Motherboard Article: Creating an IMSI Catcher with an RTL-SDR

Motherboard, an online technology magazine has recently run an article titled "With $20 of Gear from Amazon, Nearly Anyone Can Make This IMSI-Catcher in 30 Minutes". The article describes how an RTL-SDR together with the IMSI-Catcher Linux software can be used to collect IMSI numbers from cellphones connected to a nearby cell tower. The IMSI is a unique number assigned to each SIM card and collecting this data could be used to identify if someone is in the area covered by the cell tower.

The IMSI-Catcher software only works with the older 2G GSM signals which are now being phased out in some countries and are relatively unused in others. Also unlike more advanced IMSI-Catchers which create a fake cell tower signal, the RTL-SDR based IMSI-Catcher can only collect IMSI numbers when the cellphone first connects to the cell tower.

One of our older posts with a YouTube tutorial video explains the RTL-SDR IMSI Catcher in more detail. 

IMSI-Catcher Python Script
IMSI-Catcher Python Script
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Germany still has 2G and announced to instead phase out 3G


The author of the article on Motherboard is clueless. That is all.


Yes by far, I can’t believe every other blog is picking up this stupid story.

at least the RTL blog had the courtesy to mention that this is basically useless unless you’re targeting a 2G network that you’re not going to find most places anymore.

as much as I want to like the motherboard team it is a cesspool of ignorance just trying to peddle whatever hot topic it can to make a quick Buck on advertising.

Mr X

It’s not even an IMSI catcher, it is a passive IMSI sniffer. The author exaggerated to get more media attention and publicly admitted doing so.