http://online.wsj.com/articles/americans-cellphones-targeted-in-secret-u-s-spy-program-1415917533#livefyre-comment

Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program
Devices on Planes that Mimic Cellphone Towers Used to Target Criminals, but Also Sift Through Thousands of Other Phones
The Wall Street Journal has learned of a new federal law enforcement program that uses planes and cell signals to track criminal suspects.
By DEVLIN BARRETT
Updated Nov. 13, 2014 8:22 p.m. ET
491 COMMENTS
WASHINGTON—The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

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The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said.

People with knowledge of the program wouldn’t discuss the frequency or duration of such flights, but said they take place on a regular basis.

A Justice Department official would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a program. The official said discussion of such matters would allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance capabilities. Justice Department agencies comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval, the official said.

MORE

Justice Dept. Defends U.S. Marshals in Wake of Report
Q&A: Explaining the Secret U.S. Cellphone Program
The program is the latest example of the extent to which the U.S. is training its surveillance lens inside the U.S. It is similar in approach to the National Security Agency’s program to collect millions of Americans phone records, in that it scoops up large volumes of data in order to find a single person or a handful of people. The U.S. government justified the phone-records collection by arguing it is a minimally invasive way of searching for terrorists.

Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, called it “a dragnet surveillance program. It’s inexcusable and it’s likely—to the extent judges are authorizing it—[that] they have no idea of the scale of it.”

Cellphones are programmed to connect automatically to the strongest cell tower signal. The device being used by the U.S. Marshals Service identifies itself as having the closest, strongest signal, even though it doesn’t, and forces all the phones that can detect its signal to send in their unique registration information.

PAST COVERAGE

‘Stingray’ Phone Tracker Fuels Constitutional Clash (9/22/11)
New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach (8/20/13)
Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc. ’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process.

The technology is aimed at locating cellphones linked to individuals under investigation by the government, including fugitives and drug dealers, but it collects information on cellphones belonging to people who aren’t criminal suspects, these people said. They said the device determines which phones belong to suspects and “lets go” of the non-suspect phones.

The device can briefly interrupt calls on certain phones. Authorities have tried to minimize the potential for harm, including modifying the software to ensure the fake tower doesn’t interrupt anyone calling 911 for emergency help, one person familiar with the matter said.

The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself. People familiar with the program say they do get court orders to search for phones, but it isn’t clear if those orders describe the methods used because the orders are sealed.

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The U.S. Justice Department’s headquarters. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Also unknown are the steps taken to ensure data collected on innocent people isn’t kept for future examination by investigators. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.

The program is more sophisticated than anything previously understood about government use of such technology. Until now, the hunting of digital trails created by cellphones had been thought limited to devices carried in cars that scan the immediate area for signals. Civil-liberties groups are suing for information about use of such lower-grade devices, some of them called Stingrays, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

By taking the program airborne, the government can sift through a greater volume of information and with greater precision, these people said. If a suspect’s cellphone is identified, the technology can pinpoint its location within about 10 feet, down to a specific room in a building. Newer versions of the technology can be programmed to do more than suck in data: They can also jam signals and retrieve data from a target phone such as texts or photos. It isn’t clear if this domestic program has ever used those features.

Similar devices are used by U.S. military and intelligence officials operating in other countries, including in war zones, where they are sometimes used to locate terrorist suspects, according to people familiar with the work. In the U.S., these people said, the technology has been effective in catching suspected drug dealers and killers. They wouldn’t say which suspects were caught through this method.

The scanning is done by the Technical Operations Group of the U.S. Marshals Service, which tracks fugitives, among other things. Sometimes it deploys the technology on targets requested by other parts of the Justice Department.

Within the Marshals Service, some have questioned the legality of such operations and the internal safeguards, these people said. They say scooping up of large volumes of information, even for a short period, may not be properly understood by judges who approve requests for the government to locate a suspect’s phone.

Some within the agency also question whether people scanning cellphone signals are doing enough to minimize intrusions into the phones of other citizens, and if there are effective procedures in place to safeguard the handling of that data.

It is unclear how closely the Justice Department oversees the program. “What is done on U.S. soil is completely legal,” said one person familiar with the program. “Whether it should be done is a separate question.”

Referring to the more limited range of Stingray devices, Mr. Soghoian of the ACLU said: “Maybe it’s worth violating privacy of hundreds of people to catch a suspect, but is it worth thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of peoples’ privacy?”

The existence of the cellphone program could escalate tensions between Washington and technology companies, including the telecom firms whose devices are being redirected by the program.

If a suspect is believed to have a cellphone from Verizon Communications Inc., for example, the device would emit a signal fooling Verizon phones and those roaming on Verizon’s network into thinking the plane is the nearest available Verizon cell tower. Phones that are turned on, even if not in use, would “ping’’ the flying device and send their registration information. In a densely populated area, the dirtbox could pick up data of tens of thousands of cellphones.

The approach is similar to what computer hackers refer to as a “man in the middle’’ attack, in which a person’s electronic device is tricked into thinking it is relaying data to a legitimate or intended part of the communications system.

A Verizon spokesman said the company was unaware of the program. “The security of Verizon’s network and our customers’ privacy are top priorities,’’ the spokesman said. “However, to be clear, the equipment referenced in the article is not Verizon’s and is not part of our network.”

An AT&T Inc. spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Sprint Corp.

For cost reasons, the flights usually target a number of suspects at a time, rather than just a single fugitive. But they can be used for a single suspect if the need is great enough to merit the resources, these people said.

The dirtbox and Stingray are both types of what tech experts call “IMSI catchers,’’ named for the identification system used by networks to identify individual cellphones.

The name “dirtbox’’ came from the acronym of the company making the device, DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., people said. DRT is now a subsidiary of Boeing. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.

“DRT has developed a device that emulates a cellular base station to attract cellphones for a registration process even when they are not in use,’’ according to a 2010 regulatory filing Boeing made with the U.S. Commerce Department, which touted the device’s success in finding contraband cellphones smuggled in to prison inmates.

http://www.wired.com/2014/11/feds-motherfng-stingrays-motherfng-planes/
http://www.wired.com/2014/11/feds-motherfng-stingrays-motherfng-planes/

Federal law enforcement agents fly small planes loaded with gear to spy on Americans’ cell phone calls.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, revealed the extent of the program: Federal government gathers the data from Cessna airplanes and can cover most of the U.S. population.

These devices typically trick phones into sharing its location data and revealing the phone’s identity.
CNNMoney has independently confirmed that at least one federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has used this technology on planes since 2010, according to government documents. The planes carry a box that serves as a dummy cell phone site. That device mimics actual towers, duping nearby cell phones into connecting to it instead of a real phone company tower.
“This is a disturbing progression of the federal government’s use of this technology, ” Nathan Freed Wessler, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in New York told CNNMoney. “What’s different about this… is that it vastly increases the number of completely innocent bystanders whose information is being swept up by law enforcement.”
An official at the Department of Justice would not confirm or deny the use of flying spoof cell towers. He said any discussion would let criminals and foreign governments “determine our capabilities and limitations.” The official told CNNMoney that any tactics used comply with federal law.
Related: How the NSA can ‘turn on’ your phone remotely
This news is the latest revelation about the extent of surveillance on Americans by their government. This type of spying has increased dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Local police and federal agents make widespread use of these types of devices. Public records, such as this Florida court transcript, have revealed that police use this technology to gather information about suspects.
“Stingrays,” for instance, are machines that also spoof legitimate company cell phone towers.
Public records have allowed the ACLU to build a map that shows what states use Stingrays. Besides that information, though, little is known about how they’re used or approved by the courts.

Personal drones: Fun toy or spying eye?
Police agencies refuse to disclose information about the devices. Law enforcement agencies have non-disclosure agreements with the maker of Stingrays: the Harris Corporation based in Melbourne, Florida.
News organizations and the ACLU have petitioned government agencies to learn more about the use of fake cell phone towers.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/technology/security/federal-planes-spy/

https://www.aclu.org/node/37337

https://www.aclu.org/maps/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/479397/stingrayfoia.pdf

http://online.wsj.com/articles/americans-cellphones-targeted-in-secret-u-s-spy-program-1415917533?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/06/technology/security/nsa-turn-on-phone/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

Even if you power off your cell phone, the U.S. government can turn it back on.
That’s what ex-spy Edward Snowden revealed in last week’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. It sounds like sorcery. Can someone truly bring your phone back to life without touching it?

