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are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. Whether your phone uses Android or iOS, it also has a second operating system that runs on a part of the phone called a baseband processor. The baseband processor functions as a communications middleman between the phone's main O.S. and the cell towers. And because chip manufacturers jealously guard details about the baseband O.S., it has been too challenging a target for garden-variety hackers.
You wouldn't know an interceptor from an ordinary cellphone tower, there's no way you can. Except that when your phone connects to one, a variety of over-the-air attacks become possible—everything from eavesdropping to pushing spyware on the device. It all happens stealthily, silently. It turns out that there are way more interceptors in the United States than anyone had previously thought. Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, the company that makes the super-secure CryptoPhone 500, found 17 phony towers around the U.S. in July alone. No one knows for sure who's running them, Goldsmith tells Popular Science. "What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of U.S. military bases. So we begin to wonder – are some of them U.S. government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?" he says. Here's how interceptors exploit your smartphones: