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Tag Archive: Stingray


Secrecy Around Police Surveillance Equipment Proves A Case’s Undoing

 

 

 

” The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison.

  But before trial, his defense team detected investigators’ use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device —a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys.

  Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain.

  Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months’ probation ­after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century. (The other two defendants also pleaded guilty and were sentenced to two years’ probation.)

  McKenzie’s case is emblematic of the growing, but hidden, use by local law enforcement of a sophisticated surveillance technology borrowed from the national security world. It shows how a gag order imposed by the FBI — on grounds that discussing the device’s operation would compromise its effectiveness — has left judges, the public and criminal defendants in the dark on how the tool works.”

 

Washington Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Justice Department Defends US Marshals’ Airborne Cell Tower Spoofers; Refuses To Acknowledge Program Exists

 

 

 

 

 

 

” The Justice Department has been summoned to say a few words in defense of the US Marshals’ Cessna-mounted cell tower spoofers. And while it tried to leave a lot unsaid, it actually said quite a bit.

  The Justice Department, without formally acknowledging the existence of the program, defended the legality of the operation by the U.S. Marshals Service, saying the agency doesn’t maintain a database of everyday Americans’ cellphones.

  Because America’s criminal element is forever only moments away from permanently escaping the grasp of law enforcement, the DOJ has refused to confirm or deny the existence of technology everyone already knows exists — IMSI catchers and single-engine aircraft. The DOJ’s caginess is commendable. I’m sorry, I mean ridiculous. Here’s the same official further protecting and defending The Program That Dare Not Confirm Its Existence, using statements that indicate the program exposed by the Wall Street Journal not only exists, but functions pretty much as described.

  A Justice Department official on Friday refused to confirm or deny the existence of such a program, because doing so would allow criminals to better evade law enforcement. But the official said it would be “utterly false’’ to conflate the law-enforcement program with the collection of bulk telephone records by the National Security Agency, a controversial program already being challenged in the courts and by some members of Congress.

  No one’s conflating the feds’ airborne ‘Stingray’ with the NSA’s ongoing bulk phone records collections. All people have done is note that surveillance technology of this sort has the ability to collect (and store) millions of unrelated phone records in a very short period of time. “

 

Read the rest at Techdirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phone Firewall Identifies Rogue Cell Towers Trying To Intercept Your Calls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” Rogue cell phone towers can track your phone and intercept your calls, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re as ubiquitous as GPS trackers. But at least now there’s a way to spot them.

  A firewall developed by the German firm GSMK for its secure CryptoPhone lets people know when a rogue cell tower is connecting to their phone. It’s the first system available that can do this, though it’s currently only available for enterprise customers using Android phones.

  GSMK’s CryptoPhone 500, a high-end phone that costs more than $3,000 and combines a Samsung Galaxy S3 handset with the CryptoPhone operating system, offers strong end-to-end encryption along with a specially hardened Android operating system that offers more security than other Android phones and the patented baseband firewall that can alert customers when a rogue tower has connected to their phone or turned off the mobile network’s standard encryption.

  The problem with rogue cell towers is widespread. The FCC is assembling a task force to address the illicit use of so-called IMSI catchers—the devices that pose as rogue cell towers. But the task force will only examine the use of the devices by hackers and criminals—and possibly foreign intelligence agencies—not their warrantless use by law enforcement agencies bent on deceiving judges about their deployment of the powerful surveillance technology.

  IMSI catchers, stingrays or GSM interceptors as they’re also called, force a phone to connect to them by emitting a stronger signal than the legitimate towers around them. Once connected, pings from the phone can help the rogue tower identify a phone in the vicinity and track the phone’s location and movement while passing the phone signals on to a legitimate tower so the user still receives service. Some of the IMSI software and devices also intercept and decrypt calls and can be used to push malware to vulnerable phones, and they can also be used to locate air cards used with computers. The systems are designed to be portable so they can be operated from a van or on foot to track a phone as it moves. But some can be stationary and operate from, say, a military base or an embassy. The reach of a rogue tower can be up to a mile away, forcing thousands of phones in a region to connect to it without anyone knowing.”

 

 

Read more on how to protect yourself from “rogue cell towers” and Stingray spy technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea Party, Taxes And Why The Original Patriots Would’ve Revolted Against The Surveillance State

 

We Rebelled Against Much Less

 

 

” Let’s just imagine we could transport an Internet-connected laptop back to the 1790s, when the United States was in its infancy. The technology would no doubt knock the founders out of their buckle-top boots, but once the original patriots got over the initial shock and novelty (and clearing up Wikipedia controversies, hosting an AMA and boggling over Dogecoin), the sense of marvel would give way to alarm as they realized how electronic communications could be exploited by a tyrant, such as the one from which they just freed themselves.

 As America’s first unofficial chief technologist, Benjamin Franklin would be the first to recognize the danger and take to trolling the message boards with his famous sentiment: Those who would trade liberty for safety deserve neither. (And he’d probably troll under a fake handle, using Tor, since the patriots understood that some truths are best told with anonymity.)

  Mass surveillance was not part of the original social contract—the terms of service, if you will—between Americans and their government. Untargeted surveillance is one reason we have an independent country today.

  Under the Crown’s rule, English officials used writs of assistance to indiscriminately “enter and go into any house, shop cellar, warehouse, or room or other place and, in case of resistance, to break open doors, chests, trunks, and other package there” in order to find tax evaders. Early patriot writers, such as James Otis Jr. and John Dickinson, railed against these general warrants, and it was this issue, among other oppressive conditions, that inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth Amendment.

James Madison drafted clear language guaranteeing the rights of Americans, and it bears reading again in full:

 The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

EFF has the story

Detroit Auto Show 2013: The Sexiest Corvette We’ve Seen In Way Too Long

 

 

” If you didn’t know better, you might think there were only one car at the Detroit Auto Show this year, because the spanking-new Chevrolet Corvette is the only car anyone’s talking about here. Almost 60 years to the day after the very first Corvette debuted, General Motors has dusted off the Stingray name and attached it to the sexiest Corvette we’ve seen in far too long. “

Domestic Spying 101

 

 

 

 ” It’s become standard in spy thrillers for heroes to treat their cell phones as glowing red beacons that advertise their locations. Movie-goers know that action heroes should yank the battery from their phones if they don’t want to be tracked. What’s less well known is that reality long ago caught up with and surpassed cinema. Using devices that essentially mimic cell phone towers, police — or anybody with one of these widgets — can get a fix on your mobile device, whether or not it’s in use, and thereby on your gadget-obsessed self.

Generically salled “Stingrays,” which is actually a brand name for one such International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (you can see why “Stingray” stuck as a monicker), the Electronic Frontier Foundation says these deviceswork thusly:

A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower—to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not— and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations. “