No. But government spies can get your phone to play dead.
It’s a crafty hack. You press the button. The device buzzes. You see the usual power-off animation. The screen goes black. But it’ll secretly stay on — microphone listening and camera recording.
How did they get into your phone in the first place? Here’s an explanation by former members of the CIA, Navy SEALs and consultants to the U.S. military’s cyber warfare team. They’ve seen it firsthand.
Related: Google testing super-secure email
Government spies can set up their own miniature cell network tower. Your phone automatically connects to it. Now, that tower’s radio waves send a command to your phone’s antennae: the baseband chip. That tells your phone to fake any shutdown and stay on.
A smart hack won’t keep your phone running at 100%, though. Spies could keep your phone on standby and just use the microphone — or send pings announcing your location.
John Pirc, who did cybersecurity research at the CIA, said these methods — and others, like physically bugging devices — let the U.S. hijack and reawaken terrorists’ phones.
Related: Cybersecurity: How safe are you?
“The only way you can tell is if your phone feels warm when it’s turned off. That means the baseband processor is still running,” said Pirc, now chief technology officer of the NSS Labs security research firm.

Ellsberg: Why Snowden did the right thing
This isn’t easy to accomplish. It’s a highly targeted attack. But if you are really concerned about the government’s ability to reawaken your phone, here are some things you could do.
Recovery mode. Put your phone on what’s known as Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) mode. This bypasses the phone’s operating system. Every phone has a different approach for this.
It’s fairly easy (albeit cumbersome) for iPhone users. Plug it into a computer with iTunes open. Hold down the Power and Home buttons for 10 seconds (no less) then let go of the Power button. Wait for an iTunes pop-up. That’s it.
For Android users, recovery mode varies by model. Android Magazine has a great tutorial here.
Create a barrier. Use a signal-blocking phone case. You can buy them (Off Pocket, HideCell) or even make your own — assuming you have the patience to do so.
Pull out the battery. Without a power source, the phone can’t come back on. This is the best, most surefire option. It’s also, annoyingly, no longer a choice on most top-of-the-line smartphones. The iPhone, HTC One and Nokia Lumia don’t have removable batteries. Luckily, the Samsung Galaxy and LG G3 still do.
Silent Circle, a company that enables top-end private communication, kept these issues in mind when it co-created the Blackphone. It has a removable battery. It uses PrivatOS, a stripped-down version of Android that reduces tracking.
And because spoofed cell towers can target its antennae too, Blackphone’s makers are working with chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA, Tech30) to develop their own custom, more secure baseband chip.
Related story: The NSA made Obama’s BlackBerry
Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL, said they designed the phone based on revelations that the NSA can find powered off phones and the FBI can tap their microphones.
You probably don’t need to fear that the National Security Agency is using this strategy on your phone, Janke said. Those spies are focused on hunting down a specified list of terrorists and foreign fighters. But he noted that the FBI is using these kinds of surveillance tactics in the U.S. for all sorts of crimes.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/nsa-obama-blackberry/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/12/27/nsa-snowden-2013/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-new-york-times/index.html?iid=EL

NBC news anchor Brian Williams has scored the first American television interview with Edward Snowden.
Last year, the ex-National Security Agency contractor exposed the extent of secret U.S. government surveillance of Americans and foreigners.

The one-hour interview is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28.
Williams traveled this week to Moscow, where Snowden fled to escape prosecution for revealing classified U.S. documents. Snowden hasn’t been able to leave Russia since U.S. officials charged him with espionage and revoked his passport.
Related story: Snowden docs had NYTimes exec fearing for his life
The Snowden documents have sparked a national debate about privacy and security. Government spies are listening in on phone calls, collecting emails and tapping into people’s Web cams.
President Obama and military officials remain firmly in support of mass, warrantless spying, citing security concerns. But civil libertarians, technology companies and others oppose it, noting that the system lacks transparency and sensible limitations.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit the NSA’s collection of phone data, albeit in a watered down bill called the USA Freedom Act.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-new-york-times/index.html?iid=EL

Informing the American people about how their government spies on them can be risky business for journalists.
Rajiv Pant, chief technology officer at The New York Times (NYT), thought he could be killed for it.

It was the IT help request from hell. British newspaper The Guardian provided the Times with top-secret electronic documents exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Pant oversaw the handoff between the Guardian and the New York Times.
At the recent AppSec USA cybersecurity conference, the Times’ chief technology officer described those tense initial moments.
Related: Online privacy is dead
The Times had to quietly sneak hard drives containing the top-secret documents back to its New York headquarters. Pant didn’t explain how the newspaper did it but said, “We smuggled it into the country, basically.”
After the Times set up a special, highly guarded room to isolate the sensitive files, Pant made sure he didn’t take a single peek as the PowerPoint slides and files made their way into the newsroom’s computers.
“It can get scary. I told myself: ‘I don’t want to see anything on those drives. I could be putting my life at risk,'” Pant said.
When pressed to further explain his fears, Pant said he’s worried about how far the U.S. government will go to hunt down anyone who’s seen this batch of classified data without a clearance.
Then came the most harrowing part. Pant had to buy extra hard drives to serve as backup copies of the top-secret files. He made his way to a local Radioshack (RSH) (there’s one directly in front of the New York Times’ building).
He was about to purchase a hard drive on his credit card when he realized that the same government secretly monitoring journalists’ phone records could also be tracking their purchases. He grabbed five other random items and bought them in cash.
“You almost become paranoid,” Pant said.

Google’s Schmidt on NSA: ‘I was shocked’
His fears about retribution aren’t completely the stuff of tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. Federal prosecutors have filed charges against Snowden, citing the 1917 Espionage Act. Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, has called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first exposed Snowden’s revelations.
And this week, the Guardian’s top editor, Alan Rusbridger, told British Parliament that the government has engaged in a campaign of intimidation against his organization. Politicians have threatened prosecution, and officials demanded that the Guardian destroy hardware housing top-secret documents. Rusbridger said his staff complied in August, taking to the basement and using power tools to ruin the hard drives — under the careful watch of two agents from Britain’s NSA equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/tor-attacks-nsa-users-online-anonymity

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/national/black-budget/

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/10/14/quantum-key/?iid=SF_T_River

These are dark times for online privacy.
The U.S. government is spying on its own citizens’ online activities. The FBI was able to suss out and shut down the anonymous black market Silk Road. Even the Internet-within-the-Internet called the Tor network — the most secretive way to browse the Web — is being monitored by the National Security Agency.

Strong passwords and encrypted email services were never truly enough to protect users’ online privacy. But recent revelations about government surveillance even throw into doubt the effectiveness of far-out measures of data encryption used by the most careful people surfing the Web.
Silk Road serves as a prime example. It operated as a hidden service on Tor, an anonymizing tool that helps users and sites keep their identities secret. Everyone buying and selling drugs, weapons and other illicit items on the site thought they couldn’t be tracked.
But federal agents managed to track down a computer server Silk Road used, and the FBI monitored more than 1.2 million private communications on the site.
Related story: Facebook kills search privacy setting
If online privacy can’t stand up to good, old-fashioned police work, it doesn’t stand a chance against some of the more potent tools the government uses:
The NSA figured out how to track down who’s who on Tor by exploiting weaknesses in Web browsers, according to documents former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to The Guardian — a bug that was only recently fixed.
PRISM, the government’s hush-hush mass data collection program, lets even low-level NSA analysts access email, chats and Internet phone calls.
The U.S. government issues frequent, secret demands for customer data from telecommunications companies.
It’s no wonder, then, that many have declared the death of online privacy.

