Thousands of hack-proof secure cell phones confiscated from Scotland prisons

In its latest report, the Scottish Prison service revealed that a total of 1889 cell phones were confiscated due to misuse within local jails. These devices were delivered to thousands of prisoners in early 2020 as part of the coronavirus isolation measures, since the prisons could not receive visitors and contact with the outside was practically cancelled.

In announcing this move, former Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf mentioned that £2.7 million was authorized for the purchase of 7,500 allegedly hacking-proof phones. However, some prisoners discovered an effective method to release the restricted functions of these devices a few hours after they were handed over. At the moment it is unknown what method the prisoners used to hack these devices.  

A source in Scotland’s prison service says hundreds of prisoners used this hacked equipment to operate illicit activities, including drug sales and extortion, in complicity with individuals outside the prisons. It was also reported that some gangs inside the prisons managed to steal the devices that were given to other inmates, as the program did not include prisoners considered dangerous.

To make the problem more serious, prison officials say it’s impossible to detect with the naked eye which devices have been tampered with by hackers, so prisons must invest considerable resources to find those phones capable of making unauthorized calls abroad, so the problem can’t be addressed in a matter of a few days.

For now, it has been decided that access to these phones will be revoked for inmates who misuse the devices, in addition to stricter measures to prevent the smuggling of new devices into prisons. These permits may be revoked for one month, two months or permanently.

Despite these measures, some congressmen have requested that the use of these devices be eliminated completely, as they believe that they only cause more problems than they solve and there is no way that the prison administration can guarantee their correct use.

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.