With all the fuss about iPhone encryption (and the absurd contention that it matters much to the average user given that iCloud has everything right there instantly avaialble to law enforcement), some perspective on a more real threat is appropriate. Namely, hackers or just about any well financed organization can track cell phone users.
IEEE Spectrum reports in Alarming Security Defects in SS7, the Global Cellular Network—and How to Fix Them:
The global network that transfers calls between mobile phone carriers has security defects that permit hackers and governments to monitor users’ locations and eavesdrop on conversations. As more reports of these activities surface, carriers are scrambling to protect customers from a few specific types of attacks.
Once they’re in, hackers and government intelligence agencies have found ways to exploit security defects to monitor users or record calls. Experts who study SS7 have found some individuals are tracked by as many as nine entities at once. While the average citizen isn’t likely to be a target, it’s impossible for consumers to know whether or not they’re being watched.
The sheer scale of SS7 means that these flaws present a massive cybersecurity problem that could theoretically affect any mobile phone user in the world. “Technically speaking, more people use the SS7 than use the Internet,” says Cathal McDaid, chief intelligence officer at network security firm AdaptiveMobile. “It’s the majority of the world’s population.”
MPG’s view is that Apple’s legal positions have great merit, but also make for great PR while yet being all but irrelevant to 99.999% of Apple users—much ado about squat given that these same users sync their stuff up with iCloud, which is essentially a real-time feed to law enforcement. Issues like the defects above + the hacker threat form a far more concerning issue. Think corporate espionage, organizations like ISIS looking to track and kill enemies, just for starters.