Shopping for LSD and AK-47s online
“Unfortunately, online anonymity is already dead,” said Ladar Levison, founder of e-mail service LavaBit that closed its doors in the wake of the NSA’s PRISM controversy. “It takes a lot more effort and skill than most have in order to keep your anonymity today.”
Remaining unrecognizable and keeping conversations private online is immensely important. It’s not just an issue for civil libertarians — online privacy is crucial for crime victims, whistleblowers, dissidents and corporations trying to keep secret the latest high-tech research.
The result has been tantamount to a cryptographic arms race. On one side are independent programmers usually writing free software. On the other are a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies supported by a $52.6 billion black budget.
And while some claim unbreakable encryption is coming, large-scale availability is still years away.
“It’s an open question how much protection Tor or any other existing anonymous communications tool provides against the NSA’s large-scale Internet surveillance,” said Roger Dingledine, Tor’s lead developer.
Still, Aleecia McDonald, a privacy expert at Stanford University’s Center for Internet & Society, said there’s still a benefit to guarding yourself with a network like Tor. At least you make it harder to get spied on.
“The NSA has to attack Tor users one by one, not en masse as they do with non-Tor users,” she said.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/11/technology/social/facebook-search-privacy/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/17/technology/online-privacy/?iid=EL

http://mohttp://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-new-york-times/index.html?iid=ELnew-york-times/index.html?iid=ELney.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-new-york-times/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/security/snowden-new-york-times/index.html?iid=EL

Informing the American people about how their government spies on them can be risky business for journalists.
Rajiv Pant, chief technology officer at The New York Times (NYT), thought he could be killed for it.

It was the IT help request from hell. British newspaper The Guardian provided the Times with top-secret electronic documents exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Pant oversaw the handoff between the Guardian and the New York Times.
At the recent AppSec USA cybersecurity conference, the Times’ chief technology officer described those tense initial moments.
Related: Online privacy is dead
The Times had to quietly sneak hard drives containing the top-secret documents back to its New York headquarters. Pant didn’t explain how the newspaper did it but said, “We smuggled it into the country, basically.”
After the Times set up a special, highly guarded room to isolate the sensitive files, Pant made sure he didn’t take a single peek as the PowerPoint slides and files made their way into the newsroom’s computers.
“It can get scary. I told myself: ‘I don’t want to see anything on those drives. I could be putting my life at risk,'” Pant said.
When pressed to further explain his fears, Pant said he’s worried about how far the U.S. government will go to hunt down anyone who’s seen this batch of classified data without a clearance.
Then came the most harrowing part. Pant had to buy extra hard drives to serve as backup copies of the top-secret files. He made his way to a local Radioshack (RSH) (there’s one directly in front of the New York Times’ building).
He was about to purchase a hard drive on his credit card when he realized that the same government secretly monitoring journalists’ phone records could also be tracking their purchases. He grabbed five other random items and bought them in cash.
“You almost become paranoid,” Pant said.

Google’s Schmidt on NSA: ‘I was shocked’
His fears about retribution aren’t completely the stuff of tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. Federal prosecutors have filed charges against Snowden, citing the 1917 Espionage Act. Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, has called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first exposed Snowden’s revelations.
And this week, the Guardian’s top editor, Alan Rusbridger, told British Parliament that the government has engaged in a campaign of intimidation against his organization. Politicians have threatened prosecution, and officials demanded that the Guardian destroy hardware housing top-secret documents. Rusbridger said his staff complied in August, taking to the basement and using power tools to ruin the hard drives — under the careful watch of two agents from Britain’s NSA equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/01/prism-slides-nsa-document

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/govt-obtains-wide-ap-phone-records-probe

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

NBC news anchor Brian Williams has scored the first American television interview with Edward Snowden.
Last year, the ex-National Security Agency contractor exposed the extent of secret U.S. government surveillance of Americans and foreigners.

The one-hour interview is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28.
Williams traveled this week to Moscow, where Snowden fled to escape prosecution for revealing classified U.S. documents. Snowden hasn’t been able to leave Russia since U.S. officials charged him with espionage and revoked his passport.
Related story: Snowden docs had NYTimes exec fearing for his life
The Snowden documents have sparked a national debate about privacy and security. Government spies are listening in on phone calls, collecting emails and tapping into people’s Web cams.
President Obama and military officials remain firmly in support of mass, warrantless spying, citing security concerns. But civil libertarians, technology companies and others oppose it, noting that the system lacks transparency and sensible limitations.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit the NSA’s collection of phone data, albeit in a watered down bill called the USA Freedom Act.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/nsa-gchq-webcam-spy-program-senate-investigation

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/nsa-gchq-webcam-spy-program-senate-investigation

Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying
Three senators condemn UK spy agency’s ‘breathtaking lack of respect’ over interception of Yahoo users’ webcam images

US navy admiral Cecil Haney, left, and NSA director Keith Alexander testify before the Senate on Thursday. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters
Spencer Ackerman in Washington
Friday 28 February 2014 12.14 EST
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Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images.

Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”.

The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.

On Friday, the Internet Association – a trade body representing internet giants including Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, AOL and Twitter – joined the chorus of condemnation, issuing a statement expressing alarm at the latest GCHQ revelations, and calling for reform.

According to documents provided to the Guardian by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the GCHQ program codenamed Optic Nerve fed screengrabs of webcam chats and associated metadata into NSA tools such as Xkeyscore.

NSA research, the documents indicate, also contributed to the creation of Optic Nerve, which attempted to use facial recognition technology to identify intelligence targets, particularly those using multiple anonymous internet IDs.

Neither NSA nor GCHQ addressed the Guardian’s questions about US access to the images themselves. Outgoing NSA director Keith Alexander walked away from a reporter on Thursday who asked the army four-star general about the NSA’s role in Optic Nerve.

Wyden, Udall and Heinrich are all members of the Senate intelligence committee. They said they were “extremely troubled” by Optic Nerve and planned to investigate it during the committee’s announced omnibus inquiry into the scope of US surveillance activities revealed over the nine months since the Guardian and other news outlets began reporting the Snowden disclosures.

“We are extremely troubled by today’s press report that a very large number of individuals – including law-abiding Americans – may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing. If this report is accurate it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens,” they said.

GCHQ’s program, which uses data collected by cable taps as it transits the internet, does not filter out information from British or American webcams. Under UK law, there is no requirement for UK or US material to be removed from the agency’s databases. Additional legal safeguards apply when analysts come to search the database for material on individuals located in the British Isles, though there are no UK laws banning searches for US citizens’ data without a warrant.

The documents seen by the Guardian make clear the lengths to which GCHQ has gone to prevent sexually explicit material appearing in the analysts’ searches. According to one document, it made up between 3% and 11% of the material stored under Optic Nerve.

The agency used face recognition software in an attempt to prevent explicit images clogging up search results but the documents make it clear that those tools were not always successful. Analysts were advised that if they were “uncomfortable about such material” they should not open the images. The guidance adds: “Retrieval and or reference to such material should be avoided.”

GCHQ declined to comment on Optic Nerve but said all its programs operated in full accordance with UK law.

The three US senators said the revelation prompted new thinking about how the interconnectedness of global communications had “dramatically increased the likelihood of innocent Americans being swept up in intelligence collection nominally aimed at foreigners.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that more needs to be done to ensure that ‘foreign’ intelligence collection does not intrude unnecessarily on the rights of law-abiding people or needlessly undermine the competitiveness of America’s leading industries.”

President Barack Obama said in a 17 January speech that foreigners ought to enjoy some degree of privacy from US surveillance, but has left the specifics undefined.

In a statement, the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said:

Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance.

Governments must immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information. The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data. The Internet Association supports the Reform Government Surveillance principles and encourages legislation to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands.

Topics
NSA Surveillance GCHQ UK news US politics
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http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-yahoo

Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ
• 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
• Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
• Yahoo: ‘A whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy’
• Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images

The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Spencer Ackerman and James Ball
Friday 28 February 2014 05.31 EST
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Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The documents also chronicle GCHQ’s sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.

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Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

One document even likened the program’s “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events” to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.

“Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face,” it reads. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”

The agency did make efforts to limit analysts’ ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.

However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display “webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target”.

Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ’s huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA’s XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo’s webcam traffic.

Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.

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Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to “minimize”, or remove, domestic citizens’ information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.

There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied “Five Eyes” nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law.

The documents also show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets: “[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID”.

The undated document, from GCHQ’s internal wiki information site, noted this capability was “now closed … but shortly to return!”

The privacy risks of mass collection from video sources have long been known to the NSA and GCHQ, as a research document from the mid-2000s noted: “One of the greatest hindrances to exploiting video data is the fact that the vast majority of videos received have no intelligence value whatsoever, such as pornography, commercials, movie clips and family home movies.”

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: “Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains “undesirable nudity”. Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography.

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GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images, the documents suggest, but did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results – a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.

The system was not perfect at stopping those images reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff, though. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve users that “there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them”.

It further notes that “under GCHQ’s offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence”.

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Once collected, the metadata associated with the videos can be as valuable to the intelligence agencies as the images themselves.

It is not fully clear from the documents how much access the NSA has to the Yahoo webcam trove itself, though all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts through their routine information-sharing. A previously revealed NSA metadata repository, codenamed Marina, has what the documents describe as a protocol class for webcam information.

In its statement to the Guardian, Yahoo strongly condemned the Optic Nerve program, and said it had no awareness of or involvement with the GCHQ collection.

“We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity,” said a spokeswoman. “This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

“We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”

Yahoo has been one of the most outspoken technology companies objecting to the NSA’s bulk surveillance. It filed a transparency lawsuit with the secret US surveillance court to disclose a 2007 case in which it was compelled to provide customer data to the surveillance agency, and it railed against the NSA’s reported interception of information in transit between its data centers.

The documents do not refer to any specific court orders permitting collection of Yahoo’s webcam imagery, but GCHQ mass collection is governed by the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and requires certification by the foreign secretary, currently William Hague.

The Optic Nerve documentation shows legalities were being considered as new capabilities were being developed. Discussing adding automated facial matching, for example, analysts agreed to test a system before firming up its legal status for everyday use.

“It was agreed that the legalities of such a capability would be considered once it had been developed, but that the general principle applied would be that if the accuracy of the algorithm was such that it was useful to the analyst (ie, the number of spurious results was low, then it was likely to be proportionate),” the 2008 document reads.

The document continues: “This is allowed for research purposes but at the point where the results are shown to analysts for operational use, the proportionality and legality questions must be more carefully considered.”

Optic Nerve was just one of a series of GCHQ efforts at biometric detection, whether for target recognition or general security.

While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360’s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and was being evaluated as part of a wider program.

Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, faced a privacy backlash last year when details emerged that the camera bundled with its new console, the Xbox One, would be always-on by default.

Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”, one presentation noted.

The same presentation talks about the strange means the agencies used to try and test such systems, including whether they could be tricked. One way of testing this was to use contact lenses on detailed mannequins.

To this end, GCHQ has a dummy nicknamed “the Head”, one document noted.

In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

“Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens’ data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.

However, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency did not ask foreign partners such as GCHQ to collect intelligence the agency could not legally collect itself.

“As we’ve said before, the National Security Agency does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself,” she said.

“The NSA works with a number of partners in meeting its foreign intelligence mission goals, and those operations comply with US law and with the applicable laws under which those partners operate.

“A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights. Those procedures govern the acquisition, use, and retention of information about US persons.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-yahoo

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/nsa-chief-keith-alexander-surveillance-reform

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

NBC news anchor Brian Williams has scored the first American television interview with Edward Snowden.
Last year, the ex-National Security Agency contractor exposed the extent of secret U.S. government surveillance of Americans and foreigners.

The one-hour interview is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28.
Williams traveled this week to Moscow, where Snowden fled to escape prosecution for revealing classified U.S. documents. Snowden hasn’t been able to leave Russia since U.S. officials charged him with espionage and revoked his passport.
Related story: Snowden docs had NYTimes exec fearing for his life
The Snowden documents have sparked a national debate about privacy and security. Government spies are listening in on phone calls, collecting emails and tapping into people’s Web cams.
President Obama and military officials remain firmly in support of mass, warrantless spying, citing security concerns. But civil libertarians, technology companies and others oppose it, noting that the system lacks transparency and sensible limitations.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit the NSA’s collection of phone data, albeit in a watered down bill called the USA Freedom Act.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/22/news/companies/mayer-tech-nsa/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/22/technology/security/snowden-interview/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/22/news/companies/mayer-tech-nsa/index.html?iid=EL

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer is calling on the United States to be more transparent about its data collection practices, as other top tech CEOs urge the international community to establish privacy guidelines.
Mayer said that revelations about government snooping have hurt her company, and that Yahoo now wants “to be able to rebuild trust with our users.”

The Yahoo (YHOO) CEO was speaking as part of a technology panel with other tech executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers echoed Mayer’s remarks, saying that government leaders should start working together to create transparent guidelines related to privacy, safety and data collection, all of which would allow businesses to function more efficiently.
Related: Tech firms want U.S. to reform spying activities
Last year, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents detailing the U.S. government’s bulk collection of phone records and other data. Snowden also revealed the agency had apparently tapped into the fiber optic cables that carry data between the servers of major American tech companies including Google (GOOG) and Yahoo.
The Snowden documents had major implications for tech companies, especially those that have staked their reputations on an ability to safeguard user data.
Related: Online privacy is dead
Mayer said Internet users should be given clearer information about how their online data may be used, and described the current situation as “murky.”

The business of being Marissa Mayer
In December, tech firms sent an open letter to President Obama and Congress, saying there was an “urgent need” to change government spying practices.
Obama announced a series of reforms last week, but many of the most contentious aspects revealed by last year’s classified NSA leaks will continue.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/17/politics/obama-nsa-changes/index.html?iid=EL

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/17/politics/obama-nsa-bottom-line/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/09/technology/nsa-government-spying/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/17/technology/online-privacy/?iid=EL

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/12/27/nsa-snowden-2013/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/22/news/companies/mayer-tech-nsa/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/06/technology/security/nsa-turn-on-phone/?iid=EL

Even if you power off your cell phone, the U.S. government can turn it back on.
That’s what ex-spy Edward Snowden revealed in last week’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. It sounds like sorcery. Can someone truly bring your phone back to life without touching it?

No. But government spies can get your phone to play dead.
It’s a crafty hack. You press the button. The device buzzes. You see the usual power-off animation. The screen goes black. But it’ll secretly stay on — microphone listening and camera recording.
How did they get into your phone in the first place? Here’s an explanation by former members of the CIA, Navy SEALs and consultants to the U.S. military’s cyber warfare team. They’ve seen it firsthand.
Related: Google testing super-secure email
Government spies can set up their own miniature cell network tower. Your phone automatically connects to it. Now, that tower’s radio waves send a command to your phone’s antennae: the baseband chip. That tells your phone to fake any shutdown and stay on.
A smart hack won’t keep your phone running at 100%, though. Spies could keep your phone on standby and just use the microphone — or send pings announcing your location.
John Pirc, who did cybersecurity research at the CIA, said these methods — and others, like physically bugging devices — let the U.S. hijack and reawaken terrorists’ phones.
Related: Cybersecurity: How safe are you?
“The only way you can tell is if your phone feels warm when it’s turned off. That means the baseband processor is still running,” said Pirc, now chief technology officer of the NSS Labs security research firm.

