UK Police purchased IMSI-catcher technology for mobile surveillance
17.10.2016 securityaffairs Mobil

According to documents analyzed by The Bristol Cable media Agency, the UK authorities have purchased IMSI-catcher equipment.
Privacy advocates and rights groups are in revolt against the UK law enforcement that has purchased mobile phone snooping technology.

The rights groups are protesting against the adoption of the IMSI-catcher technology that could be used for dragnet surveillance.

The 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 UK police has purchased police this mobile phone snooping technology to track suspects’ devices and intercept their communications as part of their investigations.

The problem is that devices such as the IMSI-catcher monitor indiscriminately monitor mobile devices in an area of up to 8km, representing a serious threat to users’ privacy.

Rights groups are demanding for transparency from the police about the use of surveillance technology.

According to the Bristol Cable the UK police is using the Stingray equipment for its operations. The law enforcement has reportedly purchased “covert communications data capture” equipment (CCDC) from a UK firm, the Cellxion.


“IMSI Covert Communications” that was earmarked £144,000. In the same budget the “CCDC” item was allocated at the same price, £144,000.

“South Yorkshire police confirmed that ‘CCDC’ and ‘IMSI Covert Communications’ are the same budget item.”

The invoices obtained by the Cable, the local UK police paid Cellxion £169,575.00 for CCDC equipment, as well as other “communications and computing equipment.”

“Suspicions have been raised in the past that IMSI-catchers are in use in the UK. These suspicions, until now, have focused on the Metropolitan Police’s purchase and use of the technology. Now, the Cable can exclusively reveal that at least five other forces appear to have contracted for IMSI-catchers, including Avon and Somerset (A&S) Constabulary.” revealed The Bristol Cable “This revelation comes from decrypting for the first time the acronym – CCDC, standing for covert communications data capture – in use by police forces across the country to obscure their apparent purchase of IMSI-catchers, and identifying police contracts with Cellxion, a firm that manufactures them.”

Privacy International advocacy officer Matthew Rice condemned the lack of transparency in the use of IMSI catcher technology. Now that we now know the acronyms used by the police, it is important to reveal the real use of surveillance technology.

“While journalists and activists [have] spent time requesting information about IMSI-catchers… the real question we should have been asking our police forces was about the term CCDC (covert communications data capture),” he says.

“The longer the policy of denial of existence of these capabilities go on, the worse it is for police, citizens, and civil liberties in the United Kingdom,” he says.

It is still unclear whether the UK police and intelligence agencies have used IMSI-catchers and in which kind of operations.