US intel agencies warn that foreign spies have devices that can mimic cell towers and steal data
An early version of the Stingray, a device that mimics cell towers and takes data from suspects and other people/Screenshot

For the first time, the U.S. government has acknowledged that foreign spies may have devices that can track individual cellphones and intercept calls and data, the Associated Press reports.

American law enforcement has had devices known as Stingrays for more than a decade, which mimic cell phone towers and allow agents to pick up data from specific cell users. They are of concern to the ACLE, as "cell site simulators" or "IMSI catchers," gather information from lots of innocent bystanders as they trick a suspect's cell phone into transmitting their locations and other identifying information.

The theoretical existence of the devices has been feared for a long time. Many U.S. police departments have them, so they are not tightly controlled by the standards of spycraft.

Now, we know that hostile foreign powers have the devices thanks to a letter sent to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden by the Department of Homeland Security. The letter didn't say how many of them existed or were used.

The use of the devices wouldn't be a big surprise as they can be had for as cheaply as $1,000 and can be as small as a cellphone.

The video below gives a great overview of the devices and concerns about how they take data from random people without search warrants.