ACLU + Guardian at the DiscoTech

The DiscoTech was a huge success for us and gave us the opportunity to share with others information on cell phone surveillance.  The DiscoTech allowed us to speak with people in a variety of settings, from meet and greets to hands on workshops.  Through this, we were able to speak about the problem we’re trying to solve (IMSI-catcher detection) in a variety of ways.  There was a huge disparity in how much people know and this allowed us to field questions ranging from how IMSI-catchers work, to what protocol they’re able to spoof.  Throughout the day, we talked with people and learned a lot about what people know and got a lot of great feedback on our project idea.

The hands-on workshop we offered was “Locate your cell tower”.  We used this time to show people how they could look at some advanced diagnostic menus on their phones (menus generally hidden and accessible through special key codes).  This allowed the audience to see and compare which cell towers they were connected to.  We took this information and compared it to some databases of cell towers to identify the location of the cell towers that they were actually connected to, seen in Figure 1 below.  Additionally, we used the time to explain the theory of how we can use this knowledge to detect possible IMSI interference.  A lot of questions came up and we had amazing conversations on topics such as cell tower databases, protocols, and areas of concern.

Figure 1: Example cell tower location of one of the attendees

Overall we had a great experience participating in the DiscoTech.  We learned a lot from the attendees and got some great feedback on our project.  Additionally we opened peoples eyes to a real problem and the reception was great.  People enjoyed seeing how they can utilize their phone and get more information for themselves and they were interested to hear more about how IMSI-catchers are being used.