Online Tool Allowed Anyone to Track Phone Locations for Free, and You Should Be Worried

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.

news-location-sharing-chicago

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.

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.

news-location-sharing-globe

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.

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.

5 comments

    • “If you don’t want you phone tracked, just turn it off.”
      Which obviates the utility of a cell phone. Nobody can contact you in an “emergency”.

      “Make sure it is really powered off.”
      Short of taking the battery out, you can never be sure.

      Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you a 100%. I own an old flip phone on which my family can contact me in case of a real emergency (fire, accident rather than “get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread” emergency). I turn it on (if I remember) only when I go on long trips. The rest of the time it sits in my desk drawer, turned off.

  1. I agree with John Andrews, if you don’t wanna be “seen” turn your phone off. (Although I’ve heard that it still transmits a signal unbeknownst to its owner!) If anything…placing it in the glove compartment when you’re heading into a mall should give you enough anonymity…..after all some malls are mega-huge and just because you’re parked in the Macy’s parking lot doesn’t mean you’re no on the other side of the highway at the Food Court…or in the theater enjoying a movie!….(Oh damn!……did I just give away all my secrets for getting “sick” and staying home from work?…LoL!)

  2. “If this information doesn’t scare you, nothing will.”
    It scares the crap out of me. However, while not related to this article, there is other information that scares me just as much. The City of Orlando, FL Police Department has implemented a pilot facial recognition project. Shades of Person of Interest! Of course, the PD brass and the mayor are promising that face recognition will only be used to pursue criminals and that the project will be used according to all statutory guidelines. RIGHT! And the check is in the mail. Big Brother could not even dream of having technology such as phone tracking and ubiquitous facial recognition.

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.

Sponsored Stories