How To Avoid Cell Tower Triangulation?
There are a couple of different ways how to tack a precise location of a mobile phone and his user. The most widely spread are using its built-in GPS module, or cell tower triangulation. As long as not many smartphones have that GPS module, triangulation is the most universal way of tracking. But how that technology works? Many people have questioned us about cell tower triangulation on our wiki QA service, so we've decided to describe how that whole thing works.
First of all, the one who tries to determine your location has to get the info on the base stations of your carrier and their coordinates. There are lots of such data bases on the Internet, opnecellid.org or location-api.com for example. And the point here in that, that the more bases that man has – the more accurate the results will be. By the way, the accuracy of such a tracking technique is not really high. It will be 150-300 meters in densely populated areas, where there are lots of cell towers and 2-5 kilometers in rural areas. Luckily, it is impossible to get more accurate location with only a cell tower triangulation, GPS will be required.
Evildoer will be able to get the data on the cell towers, such as MMC (country code), MNC (carrier code), LAC (a code of a current cell) and cell ID (unique cell tower ID). Using the coordinate data base it is not hard to get the exact location of each of those towers. As you probably know, your mobile phone maintains connection with at least 3 base stations simultaneously and it is not hard to find out where you are, by knowing which base stations, are closer to your location. But not all the mobile phones are sharing that data willingly. That's why evildoers will always try to exploit modern smartphone's vulnerabilities. For example, Samsung phones won't give the info on the cell towers, they are connected too, until their firmware is not properly patched and SonyEricsson give only a raw HEX-data, that needs to be converted. And Nokia phones simply don't share that data with an uncertified api's.
So, it will be far easier to locate your phone, if it is hacked, or compromised with a virus. We recommend to always check permission to Android users, because lots of apps require permissions for base stations tracking.
Finally, if the coordinates of the closest cell towers are known – it is not hard to calculate the location of the phone between three closest cell towers, using the signal power of each of them. Also, you should know that data transmission speeds of an ordinary GSM, or CDMA network lets evildoers to refresh the data every 10-15 seconds, so it is almost a live tracking.
Despite such an apparent complexity, that base stations tracking technique is rather widely spread and popular, because it lets to track all the phones, it doesn't matter of they have a GPS or GLONASS module. But that's not the only way of GPS-less navigation. Unfortunately, there is no way to make sure that no one will try to use such a tracking against you and the only way to protect yourself from that is using a decent cell phone jammer, which won't let your mobile device to connect the base stations. Unfortunately even if you will turn your smartphone off, it still may be tracked, or turned on remotely.