Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cellphones disguised as car fobs make it easier to smuggle and hide in sensitive areas

Cell phones disguised as car fobs and made with very low metal content to smuggle into prisons have hit the market. Prisons are not the only area where cell phones are restricted.  IT/ITES companies, government, and defense establishments where sensitive information is processed normally restrict cellphones, storage and other communication devices which have the ability to exfiltrate data electronically or through the use of inbuilt cameras. Metal detectors and physical searches detect objects like USB’s and cellphones. Plastic  phones disguised as innocuous items make detection harder.
Statistics on the smuggled cell phones in jails reveal the severity of the problem and highlight the relative ease with which a prison inmate could obtain one. One Indian jail reported finding 4 cellphones a week, Britain reported finding 7000 cellphones a year while a routine sweep pick up between 12 to 120 cellphones. Across the world there are two main avenues for phones to get into jails; through prison officials who sell them at exorbitant prices to prisoners or by inserting phones into balls which are thrown over prison walls.

Hard core prisoners use phones for extortion, terror, intimidation or to run their crime syndicates, while others call friends and family, check the news on their court cases and for social networking. Phones are hidden in plastic cases and buried into toilet shifts, or in some unusual cavities such as in the case of a prisoner’s who hid it in his rectum. Smaller phones with low metal content would be useful to evade sweeps made in prison.
Jamming of phones is hotly as it hampers emergency calls made by guards. In India, jammers fail to work as inmates allegedly used salt to render them defunct.

Phones will continue to be found in jails unless the financial incentive to smuggle them in is removed, and officials who do so are severely punished. Their active connivance not only helps the phones to get in, but also helps charge them.
Cell phone providers provide records on phones transmitting from a given location. Monitoring phone records from jail premises could provide useful clues of the cell phones operating from within.

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