US-Israeli Security Company Selling Mobile Phone Surveillance Products To Agencies Around The World

from the NSA-power-at-budget-prices! dept

Privacy International, which has done a very thorough job digging into the backgrounds of the many private companies involved in the surveillance "industry" around the world, has just released a promotional document from the American-Israeli Verint, a security company that provides NSA-level cell phone surveillance power to entities around the world.

[A] scaled down version of this system is also being sold by private surveillance contractors to the highest bidder. The company behind it? Israeli-American company Verint. Their Skylock technology claims to have the ability to "Remotely locate GSM and UMTS targets located anywhere in the world at cell level precision".
The brochure Privacy Int'l obtained doesn't go into detail as to how it achieves this, but what is shown is both impressive and disturbing.
From a brochure collected this year we have discovered one of the newest additions to Verint's product line: mobile phone tracking on an international scale. Previously, mobile phone tracking required presence in the particular areas of interest, focusing on the tracking of phones through monitoring Base Stations (Cell Towers) and local networks to pinpoint location. In the past, if a law enforcement agency wanted location data they requested information from the relevant telecommunication firm operating in that specific territory. By way of an example, this would result in the UK not being able to obtain a French mobile phone’s location without help from the French. Now it would appear that Verint have bypassed the territoriality requirement.With this latest news, we know that location tracking has become borderless in the same way as communications surveillance. The ability to do this has likely come from a focus on international phone systems rather than domestic or regional networks which would never reach the worldwide nature of location tracking Verint is advertising.
Some details on Verint's SKYLOCK offering are available online (under the name ENGAGE). While the brochure seems to indicate this is solely a military product (the brochure cover only lists "Military, Special Forces, Navy, Search and Rescue, Border Control" and the photos contained show only military personnel), the inside notes make it clear these products are available to "law enforcement" as well.

As Privacy Int'l points out, Verint's offering operates "independently of local service providers," meaning pretty much every legal obstacle is demolished. What no one knows is going on won't hurt them. One product is targeted at satellite communications, but even considering that limited scope, it's still very powerful.

Here's what ENGAGE/SKYLOCK can do:
- Intercept voice calls and text messages
- Decrypt A5/1 and A5/2 encryptions with an embedded decipher
- Operate undetected leaving no electromagnetic signature
- Selectively downgrade UMTS traffic to GSM
Other ENGAGE products target wireless communications. Verint's intercept-in-a-box can do all of the following.
- Actively and passively intercept WiFi communications based on: 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4Ghz, and 5GHz
- Active interception of mobile handsets, even when not intentionally connected to a WiFi network
- Intercept target communication at a distance with zero packet loss
- Choose from multiple active interception methods to overcome encryption of private communication
- Identify access points and intercept MAC addresses in the area
Verint also gives its purchasers the power to target phones using 3G networks, remotely activate cell phone mics, and block cellular communication.

The capabilities that were presumed to only be in the hands of national intelligence agencies now can be had by nearly anyone who can come up with the money. Powerful cell phone surveillance products are a growth market. Anything that can increase data and communication harvesting while simultaneously eliminating a majority of legal restrictions and oversight practically sells itself.

We may feel this sort of power is OK in the "right hands," but we don't get to decide which hands this ends up in. We may believe the NSA should be able to do this sort of thing (overseas, preferably), but that local law enforcement agencies should be forced to jump through warrant and subpoena hoops before tracking locations and intercepting communications. But ultimately it doesn't matter what we prefer. That call is made by Verint and it's in the business of selling surveillance products, not protecting the privacy of the world's citizens.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 3:30am

    Snake oil warning

    Snake oil warning sign: … zero packet loss …

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 3:43am

    Three points:

    1) And the NSA leadership collectively facepalms, exclaiming 'Crap, if we'd just pretended to be a business we'd have been able to avoid all this legal hassle!'

    2) Speaking of the NSA, with capabilities like that, I can't help but think the NSA/GCHQ are either going to be tied for their #1 customers, or are heavily involved in the development side of things and that's why it's so powerful.

