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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 23 2014, @05:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the but-we-have-to-be-able-track-everyone dept.

mrbluze writes:

"Columbia Tribune / AP reports of Police agencies' reluctance to divulge details about the Stingray cell-phone interception device, whose use has increased since a Supreme Court decision to prevent the use of GPS tracking devices without a warrant. The Stingray is reported to be a suitcase-sized device that pretends to be a mobile phone tower, tricking a cell phone to connect to it instead of the cellphone company's tower, but details on how this works are not revealed.

In one of the rare court cases involving the device, the FBI acknowledged in 2011 that so-called cell site simulator technology affects innocent users in the area where it's operated, not just a suspect police are seeking.

A December 2013 investigation by USA Today found roughly 1 in 4 law enforcement agencies it surveyed had performed tower dumps, and slightly fewer owned a Stingray.

However, a report by gives much greater detail, including photographs of the device:

When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect's wireless carrier. But not only does StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area.

Although manufactured by a Germany and Britain-based firm, the StingRay devices are sold in the US by the Harris Corporation, an international telecommunications equipment company. It gets between $60,000 and $175,000 for each Stingray it sells to US law enforcement agencies."

Related Stories

MuckRock Sues CIA 8 comments

MuckRock launches its first law suit. The target none other than CIA.

No, they aren't seeking to uncover who murdered JFK or compensations for subjects of CIA special rendition, but the action is important for a transparent civil society: specifically, they seek information about the processes used by CIA to handle FOIA requests.

For those not knowing who/what Muckrock is, they are the guys that will assists anyone in filing governmental FOIA requests then publish the obtained information for the public. Notably:

To my mind, chipping in $5 or using their services to lodge your own FOIA requests may have more beneficial effect on the USA society than venting our spleen on SN (which, while good for us, I don't have any illusions it would make too much of a difference on society)

Watch Out for "Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection" 35 comments

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning of a new surveillance technology to look out for alongside drones, automatic license plate readers, facial recognition, IMSI catchers (like Stingray), and Rapid DNA analyzers. It's Xerox's new and improved system for Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection, also known as Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection or Automated Vehicle Occupancy Verification:

For years, government agencies have chased technologies that would make it easier to ensure that vehicles in carpool lanes are actually carrying multiple passengers. Perhaps the only reason these systems haven't garnered much attention is that they haven't been particularly effective or accurate, as UC Berkeley researchers noted in a 2011 report.

Now, an agency in San Diego, Calif. believes it may have found the answer: the Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection system developed by Xerox.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a government umbrella group that develops transportation and public safety initiatives across the San Diego County region, estimates that 15% of drivers in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes aren't supposed to be there. After coming up short with earlier experimental projects, the agency is now testing a brand new technology to crack down on carpool-lane scofflaws on the I-15 freeway.

Documents obtained by CBS 8 reporter David Gotfredson show that Xerox's system uses two cameras to capture the front and side views of a car's interior. Then "video analytics" and "geometric algorithms" are used to detect whether the seats are occupied.

When the detection system's computer determines a driver is improperly traveling in the carpool lane, the cameras instantly send photos of the car's interior and its license plate to the California Highway Patrol.

In short: the technology is looking at your image, the image of the people you're with, your location, and your license plate. (SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers. Xerox's software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.)

DHS Finds Unauthorized Use of "Stingrays" (IMSI Catchers) in Washington, D.C. 44 comments

In a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that unknown users are operating IMSI catchers in Washington, D.C.:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is acknowledging for the first time that foreign actors or criminals are using eavesdropping devices to track cellphone activity in Washington, D.C., according to a letter obtained by The Hill.

DHS in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last Monday said they came across unauthorized cell-site simulators in the Washington, D.C., area last year. Such devices, also known as "stingrays," can track a user's location data through their mobile phones and can intercept cellphone calls and messages.

[...] DHS official Christopher Krebs, the top official leading the NPPD, added in a separate letter accompanying his response that such use "of IMSI catchers by malicious actors to track and monitor cellular users is unlawful and threatens the security of communications, resulting in safety, economic and privacy risks."

DHS said they have not determined the users behind such eavesdropping devices, nor the type of devices being used. The agency also did not elaborate on how many devices it unearthed, nor where authorities located them.

Also at Ars Technica and CNN.

Related: Police: Stingray Device Intercepts Mobile Phones
ACLU Reveals Greater Extent of FBI and Law Enforcement "Stingray" Use
US IRS Bought Stingray, Stingray II, and Hailstorm IMSI-Catchers
EFF Launches the Cell-Site Simulator Section of Street Level Surveillance
NYPD Making Heavy Use of Stingrays
New York Lawmakers Want Local Cops to Get Warrant Before Using Stingray
New Jersey State Police Spent $850,000 on Harris Corp. Stingray Devices

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Bob9113 on Sunday March 23 2014, @05:58PM

    by Bob9113 (1967) on Sunday March 23 2014, @05:58PM (#19957)

    Although manufactured by a Germany and Britain-based firm, the StingRay devices are sold in the US by the Harris Corporation, an international telecommunications equipment company. It gets between $60,000 and $175,000 for each Stingray it sells to US law enforcement agencies."

