Can the office network dept intercept cellular signal?
August 10, 2016 5:05 AM   Subscribe

At the office, they put in a Wilson Panel Antenna (looks like this one) for a stronger cell phone signal indoors (for Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile I think they said). My question is, can they (the network people at the office) intercept the signal such that they could see employee phone calls, texting, and web traffic?)
posted by allelopath to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they did that you might want to call the Justice Dept, so no. Does the technology exist? Yes. Is your employer using it? No.
posted by fixedgear at 5:15 AM on August 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you think they are using Stingrays to spy on you, you should think about getting a new job. But only if that's true. It's probably not true. Why do you worry about this?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:17 AM on August 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

The amount of technology (not to mention paranoia) that would be required to say "Bob is surfing for naughty pictures" is immense. Even if Someone In Charge decided that this was a good use of their time and money, all it would take would be one person with a conscience to drop a dime to the Ethics / Privacy department for the whole thing to go up.

The repeater is there to help you, not make it easier for your bosses to find out that you're texting on a conference call.
posted by jpolchlopek at 6:23 AM on August 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, but the technology exists already to do that without the Wilson. If you work for a government agency, FOIL the data and see what they respond with.
posted by AugustWest at 6:54 AM on August 10, 2016

I mean, yeah, it's possible. Here's an article. But it would be a massive amount of effort, probably illegal, and isn't standard practice unless you work for the NSA.
posted by miyabo at 10:19 AM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

If they install a picocell, then yes, theoretically, but no, they are not.
posted by gorcha at 10:19 AM on August 10, 2016

only law enforcement and places like defcon. in a couple of years, this will be common. it won't be your employer though, mostly likely.
posted by lescour at 2:20 PM on August 10, 2016

The antenna by itself doesn't do anything like that. It'll be attached to either a bidirectional amplifier and another external antenna - which doesn't have any ability to understand the cell signals - or an Internet connected device called a pico- or femptocell. That's a miniature cell tower circuit, and it does have the technology to interpret calls and data, which it has to do to some extent to convert between them and the Internet data it exchanges with the cell company to carry on the connection.

But picocells and femtocells don't give anyone the opportunity to eavesdrop on calls or data; they parcel it up internally and connect to the cell company through an encrypted link.

You can in theory (and I don't doubt, in practice) hack a pico/femptocell to extract information, but this is not what companies do, in part because it's very difficult, in part because why would they, and in part because if you're caught using one you're unlikely to be allowed any sort of mobile technology where you'll be going next.

Only government agencies can intercept cell calls, and then only as part of regulated investigations. And they don't normally put any of that equipment in prominent display on the walls of offices.
posted by Devonian at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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