Ellsberg: Why Snowden did the right thing
This isn’t easy to accomplish. It’s a highly targeted attack. But if you are really concerned about the government’s ability to reawaken your phone, here are some things you could do.
Recovery mode. Put your phone on what’s known as Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) mode. This bypasses the phone’s operating system. Every phone has a different approach for this.
It’s fairly easy (albeit cumbersome) for iPhone users. Plug it into a computer with iTunes open. Hold down the Power and Home buttons for 10 seconds (no less) then let go of the Power button. Wait for an iTunes pop-up. That’s it.
For Android users, recovery mode varies by model. Android Magazine has a great tutorial here.
Create a barrier. Use a signal-blocking phone case. You can buy them (Off Pocket, HideCell) or even make your own — assuming you have the patience to do so.
Pull out the battery. Without a power source, the phone can’t come back on. This is the best, most surefire option. It’s also, annoyingly, no longer a choice on most top-of-the-line smartphones. The iPhone, HTC One and Nokia Lumia don’t have removable batteries. Luckily, the Samsung Galaxy and LG G3 still do.
Silent Circle, a company that enables top-end private communication, kept these issues in mind when it co-created the Blackphone. It has a removable battery. It uses PrivatOS, a stripped-down version of Android that reduces tracking.
And because spoofed cell towers can target its antennae too, Blackphone’s makers are working with chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA, Tech30) to develop their own custom, more secure baseband chip.
Related story: The NSA made Obama’s BlackBerry
Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL, said they designed the phone based on revelations that the NSA can find powered off phones and the FBI can tap their microphones.
You probably don’t need to fear that the National Security Agency is using this strategy on your phone, Janke said. Those spies are focused on hunting down a specified list of terrorists and foreign fighters. But he noted that the FBI is using these kinds of surveillance tactics in the U.S. for all sorts of crimes.

Even if you power off your cell phone, the U.S. government can turn it back on.
That’s what ex-spy Edward Snowden revealed in last week’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. It sounds like sorcery. Can someone truly bring your phone back to life without touching it?

No. But government spies can get your phone to play dead.
It’s a crafty hack. You press the button. The device buzzes. You see the usual power-off animation. The screen goes black. But it’ll secretly stay on — microphone listening and camera recording.
How did they get into your phone in the first place? Here’s an explanation by former members of the CIA, Navy SEALs and consultants to the U.S. military’s cyber warfare team. They’ve seen it firsthand.
Related: Google testing super-secure email
Government spies can set up their own miniature cell network tower. Your phone automatically connects to it. Now, that tower’s radio waves send a command to your phone’s antennae: the baseband chip. That tells your phone to fake any shutdown and stay on.
A smart hack won’t keep your phone running at 100%, though. Spies could keep your phone on standby and just use the microphone — or send pings announcing your location.
John Pirc, who did cybersecurity research at the CIA, said these methods — and others, like physically bugging devices — let the U.S. hijack and reawaken terrorists’ phones.
Related: Cybersecurity: How safe are you?
“The only way you can tell is if your phone feels warm when it’s turned off. That means the baseband processor is still running,” said Pirc, now chief technology officer of the NSS Labs security research firm.

Ellsberg: Why Snowden did the right thing
This isn’t easy to accomplish. It’s a highly targeted attack. But if you are really concerned about the government’s ability to reawaken your phone, here are some things you could do.
Recovery mode. Put your phone on what’s known as Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) mode. This bypasses the phone’s operating system. Every phone has a different approach for this.
It’s fairly easy (albeit cumbersome) for iPhone users. Plug it into a computer with iTunes open. Hold down the Power and Home buttons for 10 seconds (no less) then let go of the Power button. Wait for an iTunes pop-up. That’s it.
For Android users, recovery mode varies by model. Android Magazine has a great tutorial here.
Create a barrier. Use a signal-blocking phone case. You can buy them (Off Pocket, HideCell) or even make your own — assuming you have the patience to do so.
Pull out the battery. Without a power source, the phone can’t come back on. This is the best, most surefire option. It’s also, annoyingly, no longer a choice on most top-of-the-line smartphones. The iPhone, HTC One and Nokia Lumia don’t have removable batteries. Luckily, the Samsung Galaxy and LG G3 still do.
Silent Circle, a company that enables top-end private communication, kept these issues in mind when it co-created the Blackphone. It has a removable battery. It uses PrivatOS, a stripped-down version of Android that reduces tracking.
And because spoofed cell towers can target its antennae too, Blackphone’s makers are working with chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA, Tech30) to develop their own custom, more secure baseband chip.
Related story: The NSA made Obama’s BlackBerry
Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL, said they designed the phone based on revelations that the NSA can find powered off phones and the FBI can tap their microphones.
You probably don’t need to fear that the National Security Agency is using this strategy on your phone, Janke said. Those spies are focused on hunting down a specified list of terrorists and foreign fighters. But he noted that the FBI is using these kinds of surveillance tactics in the U.S. for all sorts of crimes.

http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029-6140191.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-growth-fueled-by-need-to-target-terrorists/2013/07/21/24c93cf4-f0b1-11e2-bed3-b9b6fe264871_story.html

http://briangreen.net/2010/11/diy-ultralight-faraday-cage-pouch.html

http://www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk/tutorials/get-to-know-android-recovery-mode/

http://flip.it/dvP9l

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/03/technology/security/google-encryption/index.html?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/06/technology/security/nsa-turn-on-phone/?iid=EL

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/technology/security/federal-planes-spy/

http://online.wsj.com/articles/americans-cellphones-targeted-in-secret-u-s-spy-program-1415917533?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/479397/stingrayfoia.pdf

Federal law enforcement agents fly small planes loaded with gear to spy on Americans’ cell phone calls.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, revealed the extent of the program: Federal government gathers the data from Cessna airplanes and can cover most of the U.S. population.

These devices typically trick phones into sharing its location data and revealing the phone’s identity.
CNNMoney has independently confirmed that at least one federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has used this technology on planes since 2010, according to government documents. The planes carry a box that serves as a dummy cell phone site. That device mimics actual towers, duping nearby cell phones into connecting to it instead of a real phone company tower.
“This is a disturbing progression of the federal government’s use of this technology, ” Nathan Freed Wessler, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in New York told CNNMoney. “What’s different about this… is that it vastly increases the number of completely innocent bystanders whose information is being swept up by law enforcement.”
An official at the Department of Justice would not confirm or deny the use of flying spoof cell towers. He said any discussion would let criminals and foreign governments “determine our capabilities and limitations.” The official told CNNMoney that any tactics used comply with federal law.
Related: How the NSA can ‘turn on’ your phone remotely
This news is the latest revelation about the extent of surveillance on Americans by their government. This type of spying has increased dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Local police and federal agents make widespread use of these types of devices. Public records, such as this Florida court transcript, have revealed that police use this technology to gather information about suspects.
“Stingrays,” for instance, are machines that also spoof legitimate company cell phone towers.
Public records have allowed the ACLU to build a map that shows what states use Stingrays. Besides that information, though, little is known about how they’re used or approved by the courts.

Personal drones: Fun toy or spying eye?
Police agencies refuse to disclose information about the devices. Law enforcement agencies have non-disclosure agreements with the maker of Stingrays: the Harris Corporation based in Melbourne, Florida.
News organizations and the ACLU have petitioned government agencies to learn more about the use of fake cell phone towers.

https://www.aclu.org/maps/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them

https://www.aclu.org/node/37337

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/479397/stingrayfoia.pdf

http://online.wsj.com/articles/americans-cellphones-targeted-in-secret-u-s-spy-program-1415917533?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/technology/security/federal-planes-spy/

http://online.wsj.com/articles/americans-cellphones-targeted-in-secret-u-s-spy-program-1415917533?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj

http://www.wired.com/2014/11/feds-motherfng-stingrays-motherfng-planes/

https://gigaom.com/2014/11/13/us-government-is-using-planes-to-spy-on-cell-phones-suck-up-data/

It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to hide in a cave with a tin foil hat: a new report reveals that the Justice Department is using airplanes to scan the cell phone data of suspected criminals, and anyone who might be standing near them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the surveillance system works by strapping a two-foot-square device to Cessna planes operating out of at least five metropolitan airports around the country. As the planes fly overhead, they lock onto the cellphones of suspects and innocent people alike.

The devices, known colloquially as “dirtboxes,” work by imitating cell phone towers and tricking telephones into connecting to them, which in turns provides the location of the phone user. The devices are even capable of collecting call and data information from the phones, according to the Journal. This technique allows investigators to by-pass the slower process of working with phone carriers to collect information via their towers.

If the account is correct, the system amounts to an airborne expansion of the controversial use of sting-rays, which are mobile devices that collect cell phone data, and are reportedly in wide-use by law enforcement units around the country.

