SA-born Larry Hurwitz – who developed the pinging platform allegedly used for illegal tracking of targets by Nafiz Modack – testified from the US about the capabilities of the technology, during Modack and his co-accused's murder and racketeering trial running in the Western Cape High Court.

According to a News24 report, he said he initially co-founded the service My911 for use by first, second and third responders to an emergency. Then, his company 3DT Group, of which he is the CEO, developed the software for the pinging system which was used to track the movements of Anti-Gang Unit detective Charl Kinnear before he was murdered.

Hurwitz's testimony is specifically related to Modack's co-accused Zane Kilian's pinging via the service provided by one of Hurwitz's local service providers, the ex-cop Bradley Goldblatt.

He said he thought he was pinging for legitimate debt collection location tracing for Modack, and somebody else was also using the pinging bundles and platform credentials he bought from Goldblatt.

Hurwitz testified MTN and Vodacom provided the locations based on signals to their towers, adds the News24 report.

He said his system allowed a user to enter a cellphone number for an MTN or Vodacom user, and his software located the device the phone number was linked to. It returns the device's longitude and latitude based on which cellphone tower it is connected to at the time of the search.

The encrypted system produces geocodes that translate to a physical address, such as ‘123 Main Street’.

Hurwitz said the system could locate a device within 20m if it was in a suburban area or CBD, because there were more towers, and within 600m in rural areas which have fewer cellphone towers.

He added the way this works was: a device was constantly looking for the cellphone tower with the strongest signal to ensure the best quality for communications. So, when the location is requested, the last known location of the device is provided.

‘Sorry about that, I know it's a mouthful,’ said Hurwitz to Judge Robert Henney.

‘That was the service I offered.’

In addition, a device's Global Positioning System (GPS) chip is also in constant contact with cellphone towers.

‘You can turn off your own GPS, but the phone will still register with the tower,’ said Hurwitz, adding the system was intended to be used for law enforcement purposes.

Full News24 report