The Brave New World of Cell-Site Simulators

27 Pages Posted: 24 May 2014

Date Written: May 22, 2014


How do you catch a hacker that has stolen thousands of dollars, stolen multiple identities, and evaded capture for years? If you’re the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), you use a Stingray, of course. If you’re puzzled right now, you probably also have an expectation of privacy within your home and it has never occurred to you that the FBI could use a device to cause your phone to emit a signal, without your knowledge, for the purpose of locating it — and you. That device is the Stingray — a cell-site simulator — and the story of the hacker is not a fictional one. Technology constantly adapts, updates, and changes, and with it so does the law and society. Once again, we are faced with an emerging technology that the legal community must deal with. First, however, the legal community must understand the technology in order to spot the issues, argue causes, and apply analogous law until laws that are on-point are developed.

This article will cover the public awareness concerning cell-site simulators in section I. In section II, pertinent elements of cellular network technology will be discussed, which will be crucial to the legal community’s ability to apply the law and create new laws. Section III will merge the technological information and other information publicly available to outline possible methods that have been, or could be, used. Finally, section IV will point to certain legal issues raised by cell-site simulator technology and the need for possible legislation or regulation. The technology explained, and the legal issues raised, will enable following efforts to explore the brave new world of cell-site simulators.

Keywords: Stingray, cell-site simulator, IMSI catcher

Suggested Citation

Hardman, Heath, The Brave New World of Cell-Site Simulators (May 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Heath Hardman (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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