While the U.S. reportedly uses airplanes to capture cell phone signals on overseas battlefields, the use of this technique over American cities represents a further expansion of persistent surveillance tactics, such as PRISM or the NSA’s collection of data from phone carriers that was reported in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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The government appears to believe the aerial program surveillance is legitimate, according to the Journal, because, while bystanders’ phone data is ingested, investigators “let go” of phones not belonging to suspects. It’s unclear what exactly this means, or whether the program retains the data of innocent people.

The government is reportedly obtaining court orders to deploy the aerial surveillance but such orders, if they exist, have so far remained sealed.

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/

https://gigaom.com/2014/08/12/fcc-wants-to-protect-citizens-from-stingray-style-cell-phone-trackers/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324299104578529112289298922.html

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/06/timeline-nsa-domestic-surveillance-bush-obama

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/phone-call-metadata-information-authorities

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324299104578529112289298922.html

http://yahoo.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/print/2013/06/what-we-dont-know-about-spying-on-citizens-scarier-than-what-we-know/276607/

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/05/will-the-latest-nsa-surveillance-scandal-be-a-wake-up-call-for-the-power-of-data/

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/06/heres-how-the-nsa-analyzes-all-that-call-data/

http://www.propublica.org/special/no-warrant-no-problem-how-the-government-can-still-get-your-digital-data

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130606/23460923352/trip-down-memory-lane-people-warned-what-would-happen-when-congress-passed-bills-to-enable-vast-spying.shtml

http://yahoo.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/05/wikileaks-the-film-massive-leaks-are-a-natural-response-to-government-classification-run-amok/276173/

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http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/02/28/deep_state_book_uncovers_details_on_ragtime_domestic_surveillance_program.html

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424127887324478304578171623040640006-lMyQjAxMTAyMDEwMzExNDMyWj.html

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2012/10/dhs-covers-up-failures-of-u-s-counterterrorism-centers/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/#ripples

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/#door

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/#work

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/07/through-a-prism-darkly-tracking-the-ongoing-nsa-surveillance-story/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/13/cell-phone-data_n_6155532.html

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An agency of the U.S. Justice Department is gathering data from thousands of cell phones, including both criminal suspects and innocent Americans, by using fake communications towers on airplanes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The program run by the U.S. Marshals Service began operations in 2007 and uses Cessna planes flying from at least five major airports and covering most of the U.S. population, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the operations.

The planes use devices made by Boeing Co that mimic the cell phone towers used by major telecommunications companies and trick mobile phones into revealing their unique registration data, the report said.

The devices, nicknamed “dirtboxes,” can collect information from tens of thousands of cell phones in a single flight, which occur on a regular basis, according to those with knowledge of the program, the Journal said.

It said a Justice Department official would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, saying such discussion would allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance abilities, but that department agencies comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval.

The program is similar to one used by the National Security Agency which collects the phone records of millions of Americans in order to find a single person or a handful of people.

The Journal cited the people familiar with the program as saying that the device used in the program decides which phones belong to suspects and “lets go” of non-suspect phones.

Although it can interrupt calls on some phones, authorities have made software changes to make sure it doesn’t interrupt anyone calling the 911 emergency number for help, one person familiar with the matter said, the Journal reported.

It also bypasses telephone companies, allowing authorities to locate suspects directly, people with knowledge of the program said.

The Journal quoted Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, as calling it “a dragnet surveillance program. It’s inexcusable and it’s likely, to the extent judges are authorizing it, they have no idea of the scale of it.”

The newspaper said it was unknown what steps are being taken to ensure data collected on innocent people is not kept for future perusal by authorities.

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/13/7217557/cell-phone-airplane-spying

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the federal government has a secret, airplane-based surveillance system that is capable of sweeping up information from thousands of cell phones at a time.
While the device is intended to spy on criminal and terrorist suspects, the program also sweeps up private information from many innocent people.
The Justice Department says the program complies with the law and is subject to judicial oversight, but some civil libertarians are skeptical.
How the program works

When you turn on your cell phone, it immediately puts out a call to find the nearest cell phone tower. Ordinarily, it will connect with a cell phone owned by your service provider.

But the Department of Justice has a fleet of airplanes outfitted with special hardware that can trick phones into connecting to the airplane instead of a conventional cell phone tower. Because each cell phone has a unique identifier, this registration process can help the feds determine who owns the phone and track a suspect as he moves from location to location.

The technology is designed to minimize disruption, but according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s not perfect. When the plane flies overhead, it can disrupt some phone calls that are in progress.

It has long been known that law enforcement has the ability to spy on cell phones using fake towers. But in the past, the public only knew about ground-based systems that only operated over a limited area. The airborne devices reported by the Journal can capture cell phone signals over a much wider area, increasing the potential for capturing the communications of innocent people.

Why civil libertarians are concerned

Officially, this program is focused on tracking the location of criminal and terrorist suspects. But the way it works means that other peoples’ information will be swept up as well.

If the government immediately deleted information collected “incidentally,” that might not be a problem. But in recent years we’ve learned that the feds take just the opposite approach: a number of programs have warehoused information about non-suspects, in the hopes that it would prove useful for subsequent investigations.

Over time, the government could accumulate large volumes of private information about Americans who are not suspected of any crime — all without judicial oversight. Civil libertarians believe there should be stricter rules to prevent this from happening.

CARD 3 OF 15 LAUNCH CARDS
What is the NSA phone records program?
In June 2013, the Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone records from every Verizon customer. Its widely believed that other telephone companies participate in the program as well.

The government argues that the program is legal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to obtain business records that are relevant to a terrorism investigation. It might not seem like the government needs every American’s calling records to investigate terrorism. But the government has argued that the relevance standard “permits discovery of large volumes of data in circumstances where doing so is necessary to identify much smaller amounts of information within that data.”

This interpretation has angered some members of Congress, including Patriot Act author James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). A few weeks after the Snowden revelations, Sensenbrenner argued that the administration’s position “make a mockery of the legal standard” in Section 215.

In August 2013, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) offered an amendment to a defense funding bill that would have cut off funding for the NSA’s phone records program. The amendment failed, but the surprisingly close 205-217 vote was widely seen as a sign of congressional anger over the program.

In March 2014, President Obama proposed ending the phone records program, but he argued that Congress must first provide the NSA with expanded authority to efficiently obtain calling records from phone companies when they are needed. Congress is currently considering legislation to end bulk collection of phone records.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secretive panel that oversees domestic spying operations, has given its blessing to the government’s interpretation of Section 215. But in December 2013, two different federal judges reached opposite conclusions about the program’s legality. Those decisions have been appealed, and the Supreme Court may be forced to step in and settle the matter.

http://www.vox.com/cards/nsa-and-ed-snowden/what-is-the-nsa-phone-records-program

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/13/7217557/cell-phone-airplane-spying

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2848072/us-putting-fake-cell-towers-in-planes-to-spy-on-people-report-says.html

The U.S. Department of Justice is putting devices that emulate cellphone towers in Cessna aircraft and flying them around the country to track the locations of cell phones, a practice that targets criminal suspects but may also affect thousands of U.S. citizens, according to a news report Thursday.

The program is run by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Marshals Service and has been in operation since at least 2007, according to the report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited two unnamed sources. The aircraft are flown out of at least five metropolitan-area airports and can cover most of the U.S. population, it said.

Cell phones are programmed to connect to whichever nearby cell tower has the strongest signal. The fake cell towers trick phones into thinking they have the strongest signal, then read the devices’ unique registration numbers when they connect, the Journal report says.

The goal is to locate cell phones linked to people under investigation for crimes like selling drugs, but in the process the program collects data about people not suspected of any crime, the report says. The fake cell towers determine which phones belong to criminal suspects and “let go” of those that aren’t.

The Journal quoted a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union who called it an inexcusable “dragnet surveillance program.”

A DOJ official wouldn’t confirm or deny the program but said Justice Department agencies “comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval,” the Journal said.

A side effect is that the towers can sometimes cause cell phone calls to be dropped. “Authorities have tried to minimize the potential for harm, including modifying the software to ensure the fake tower doesnt interrupt anyone calling 911 for emergency help,” one source told the Journal.

