AT&T won't stop Black Hat demo of cell phone eavesdropping

The operator denies rumors it will try to block a hacker's demonstration of cell phone call interception at the Black Hat conference

AT&T says it won't interfere with a highly anticipated talk on intercepting cell phone calls at the Black Hat conference this week, even though rumors are circulating that it will do just that.

Last week, hacker Chris Paget said he plans to demonstrate how to set up what's essentially a fake cell tower that lets him listen in on nearby mobile calls. His talk is scheduled for Saturday.

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But Tuesday, he wrote on his blog that he had "heard that AT&T may be considering suing me to stop my talk."

AT&T, however, insisted it has no plans to interfere with the talk. "That is absolutely false. We are taking no such action," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said.

Operators could have reason to be concerned about Paget's talk, particularly if his demonstration interferes with the 911 system. But Paget says he has that covered.

"If you're in the room, need to dial 911 and you have a GSM phone, you can just raise your hand and shout. In the extremely unlikely situation that someone near the room with a GSM phone connects to my demo network and also needs to dial 911, I am taking the extra precaution of ensuring that that person will be connected to someone local who can call for or send help," he said in his blog post.

In planning his talk, Paget says he consulted legal experts at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He plans to put up prominent signs to warn people about his demonstration, and he's taking precautions to make sure no data from intercepted phone calls is stored, he said.

Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wasn't surprised that AT&T said it won't try to block the demonstration. "Of course they would do nothing. It's totally legitimate," she said.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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