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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Police State Christmas List

A web publication called The Intercept has published a catalog of 53 cellphone surveillance devices in current use by intelligence agencies, the armed forces and American police forces.
The catalog includes well known devices like the “Stingray” and the DRT (pronounced  dirt) box as well as more exotic devices.
For example the Harris Corporation Wireless Products Group, the maker of the Stingray has developed a concealable device called the Blackfin II that operators and operator wannabes (police Swat members increasingly refer to themselves as “operators,” in the style of American special operations forces) can conceal on their persons. The Blackfin II can eavesdrop on cell calls, read text messages or block calls from single or multiple phones. The device costs $75,000.
On the other hand, the Cellbrite Battlefield Data Recovery/Systems Security Engineering is a smart phone sized device that costs a mere $9,920 plus $900 a year for support and maintenance. Police forces large and small around the country depend on the Cellbrite to quickly and efficiently suck every last byte of data from virtually any cellphone. A recent Supreme Court ruling titled  required police to get a warrant before snooping through personal phone books, photo rolls, videos, calls logs and so on to find evidence that can be used against you. There is no such prohibition against mere “intelligence gathering.”

Dirt Boxes Galore

The Intercept lists a half dozen current versions of dirt boxes. Dirt boxes circumvent the involvement of phone companies in the domestic spying process. The boxes appear to be the strongest available cell phone tower to targeted phones. They exploit the fact that phones must report their locations in order to receive calls and messages.
The devices are manufactured by Digital Receiver Technologies of Germantown, Maryland. The company is a subsidiary of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. All dirt boxes simulate cellphone towers. All versions costs $80,000 or more; can be deployed on the ground or in the air; can target up to 10,000 phone numbers; and can spy on and record up to 96 phone calls at once. Various models include specific features for all your local police department’s domestic spying needs.
For example the DRT 1301C “incorporates advanced passive cooling technology eliminating the need for a noisy fan.”
The Intercept reports, “Today nearly 60 law enforcement agencies in 23 states are known to possess a Stingray or some form of cell-site simulator, though experts believe that number likely under represents the real total. In some jurisdictions, police use cell-site simulators regularly. The Baltimore Police Department, for example, has used Stingrays more than 4,300 times since 2007.”
You can read the complete catalogue here.