(Geo)location, Location, Location: Technology and Countermeasures for Mobile Location Surveillance

Presented at HOPE X (2014), July 19, 2014, 3 p.m. (60 minutes)

We all know that law enforcement (and private companies, for that matter) can track you through your mobile phone. But how exactly does tracking work? How precise are they? When can they get this data? And is there anything you can do to obscure your movements without moving into a Faraday cage? This talk will discuss the various technologies that law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and private industry use to track individual movements. There are a surprising number of different techniques. Many involve the signals emanating from - and records created by - mobile phones, but there are more specialized - and surprising - tracking techniques in use as well. The tower data information contained in cellular call detail records, E911 "pings," tower dumps, IMSI catchers, aggregate metadata analysis, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-based locators, traditional RF and GPS trackers, and some of the sophisticated "implants" used by intelligence agencies will all be discussed. Can you opt out without opting out of the Information Age? Not always, but there are a few countermeasures that work, as well as a surprising number that don't. There will be an analysis of a number of real-world cases of tracking, as well as tips on how to learn from the mistakes of others.


  • Matt Blaze
    Matt Blaze is a hacker, safecracker, and computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies surveillance, security, cryptography, and large-scale systems.