How Did The Walmart Spy Intercept Text Messages?

No one knows for sure which technique the Walmart spy used to intercept text messages between media relations staff and the New York Times, but Slate has a few guesses. This is their best one:

It’s also possible to intercept unencrypted or poorly encrypted messages directly as they’re broadcast over cellular channels. (If the network uses sophisticated encryption, you might be out of luck.) To steal messages with your phone, you would need to upload illegal “firmware” onto your phone. This essentially turns your phone into a radio and allows it to pick up all the texts broadcast on a given channel–instead of limiting you to the ones addressed to you. You’d also need to know the network for the target phone–Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, etc.–and you’d have to make sure that both your phone and the target are within range of the same base station. This method isn’t too expensive since you don’t need much more than a computer, a phone, and some firmware that any serious techie could find online for free.

Hmm. We do not know anything about illegal firmware, so we’ll take Slate’s word on that.

Guess we’ll have to curb the hot and heavy txts to Walmart’s delicious PR people. Someone could be listening….—MEGHANN MARCO

How Do You Intercept a Text Message? [Slate]
(Photo: Clean Wal-Mart)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.