Tuesday, December 10, 2013

USA Today: it's not just the NSA; local police use cell tower data dumps from compliant telcos as well as fake towers to collect data on thousands of innocent people

Click to enlarge. More USA Today charts here.
USA Today, in an extensive special investigative report, says that at least 25 PDs own Stingrays, suitcase-sized devices that costs $400,000 each and act as fake cell towers to function as a "men in the middle" devices to scoop up all cell traffic in an area.
     In Colorado, law enforcement authorities used a cell tower data dump to gather information about a missing girl, Jessica Ridgeway. 500 people were asked to submit DNA samples to the police, who eventually solved the crime with a tip.
     Authorities have refused to disclose how many people's records they combed through or what they subsequently did with that data.
Click to enlarge. More USA Today charts here.
     Thirty-six PDs questioned by USA Today refused to disclose whether they've used either cell tower dumps or Stingray surveillance, claiming that criminals or terrorists could use the information to thwart crime-fighting.
     Local and state police, from Florida to Alaska, are buying Stingrays with federal grants aimed at protecting cities from terror attacks, but using them for far broader police work.
     ...Typically used to hunt a single phone's location, the system intercepts data from all phones within a mile, or farther, depending on terrain and antennas.

     ...Initially developed for military and spy agencies, the Stingrays remain a guarded secret by law enforcement and the manufacturer, Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla. The company would not answer questions about the systems, referring reporters to police agencies. Most police aren't talking, either, partly because Harris requires buyers to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
     Harris Corporation's newest surveillance product is Hailstorm.
     The company has, in at least one case, recommended that authorities use Hailstorm in conjunction with software made by Nebraska-based surveillance company Pen-Link. The Pen-Link software appears to enable authorities using Hailstorm to communicate directly with cell phone carriers over the Internet, possibly to help coordinate the surveillance of targeted individuals.
     Pen-Link brags that its analytical software enables "drilling down through today’s extensive data sets to reveal relationships that might otherwise go undetected."
     Senator Edward Markey has proposed legislation requiring police agencies to report regularly on their collection of cellphone call data and forcing them to get warrants before they collecting bulk records from cellphone transmission towers.

No comments:

Post a Comment