance solution used for intercepting mobile phone traffic, calls, tracking movements of mobile phone users block phones from operating.
An IMSI catcher runs a Man in the Middle (MITM) attack acting as a bogus mobile cell tower that sits between the target mobile phone and the service provider’s real towers.
The IMSI-catcher offered to the journalist is costs $15,000 and operated via an Android app. The seller demonstrates the use of the surveillance equipment, by clicking a button on the app the software started collecting information from the nearby cellphones, including the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), and phone numbers.
The HK Medsourcing was offering its surveillance equipment also to private investigation companies as explained by its representative Edward Tian. When the journalists, posing as businessmen as part of our investigation, requested this information to the man he replied.
“Sure,”“Yeah. Some private companies.”
“A trade company or an investigation company, any company like this,” he added.
“We are not very clear about the local law, about the recommendations,” he said. “So you need to assure us that you are using it legally. And we make arrangements according to your requirements. That’s not a problem.”
There are many other companies like HK Medsourcing that offer tactical surveillance equipment in a mark that lack of rules.
As explained in the post, Western firms cannot sell surveillance equipment without an export license that forbid sales to repressive governments and private organizations. But many firms fills the gap offering their solutions to these regimes.
“HK Medsourcing, for instance, claimed to have attended a tender for the Bangladeshi police the week prior to our call—an outfit that had previously failed to obtain an IMSI Catcher from a Swiss company after it was blocked by the government.” wrote Bryant.
Such kind of companies offers various solutions for tactical surveillance technology, including IMSI-Catchers, spyware and geolocation tools.
The lawful interception industry is expected to reach $1,342.4 Million by 2019, but this is probably the tip of the iceberg due to the uncontrolled growth of a black market.
(Security Affairs – tactical surveillance technology, IMSI-Catcher)