There have been several reports in the last few months about phony cell phone towers being detected around the U.S. It’s not clear whether the fake cell towers used by the DOJ, dubbed “dirtboxes” by law enforcement officials, are the ones that have been detected.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2108320/california-police-criticized-for-stingray-cellphone-trackers.html

http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&jsonp=vglnk_14160315437147&key=2b0adaafa9ad8a29fede7758fada1730&libId=cc2089d9-091b-4ef1-8a00-68a39e604ecb&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pcworld.com%2Farticle%2F2848072%2Fus-putting-fake-cell-towers-in-planes-to-spy-on-people-report-says.html&v=1&out=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.popsci.com%2Farticle%2Ftechnology%2Fmysterious-phony-cell-towers-could-be-intercepting-your-calls&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fsearch%3Fclient%3Dqupzilla%26q%3Dspy%2520planes%2520cell%2520phone%2520calls&title=Report%3A%20The%20U.S.%20is%20putting%20fake%20cell%20towers%20in%20planes%20to%20spy%20on%20people%20%7C%20PCWorld&txt=reports

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2108320/california-police-criticized-for-stingray-cellphone-trackers.html

Law enforcement agencies in California are using devices that mimic cellular base stations to track mobile users, public records have revealed, triggering charges that the practice may be unconstitutional.

Agencies in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and other areas own or have funding to buy the so-called “stingray” devices, according to documents uncovered in an investigation by TV station Sacramento News 10. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California highlighted the findings in a blog post on Thursday, saying the use of stingrays may violate constitutional restraints on searches.

Stingrays, which have been reported in use in Florida, Colorado and other states, are small portable devices that appear to nearby phones as if they are real cellular base stations. When a stingray is nearby, phones will automatically connect to it as if it were the nearest cell tower. Law enforcement most commonly uses the devices to track the location of phones, though there are stingrays that can monitor calls, Staff Attorney Linda Lye wrote in the blog post.

Police using NSA-like tech
The government’s use of digital technology for widespread data-gathering on citizens has focused mostly on federal entities such as the National Security Agency. But local law enforcement has also come under attack for the use of technologies such as stingrays and small, unmanned “drone” aircraft.

Stingrays can track users as they move around with their phones, with a level of accuracy that allows for tracking even inside buildings, according to the ACLU. Because they take in data from every phone in the area, instead of limiting the surveillance to actual suspects, the devices are constitutionally suspect, Lye wrote.

“There is a real question as to whether stingrays can ever be used in a constitutional fashion. They are the electronic equivalent of dragnet ‘general searches’ prohibited by the Fourth Amendment,” Lye wrote.

However, as with other types of surveillance, regulations and case law haven’t kept up with technology, according to the ACLU. There are no laws governing law enforcement’s use of stingrays, Lye wrote.

A who’s who of law enforcement
Most of the biggest local law-enforcement agencies in California are named in the report, including the Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the San Diego Police Department, the San Francisco Police Department and the San Jose Police Department.

The federal government has funded stingrays for anti-terrorism efforts on the local level. For example, in 2013, San Jose received about US$250,000 for one or more stingrays from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative. That program is designed to head off terrorism and other hazards. But in some cases the local agencies have brought the devices into ordinary law enforcement, such as the Oakland Police Department’s use of stingrays in its Criminal Investigative Division, the ACLU said.

Because stingrays are typically funded through federal grants, they also bypass the local scrutiny of an agency’s regular budget, according to the ACLU. If local citizens knew about such devices, they might block their use, Lye wrote.

http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&jsonp=vglnk_14160316366296&key=2b0adaafa9ad8a29fede7758fada1730&libId=9013acbb-c56d-4f6f-b376-9329c7477723&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pcworld.com%2Farticle%2F2108320%2Fcalifornia-police-criticized-for-stingray-cellphone-trackers.html&v=1&out=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.computerworld.com%2Fs%2Farticle%2F9238893%2FFlorida_restricts_use_of_drones_by_law_enforcement_officials&ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pcworld.com%2Farticle%2F2848072%2Fus-putting-fake-cell-towers-in-planes-to-spy-on-people-report-says.html&title=California%20police%20criticized%20for%20’stingray’%20cellphone%20trackers%20%7C%20PCWorld&txt=drone

http://www.pcworld.com/article/261353/california_assembly_oks_bill_banning_warrantless_smartphone_tracking.html

http://www.intellihub.com/report-doj-spy-planes-scooping-americans-cell-phone-data/

Since 2007 the Justice Department has been scooping up the American people’s cell phone data via devices called “dirtboxes” that are deployed on aircraft to mimic cellphone towers.

Its called the U.S. Marshal Service Program, which has a stated goal of ‘hunting down criminals suspects and terrorist’s’. According to people familiar with the program, the DOJ is flying Cessna aircraft out of at least five metropolitan-area airports, with flying ranges that cover virtually the entire U.S. population, the WSJ reports.

From the WSJ:

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said.

People with knowledge of the program wouldn’t discuss the frequency or duration of such flights, but said they take place on a regular basis.

Cellphones automatically search for the strongest tower signal to connect to when in service. The dirtboxes are able to identify themselves as the strongest signal, even they are not, to force mobile phones to syphon off data.

The technology is able to pin point a mobile device within ten feet, making it possible to know where a “suspect” is located in a house or building.

The dirtboxes can also jam call signals and intercept text messages and photos, reports the WSJ.

According to those familiar with the program similar devices are used overseas in combatting terrorism in war zones.

The Justice Department refused to confirm or deny the existence of the Marshal Service Program but said that leaking any information of such actions could aid foreign powers and undermine U.S. national security, a line which has been used by agencies like the NSA when caught red-handed spying on the general public.

The DOJ did state to the WSJ that the department does seek court approval when conducting such activity.

Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, called the program a “dragnet” and said that it likely stretches far beyond the understanding of any judge that might approve of such a spying operations.

Since September reports of fake cellphone towers being found around the United States have caught the attention of many Americans.

In the middle of September over a dozen of fake cellphone towers were reportedly found near the White House and Senate.

These data scooping devices are commonly called “stingrays” and are used by the agencies like the NSA and Police Departments.

Watch: Mystery Solved: The Truth About ‘Fake Cellphone Towers’

Any American using the service of the large telecom. companies have likely been violated by this program considering is ability to cover such a large portion of the country.

AT&T and Sprint have both declined to comment of the revelations.

As with all of the federal spying, the general publics privacy is being surrendered in the name of fighting crime.

This article originally appeared on Eyes Open Report.

http://eyesopenreport.com/mystery-solved-the-truth-about-fake-cellphone-towers/

http://www.newsweek.com/what-cell-ls-those-ominous-phony-towers-268589

http://eyesopenreport.com/mystery-intercept-cell-phone-tower-found-near-the-white-house-and-senate/

http://www.http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/mysterious-phony-cell-towers-could-be-intercepting-your-callspopsci.com/article/technology/mysterious-phony-cell-towers-could-be-intercepting-your-calls

http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/mysterious-phony-cell-towers-could-be-intercepting-your-calls

The Internet is abuzz with reports of mysterious devices sprinkled across America—many of them on military bases—that connect to your phone by mimicking cell phone towers and sucking up your data. There is little public information about these devices, but they are the new favorite toy of government agencies of all stripes; everyone from the National Security Agency to local police forces are using them.

These fake towers, known as “interceptors,” were discovered in July by users of the CryptoPhone500, one of the ultra-secure cell phones released after Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA snooping. The phone is essentially a Samsung Galaxy S3 customized with high-level encryption that costs around $3,500. While driving around the country, CryptoPhone users plotted on a map every time they connected to a nameless tower (standard towers run by wireless service providers like Verizon usually have names) and received an alert that the device had turned off their phone’s encryption (allowing their messages to be read).

Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print

Map showing the location of rogue cell towers identified by the firewall on CryptoPhones in August via ESD America, a defense and law enforcement technology provider based in Las Vegas.

