This story is more than just a little scary. Your cell phone location could have been searched for free by absolutely anyone thanks to an online service. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. That’s right – you may have been being tracked and didn’t even know it, and there’s nothing you could have done to stop it.
This phone location-tracking was first discovered last week when The New York Times reported that location data provided by a phone-tracking company, Securus Technologies, was being used for a former Missouri sheriff. He would track cell phones without filing for a court order.
But this sheriff wasn’t the only one obtaining phone location data. ZDNet delved into this story and discovered that Securus gets its data from LocationSmart, a company that can track any phone on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.
KrebsOnSecurity then shared that LocationSmart offers a free tool on this website that lets people look up the location of their cell phones. That would be great if you lost your phone, right? You only need to enter your name, email, and phone number, and you’ll then get a confirmation text that will ping your phone from the nearest cell tower. After you agree to allow the system to do this, you’ll get a text with the approximate latitude or longitude of your phone.
It Goes Even Further
PhD candidate Robert Xiao explains that while all that sounds great, the problem is that LocationSmart doesn’t utilize any type of a check to make sure that you’re looking up the location data of your own phone. You could put in anyone’s information and follow them.
“I stumbled upon this almost by accident, and it wasn’t terribly hard to do,” shared Xiao. “This is something anyone could discover with minimal effort. And the gist of it is I can track most peoples’ cell phones without their consent.”
Xiao was able to use this free online tool to track his friend’s location repeatedly in just a few minutes. This allowed him to chart every single place his friend was going by using the coordinates provided to him by LocationSmart.
Thankfully, that online tool was finally taken offline. But while it was still live, KrebOnSecurity pinged five trusted sources that had given their consent. Within just a few seconds, Xiao was able to figure out the location of each of these sources’ mobile phones. One of those sources said Xiao was able to figure out their location within 100 yards while another said it was 1.5 miles away.
LocationSmart Founder and CEO Mario Proletti denied his online tool was doing anything wrong. “We don’t give away data,” he said. “We make it available for legitimate and authorized purposes. It’s based on legitimate and authorized use of location data that only takes place on consent. We take privacy seriously, and we’ll review all facts and look into them.”
From what he said, he had only the best of intentions with this tool. But certainly everyone who stumbled upon this tool didn’t have those same intentions. The archived data goes back to at last January 2017, so in all that time just anyone could have been tracking your every move.
The Scary Realization
If this information doesn’t scare you, nothing will. Certainly it goes beyond LocationSmart. If Proletti could develop this tool, what’s to stop anyone else from developing this tool? It’s already out there; we can’t take it back. LocatonSmart is offline, but there’s nothing to stop anyone else from developing the same type of tool.
It doesn’t matter what security measures you take, you can be tracked.
Are you justifiably worried over this technology? Are you now second-guessing everything you do with your mobile phone? We know you have comments on this! Let us know what you think in the given space below.