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

Favorite Tweets November 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.


  • @DamnItsTrue: Menstruation, menopause, mental breakdowns -> most womens probIems begin with men. #DamnItsTrue
  • @carlmaxim: Sarah Palin says Julian Assange should be hunted down like Osama bin Laden. So he should be safe for at least a decade. #WikiLeaks
  • @rachelsklar: Chasing straight vodka with pickles. You know it.
  • @ericgonzalez: OH: “I can’t get AT&T reception at AT&T park” #lolz
  • @swedal: Do people who spend $2 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water know that spelling it backwards is Naive?
  • @lolprez: #rally4sanity is a rally without a cause.
  • @LyrIcSmasHER: In math but I feel like I’m in spanish
  • @Krissy90220: Makeup is one hell of a drug
  • @michaelnichols: Words of encouragement from my coworker: “Be Positive! Shit Rainbows!”
  • @summertomato: OH: “I didn’t really cook all this, but I did cut the cheese.”
  • @tnylgn: Eating Halloween candy and ignoring the doorbell. A little game I like to call fuck you I paid for it.
  • @wafflesgirls: i only illegally download music for my stolen ipod


  • @TheFragileKate: Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful :)
  • @Pres_Bartlet: Meg Whitman’s personal spending on her campaign: $163 million. National Endowment for the Arts 2010 budget: $161.4 million.
  • @ShesMorgan: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
  • @God_Damn_Batman: So Harry Potter’s parents were murdered before his eyes, now he wears a black cloak and fights evil? EXPECT A CALL FROM MY LAWYERS ROWLING!!
  • @maxklein: The easiest way to rob a bank is to have one
  • @LyrIcSmasHER: Hope is a distant memory
  • @SarahBlakeInc: Will I take Amazon Gift Cards as payment? Sure, when the light company does
  • @EssyDoesIt: Rule #1 … im #1 .


  • @sacca: Just saw a TSA agent check whether a laser pointer was working by shooting it directly into her eye. Should I admire her dedication?
  • @mistersterling: I’m considering shoving McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in my pants when I get to the airport. Hilarious consequences for sure.
  • @TSAagent: This #SecurityTheatre is starting to feel less like a theatre and more like a strip club. #TSA #TSAagent #BadTouch


  • @the_tech_bubble: Hey Groupon, $6 billion isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Actually, $6 billion is pretty cool.
  • @davepell: Groupon seems to be the one company in their universe NOT willing to take a discount.
  • @avalanche123: “Java is a DSL for taking large XML files and converting them to stack traces”
  • @KieranO: What did all the Social Media Experts do for a living before social media?
  • @yurechko: “@arrington is the Glenn Beck of technology”
  • @tonystubblebine: A good tech conference always makes me want to leave early and write code. Having trouble sitting still at #w2s
  • @mktgdouchebag: I wonder how the person who first said “That’s for me to know and you to find out” is adjusting to Facebook.