Saudi Arabia allegedly used mobile phone data to monitor its citizens in the US

Saudi Arabia has reportedly been exploiting weaknesses within the world cell telecoms community to trace the actions of its residents as they traveled across the US, in accordance with a brand new report from The Guardian.

The information outlet spoke with a whistleblower who offered hundreds of thousands of alleged secret monitoring requests which seem to indicate a scientific spying marketing campaign performed by the dominion.

Based on the information, hundreds of thousands of secret monitoring requests got here from Saudi Arabia over a four-month interval which started in November of final yr. These requests, which tried to ascertain the areas of Saudi-registered telephones within the US, seem to originate from the nation’s three largest cell phone operators.

In an announcement to The Guardian, the whistleblower explained that they could find no legitimate reason for the high volume of requests for location information, saying:

“There is no other explanation, no other technical reason to do this. Saudi Arabia is weaponising mobile technologies.”

SS7 global messaging system

The data shows requests for mobile phone location data that was routed through the aging SS7 global messaging system which allows mobile operators to connect users around the world. When someone tries to call another person in a different country, the SS7 network is used to connect them to one another.

However, the SS7 system also enables mobile phones to be tracked. When a mobile carrier in the US receives a Provide Subscriber Information (PSI) SS7 message from a mobile phone operator in another country, they are essentially getting a tracking request. These requests are used to help foreign operators register roaming charges but if abused, they can be also be used for location tracking.

The whistleblower’s data appears to show PSI requests from Saudi Arabia that pinged a major US telecom. Between November 2019 and March 2020, the three largest Saudi mobile operators, Saudi Telecom, Mobily and Zain, sent the US mobile phone operator a combined average of 2.3m tracking requests per month.

Based on this, the data appears to suggest that Saudi mobile phones were being tracked as they moved throughout the US as often as two to 13 times per hour. This high frequency of PSI requests suggests that Saudis in the US could have been tracked on a map to within hundreds of meters of accuracy in a city.

As of now, it is not known which individual Saudi mobile users were tracked during the four-month campaign but there will likely be further investigations into the matter now that it has been exposed.

Via The Guardian

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