    I have heard the more hot-headed among the civil libertarian crowd espouse the view that revolution is coming. When I hear of these US companies advancing what some would call unconstitutional surveillance, I wonder about those radicals and who they might think should be "first up against the wall." I wonder if there are lone nutjobs out there keeping lists of companies like Harris, and if at some point there will be a case of one of them being attacked, followed by a spate of "copycats" that really are more like dormant independently planned actions that get triggered in succession.

    Maybe not credible, but it might make a nice plot structure for a Jack Reacher style thriller. The FBI is blinded by its belief that it must be a coordinated series of attacks. Only Hunter Hardfist, whose wife gets killed in the first assault, knows that it is really a bunch of unconnected whackos. He hunts them with street-smarts and intimidation of their compatriots, and takes them down with his makeshift brand of vigilante justice. Maybe build it into a series of fifth-grade reader level paperbacks that you sell at truckstops next to the Jock Stone and Brad Hammer(*) novels. Each new book covers another segment of dissidents that latches on to low-brow pseudo-jingoist hatred; Earth First, anti-church, anti-military, whatever.

    * no relation to any existing ridiculous characters named Hunter Hardfist, Jock Stone, or Brad Hammer

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Yog-Yogguth on Monday March 24 2014, @01:32AM

      by Yog-Yogguth (1862) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @01:32AM (#20033) Journal

      Revolution or not: for the most part what you're hearing are individuals moving from denial to anger (or so I think). Good for them (hopefully).

      Don't get me wrong: there's no rosy future in sight no matter what. There's plenty of violence already and it would be strange if it didn't increase for all sorts of reasons, including a future continued series of failed attempts at "wagging the dog" like Syria, Ukraine, and pretending they've got worse satellite coverage than China (are we all supposed to believe they turn these things [] off instead of running continuous global coverage?). The frenzied propaganda efforts tied into that kind of shit might just be the final nail in the coffin for the struggling "mainstream media", at least in Europe.

      I think the main question is whether or not the US implodes before the big shit actually finally hits the fan some time during the next decades. If it implodes humanity might possibly have some small chance of collectively realizing what an ludicrously bad idea all of this was this time around as well just like all the other times but I wouldn't bet on it lasting beyond a generation or two until someone fucks it up again.

      Or maybe this time will be the last, if it never ends.

      Bite harder Ouroboros, bite! linux USB CD secure desktop IRC *crypt tor (not endorsements (XKeyScore))
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by mrchew1982 on Monday March 24 2014, @05:19AM

      by mrchew1982 (3565) on Monday March 24 2014, @05:19AM (#20088)

      What you have described is the "Stand Alone Complex" that Masamune wrote about in his Ghost in the Shell series. In essence a series of events transpire that appear to be orchestrated and connected but end up just being like minded individuals acting independently of each other towards an ideal that they share.

      It would be interesting to see it happen, but with the amount of control that is being exercised over every idea that crosses our lives and the disinformation being spread I doubt that it could happen anytime under the current power structure.

      Remember, Winston looses after all...

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Angry Jesus on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:33PM

    by Angry Jesus (182) on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:33PM (#19963)

    Ever since I first heard about the stingray MITM attack on cellphones I've thought it would be detectable in the same-way the cert-patrol [] firefox extension detects MITM SSL certificate attacks. Just have an app that records connected tower-id and the phone's gps location. After a few weeks your phone should have pretty much mapped out all the near-by towers, so if the phone starts connecting to a brand new tower ID you know something is up.

    You could take it one step further and do like the EFF's SSL Observatory [] and essential crowd-source tower ID's so that when a new tower ID pops up anywhere (or better yet, a tower ID starts to mysteriously move around the city) people would know something is up.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:11PM

      by VLM (445) on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:11PM (#19968)

      Does it have to be higher layer and non-transparent?

      I can imagine a layer 1 device pulling off the same stunt.

      What it would look like, is oddly enough, the second closest tower (or further away) seems to have the strongest apparent signal right now. How odd. And you sniff traffic going each way.

      I'm not saying a higher layer attack is impossible, its just a lower RF level attack sounds technologically easier to build. A REALLY good passive repeater with a sniffer is all you'd technically need.

      And an interesting countermeasure would me measuring latency.

      • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:04PM

        by Angry Jesus (182) on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:04PM (#19985)

        Good luck getting that to work for a guy with a cell phone in his car.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by SpockLogic on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:29PM

    by SpockLogic (2762) on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:29PM (#19971)

    It should come as no surprise that police and sheriffs departments in Florida are hiding the use of these cell phone trackers from the courts. logy-and-liberty/police-hide-use-cell-phone-tracke r-courts-because []

    Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
    • (Score: 1) by linsane on Sunday March 23 2014, @08:49PM

      by linsane (633) on Sunday March 23 2014, @08:49PM (#19980)

      Was that series 3 or series 4 of the Wire?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:17PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:17PM (#20000)

    fake cell phone tower? wow it that like a fake plastic christmas tree?
    does it run on 9V batteries and make funny sounds and have cheesy lights or how?
    or do we mean "unlicensed cell phone tower"?

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Tork on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:25PM

      by Tork (3914) on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:25PM (#20001)
      "Fake" as in: Not authentic. Since it was mentioned in the summary that it is briefcase-sized, I'm not sure why you were picturing a hollow tower.
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