While the abilities of these interceptors vary, the full-featured versions available to government agencies are capable of a panoply of interceptions. For example, the VME Dominator can capture calls and texts, and can even control the intercepted phone. (In an interview with NBC, Snowden revealed that with this kind of technology the NSA is capable of turning on a powered-down phone and essentially using it as a bug.)

This NSA-style surveillance is spreading to local cops. A growing number of police departments are using tower-mimicking devices, “stingrays,” to track a cell phone’s location and extract call logs. Though little is known about the use of these devices, watchdog groups have scored small victories in their attempts to punch through this veil of secrecy. The map below, courtesy of the ACLU, shows how the use of stingrays is spreading. The map also shows that despite the ALCU’s greatest efforts, it is unable to uncover information about stingray use in most of the country.

A recent case provided a glimpse into what stingrays can do and how they are being used.

In January, Tallahassee, Florida, police used one to track a stolen cell phone to a suspect’s apartment. The police then entered the home without permission, conducted a search, and arrested the suspect in his home. Not only did the police not have a warrant, but they did not disclose to a judge that they were in possession of a stingray because the department had received it on loan from the manufacturer on condition of secrecy.

Only after a judge granted a motion filed by the ACLU to unseal the transcripts of the case (the federal government had previously demanded the proceedings be sealed, going so far as to try to invoke the Homeland Security Act as the reason) was it revealed that between 2007 and 2010 the department used stingrays without getting warrants around 200 times. Additionally, the department had two devices; one mounted on a police vehicle, and the other carried by hand—and both were evaluating nearby cell phones in order to find a suspect. This means that information like location and phone data was pulled from innocent bystanders as well as the target of an investigation.

In the wake of the militarized response by the police in Ferguson, Missouri to protesters, many are taking a closer look at how the government may be abetting law enforcement in surreptitious cell phone surveillance. The purchase of such equipment is often funded by Homeland Security grants for which state and local police departments can apply. The gradual uncovering of this paper trail reveals new details about surveillance technology use. For instance, a Tacoma, Washington purchase order, uncovered by The News Tribune, revealed that a major reason there’s been a recent surge in requests for upgraded stingrays is the spread of 4G service.

Older stingrays, like the kind used by police departments, force phones using 4G or 3G down to 2G in order to more easily de-crypt data in real time. But 2G service is expected to be shut off soon—AT&T announced it would do so in 2017. If a stingray can’t knock a 4G phone down to 2G, however, it can’t do its job.

Last week, the city of Oakland, California, released documents revealing that three local jurisdictions applied for a Homeland Security grant to obtain a “state-of-the-art cell phone tracking system” with 4G tracking abilities. Other areas, including Tacoma; Baltimore; Chesterfield, Virginia; Sunrise, Florida; and Michigan’s Oakland County are also seeking upgrades.

Since the news of the phony cell phone towers broke, Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, which is marketing the CryptoPhone500 in the U.S., told Newsweek that sales have been “exceptional.” He added, “We should get far greater units in the field to report interceptors.”

https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-technology-and-liberty/victory-judge-releases-information-about-police-use

http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-nsa-can-still-bug-your-phone-when-its-powered-off-1585427282

http://www.intellihub.com/u-s-nation-perfect-crossed-line-dont-expect-accountability-legacy-torture/

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/world/13foggo.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/us/us-to-revise-bush-policy-on-treatment-of-prisoners.html

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/we-crossed-the-line-us-admits-to-un-anti-torture-body.aspx?pageID=238&nID=74222&NewsCatID=358

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/11/12/us-no-nation-perfect-we-crossed-line-dont-expect-accountability-legacy-torture

http://www.inquisitr.com/1608470/cell-phone-surveillance-reaches-new-heights-with-u-s-spy-planes/

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/09/meet-the-machines-that-steal-your-phones-data/

Dirtbox” is the term used to describe fake cell tower devices attached to airplanes used by the U.S. Department of Justice to eavesdrop on cell phone information, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal published today. This might sound like something out of a conspiracy theory film, but individuals who are familiar with the covert U.S. Marshals service cell phone surveillance program told WSJ that these flights started grabbing cell phone data as early as 2007, leveraging Cessna planes to retrieve the data from countless cell phones on the ground below.

The WSJ report explains that the term “dirtbox” is derived from the acronym for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., or DRT, the company the allegedly manufactures these devices. DRT identifies itself as “a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company” since DRT was purchased by the aircraft manufacturing company back in December 2008. Dirtboxes are a type of IMSI catcher, with the acronym referring to International Mobile Subscriber Identity. IMSI catchers pose as normal cell towers, so that your cell phone will attempt to use them. Once a connection is established, the IMSI catchers are able to pull information off your cell phone. These gadgets are able to eavesdrop on your phone calls, examine text messages, disrupt your cellular service, and even track the location of your cell phone. Ars Technica describes how law enforcement officials have used IMSI catcher models “Stingray” and “Gossamer” for years.

The WSJ report describes how the U.S. Marshals Service cellular eavesdropping program is able to collect cellular data en masse, by flying overhead with dirtboxes affixed to airplanes. Their sources claim that “non-suspects’ cell phones are ‘let go’ and the dirtbox focuses on gathering information from the target.”

This isn’t the first time IMSI-catchers have made the news due to suspicious usage. Back in July, ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith told Popular Science that he had discovered rogue base stations attempting to connect to his secured CryptoPhone. So far, no organization has stepped forward to claim ownership of these fake cell towers, which are sometimes known as “interceptors.” Goldsmith and ESD America customers collaborated to put together a map of fake cell tower activity, identifying about 17 different interceptors across the U.S.

The sources who have revealed the U.S. Department of Justice’s cellular eavesdropping program remains anonymous, and so far, they haven’t revealed their motivations for coming forward with this information.

The WSJ quotes one source as stating, “What is done on U.S. soil is completely legal. … Whether it should be done is a separate question.”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1608470/cell-phone-surveillance-reaches-new-heights-with-u-s-spy-planes/#dkPwkAkzCQPhMGKP.99

irtbox” is the term used to describe fake cell tower devices attached to airplanes used by the U.S. Department of Justice to eavesdrop on cell phone information, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal published today. This might sound like something out of a conspiracy theory film, but individuals who are familiar with the covert U.S. Marshals service cell phone surveillance program told WSJ that these flights started grabbing cell phone data as early as 2007, leveraging Cessna planes to retrieve the data from countless cell phones on the ground below.

The WSJ report explains that the term “dirtbox” is derived from the acronym for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., or DRT, the company the allegedly manufactures these devices. DRT identifies itself as “a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company” since DRT was purchased by the aircraft manufacturing company back in December 2008. Dirtboxes are a type of IMSI catcher, with the acronym referring to International Mobile Subscriber Identity. IMSI catchers pose as normal cell towers, so that your cell phone will attempt to use them. Once a connection is established, the IMSI catchers are able to pull information off your cell phone. These gadgets are able to eavesdrop on your phone calls, examine text messages, disrupt your cellular service, and even track the location of your cell phone. Ars Technica describes how law enforcement officials have used IMSI catcher models “Stingray” and “Gossamer” for years.

The WSJ report describes how the U.S. Marshals Service cellular eavesdropping program is able to collect cellular data en masse, by flying overhead with dirtboxes affixed to airplanes. Their sources claim that “non-suspects’ cell phones are ‘let go’ and the dirtbox focuses on gathering information from the target.”

This isn’t the first time IMSI-catchers have made the news due to suspicious usage. Back in July, ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith told Popular Science that he had discovered rogue base stations attempting to connect to his secured CryptoPhone. So far, no organization has stepped forward to claim ownership of these fake cell towers, which are sometimes known as “interceptors.” Goldsmith and ESD America customers collaborated to put together a map of fake cell tower activity, identifying about 17 different interceptors across the U.S.

The sources who have revealed the U.S. Department of Justice’s cellular eavesdropping program remains anonymous, and so far, they haven’t revealed their motivations for coming forward with this information.

The WSJ quotes one source as stating, “What is done on U.S. soil is completely legal. … Whether it should be done is a separate question.”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1608470/cell-phone-surveillance-reaches-new-heights-with-u-s-spy-planes/#dkPwkAkzCQPhMGKP.99

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