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Sunday, December 7, 2014

USA - Feds Spying on U.S. Cell Phones Via Planes

    Spy Tech of the NSA
  • The DOJ allegedly operates a number of Cessna aircraft equipped with machines that mimic cell phone towers.
The sky's the limit for U.S. spying tactics,according to a new report, which says the Justice Department is collecting data about U.S. citizens' cell phones via airplanes.
The U.S. Marshals Service allegedly operates a number of Cessna aircraft equipped with machines that mimic cell phone towers, in whatThe Wall Street Journal called "a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects."
But those two-foot-square gadgets, known to law enforcement officials as "dirtboxes," also scoop up data from tens of thousands of unsuspecting mobile users, the paper's unnamed sources said.
While there is no word on the volume or frequency of the flights, the Journal'stipsters suggested the Cessnas fly regularly from at least five metropolitan-area airports. Their so-called "dirtboxes"—named after its initials DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology, now a subsidiary of Boeing—trick cell phones into reporting unique registration information.
The Justice Department, which houses the Marshals Service, did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment, and would neither confirm nor deny the program's existence to the Journal.
According to the paper, a plane will deceptively identify itself as the closest, strongest network signal, forcing mobile devices to connect to it and provide that registration information.
Even built-in encryption services, like in Apple and Google's latest operating systems, can't block the sweep, according to the Journal.
Though aimed at picking out fugitives or drug dealers, the program must collect the data in bulk - sweeping up data about non-suspects - before weeding out the desired info. That non-suspect data is later deleted, though there is no information about how or when.
The approach, the Journal said, is similar to what is known in the hacking world as a "man in the middle" attack, in which a victim's device is deceived into thinking it is communicating with a legitimate service.
News of these high-flying spy tactics comes only months after reports tippedbroader National Security Agency surveillance reach, touching roughly 75 percent of all U.S. Web traffic—including communications between U.S. and foreign citizens.
It also comes more than a year after Edward Snowden released secret government agency details to the media, revealing mass-surveillance programs by the NSA and the U.K.'s GCHQ.