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Israeli intelligence firm 'obtained smartphone location data via Channel Islands': report

Rayzone Group develops cyber spy products for governments. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2020

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An Israeli spy firm was reportedly granted access to a phone messaging system known as SS7, potentially enabling it to geolocate phone users all over the world.

Israeli intelligence firm Rayzone Group leased an access point through a mobile operator in the Channel Islands in 2018, enabling it at the time to track the locations of mobile phones across the world, a report said on Wednesday.

The Guardian reviewed invoices and found Rayzone, a private spy firm that provides government clients with "geolocation tools", leased an access point into the telecoms network via Sure Guernsey – a phone operator in the Channel Islands.

The access points enable a route into phone users' messaging system – known as SS7 – that allows mobile operators to connect users around the world.

However, the third-party leasing could potentially pose a security threat to mobile phone users if signalling messages are used for questionable purposes – such as monitoring locations for state surveillance.

Rayzone niether denied nor confirmed the reported lease in comments to The Guardian, but said the query "entails regulatory and trade secret issues and a risk to our customers' ongoing operations against terror and severe crime".

Rayzone claimed it acted in accordance with all laws and regulations, including export control regulations under the Israeli defence ministry.

Read also: Israel recruiting Shin Bet officers to spy on Palestinian-Israelis

Sure Guernsey said it does not "knowingly" lease access to organisations for the purpose of geolocating and tracking individuals. 

According to leaked data and interviews, private intelligence firms view small mobile operators in offshore jurisdictions as as soft routes to exploit and gain access to phone networks.

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