The Use of Stingray Devices by Law Enforcement Agencies

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article describing how the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are using electronic and cellphone monitoring and tracking devices known as stingray. As described in the article, the Stingray device functions as a mobile cellphone tower and can trick near by cellphones from connect with it. When a cellphone connects with it, the signal strength can be an indicator of how close the cellphone is and in this fashion you can collect enough information to triangulate the suspects location. This technology will work even if you are not using your cellphone an law enforcement has used it in situations where they don’t have a search warrant.

If the use this device without a search warrant alone was not problematic enough, the government does not disclose the information about it’s use or the data gathered by using the device even on the subsequent trial for the suspect whom they tracked with such device. From the article…

The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark about their capabilities, an FBI official told The Wall Street Journal in response to inquiries.

There is a big glaring error in the above sentence, the FBI delete the data gathered in the use of stingray devices to keep the general public in the dark, not the suspects. Because stingray devices mimic cell towers, hundreds and thousands of cell phones will connect with it that are nearby. To catch one suspect, law enforcement is using sweeping powers and technology that log and track a whole wide range of people. If you use a stingray device in New York City, you are gathering data from thousands of cell phones not just the suspect.

Another big problem with this technology is that it can monitor voice and data transmissions. Since stingray devices mimic a cell tower it can intercept voice and data transmissions. To this point the article quoted a law enforcement officer from the sheriff’s department in Maricopa County, Ariz. describing that they “can’t listen in on communications.” This means that the sheriff’s department there doesn’t have the latest model. If you can mimic a tower you can definitely intercept, capture, and log all data the flows through the fake honey pot cell tower.

Another point not mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article about the use of stingray devices is that they are not necessary. Law enforcement agencies can get the location of a cell phone by going to the cell phone carriers. Telecommunication companies like Comcast, AT&T, and even Google have portals where law agencies can request information on their systems on a suspect.

So if law enforcement agencies can get the location of a suspect without the use of stingrays, why are police departments stocking up on these devices? So if law enforcement can track the location of a suspect by having a warrant and going to the cell phone carriers, they prefer the use of stingray devices because they don’t require a warrant, they can delete the data they gather afterwards, they can cast wider nets, and because it’s a cool gadget!

Filed under: Search warrants? We don’t need no stinkin’ search warrants!

Sting Ray II

Sting Ray II

Slave Technology

As a people, we are becoming more reliant and dependent on technology, such as smart phones, laptops, web services, printers, etc. But this technology that we depend on can be used to turn against us. Government agencies and organized groups, such as the MPAA and RIAA, routinely use vulnerabilities, back doors, rootkits, identifying attributes, and other information in our technology to track, monitor, retaliate, and incriminate you.

Examples of slave technology include all of Google’s products. Google’s search engine tracks individuals via unique identifying IDs in cookies and singed-on sessions and saves all searches associated with those IDs. Even if you are not signed into Google’s other products like GMail, your online searches conducted on Google search are stored and associated with a unique identifier associated with your computer. You can try to delete your browser’s cookies, but if they wanted to they could use your IP address to track you.

In layman’s terms, the IP address of your computer is much like your home address. It uniquely identifies your computer in the internet. Your ISP, such as Comcast or AT&T, provided you with an IP address automatically when you connect to the internet. Every time you visit a website, your IP address is typically logged along with the pages you viewed. The IP address is the typical way to identify individuals based on blog comments, Facebook accounts, or emails messages that most users think are anonymous. Simply put there is no such time as being anonymous in the internet. You are being watched. Some groups, most notably the government, want to introduce a Internet ID or true identity for your online usage. If such a ID program would come to passed, you can quickly imagine the associated fees, taxes, renewal process, and the fact that your access could be revoked for some bureaucratic reason.

The government is not the only one tracking you, in fact advertisers have the most to gain from your online usage. Have you ever noticed how some online ads seem to know your location? I’ve noticed this more from Groupon ads where they post ads on random deals in my home town. How does Groupon know my hometown if I am not a member? I’ve never even been to their site so how do they know my location. Groupon and other advertisers use techniques involving your IP address and cookies to try to track what sites you’ve visited, what search terms you were recently looking for, and other identifying information.

In addition to an IP address, if you are using an iPhone you can also be transmitting the phone’s UDID. Th iPhone UDID is a unique identifier that app developers have access that uniquely identifies one iPhone from the millions of others.

You might not have suspected this, but even your printer is designed to turn you in. It is widely known that some models of printers print hard to see patterns of yellow dots in documents. These patterns can then be used to to match printed documented to a specific printer.

There is a lot more than just technology, but information you provide or is collected from or about you by mobile and personal devices and website operators is used. For example, in California police officers don’t need a search warrant to go through the contents of your cell phone or other devices that were confiscated at the time of your arrest. So if they find incriminating information about you, even about a case different from the one you were originally detained or arrested for, this can be used against you. Another example is how Facebook gives access to third-party developers and advertisers of personal information, such as email and phone numbers of it’s users. So now, Facebook advertisers can target you with their ads inside and outside of Facebook, in your email inbox, etc.

Favorite Tweets June 2010

There are some funny people on Twitter. Whenever I find a funny, witty, or thought provoking I usually retweet it and favorite it. Here is a small collection of recent tweets that stoop out to me.

  • @LeyMarieCel: When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. – Charles Austin Beard
  • @avinashkaushik: “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done.” – Steve Jobs
  • @alexia: OH: In my next life I want to be reincarnated as a computer.
  • @spangley: OH: rural Oregon is like the west Virginia of the west coast.
  • @tonystubblebine: Just watched the worst parallel parking attempt of all time. He eventually gave up and now I’m watching the second worst. It’s a huge spot!
  • @simplebits: I’m convinced that Comcast got into the phone business so that you’re unable to call them when their service goes down.
  • @chadfowler: Social networks depreciate like cars :)
  • @jenniferbrook: I’m thinking about platforms as cultures.
  • @Archimage: By end of next year 10% of internet users will have their own boutique URL shortening service.
  • @georgeruiz: I’m totally getting the sexy new Apple camera (with limited phone functionality). Who’s with me!
  • @jdub: Why haven’t Iraq, Katrina and the Oil Spill convinced conspiracy theorists that the US govt is utterly incapable of conspiracy?
  • @joshspear: Caught in the rain! Good thing I’m waterproof.
  • @thatdrew: OH: My caucasian wife makes awesome authentic tamales
  • @karlihenriquez: Please don’t have conversations with yourself via Twitter…its a little weird
  • @Gemstars: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” – Paul Valery
  • @shawnrobinson: You can do anything, but not everything. – David Allen
  • @swedal: When cheese gets it’s picture taken, what does it say?
  • @loliphea: how you tryna sell dreams an aint even slept yet?!
  • @ITSNAYB: Good morning rise & grind
  • @MinouChatte: I changed the way I looked at things, and the things I looked at changed.
  • @Miss_Officer: Some of life’s best lessons are learned at the worst times.
  • @JessicaGottlieb: Folks. Please stop projecting, if you have mental health issues get a shrink not a blog.
  • @Miss_Officer: Words without actions are just like air without oxygen, useless
  • @youloveB: Good friends are like four leaf clovers, hard to find & are very special so keep them!