    3) And finally, given they plan on selling such products, I imagine it's only a matter of time until the political/business espionage/blackmail business is booming, though given nothing less will cause those in power to care enough to deal with commercial spying capabilities like this I can't exactly find such a bad thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 3:59am

    Re: Snake oil warning

    I suspect that the term is being used differently to the normal lexicography of the term 'packet'. When this software/hardware combination is active, whole handsets are probably considered a single packet of data.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 4:20am

    Re: Re: Snake oil warning

    whole handsets are probably considered a single packet

    In context, the claim for the “ENGAGE WiFi” product on p.11 is:
    Build an Intelligence Picture Over IP Networks

    Identify, intercept, decode, manipulate and analyze WIFI
    enabled devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops

    Highlights

    » …

    » Intercept target communication at a distance with zero packet loss

    » …


    “Intercept target communication at a distance with zero packet loss”.

    Can someone really, really spin that to say whole handsets are considered a single packet? You know, I've seen a fair amount of advertising for WiFi products, and there are just some clues there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 5:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Snake oil warning

    I should call into question that Google got in trouble for collecting OPEN wi-fi data... Obviously this company isn't going to be in trouble..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Snake oil warning

    Note that this company is not necessarily doing it. It simply sells devices that that do. Therefore they have no responsibility. Isn't that how it goes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    anon, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:20am

    Israel is selling weapons to terrorist groups and nkorea.
    Why would you be surprised that make money from this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snake oil warning

    Oh my bad, I misread and thought they were doing it themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snake oil warning

    Wait a second, unless I'm failing at reading comprehension it seems they do it themselves, no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Re:

    Perhaps more amusing is that the NSA is directly profiting from sales of goods to terrorists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    _Israel the new Nazi party ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re:

    The US has always created it's own enemies(and in several cases trained and armed them as well), why is this surprising?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    lfroen (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:13pm

    Newsflash: Israel selling security equipment

    Also available: anti-aircraft missiles, firearms, drones, fighter planes upgrades, and so on.

    Israel is one of biggest arm-selling countries worldwide. And yep, surveillance equipment is also available. You probably can also hire consulting team in same deal.

    As the saying goes here: you don't blame the tools, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Newsflash: Israel selling security equipment

    you don't blame the tools, right?


    That's exactly right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    lfroen (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Newsflash: Israel selling security equipment

    So, what's a point of an article? Highlight the fact that $country (or $company) selling military/defense/spy/surveillance products/services?
    I thought that people understand that guns doesn't come out of thin air. Some people design,build,sell,support them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Newsflash: Israel selling security equipment

    Yes, that's the point of the article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Way to go Israel, you sunk my privacy ship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 5:13pm

    The Merchant Of Verint

    Skylock the J—oh, never mind...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Cpt Feathersword, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:25pm

    Verint may be exaggerating just a little,

    or Privacy Intl may be too easily gulled by the sales brochure. Verint's copywriter conveniently forgets to advertise the prerequisites and limitations. Some of the more outlandish claims are likely just plain false ("bypassed the territoriality requirement"?).

    Also Verint doesn't bother to mention that most of the claimed wifi spying capabilities are nothing special: any smartphone can do most of that stuff, all you need is a free app.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Frank, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    Verint isn't a truly private company

    Verint isn't a truly private company. It's a joint asset (that serves multiple purposes) controlled by US/Israeli intelligence. It's private owners are former NSA, CIA and Mossad.

    There is enough public info out there for anyone with an interest to put it together. Start by googling "NSA links to St Petersburg FL Drug Ring" (use quotes). Barrett Brown is still locked up for connecting the dots on stuff like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    kajol, Dec 30th, 2013 @ 7:17pm

    The Apple iPhone 4 - 16 GB Smartphone is a cutting-edge smartphone for users who demand excellence in mobile phone technology. The Apple iPhone 4 Smartphone measures 115.2 mm (height) x 58.6 mm (width) x 9.3 mm (depth) and weighs 137 grams. This white Apple iPhone Smartphone comes packed with the newest features for smartphones, including a frame made of strong and durable aluminosilicate glass and a customized alloy periphery for device protection, a 960x640-pixel LCD screen that produces crisp and clear images, a camera that shoots 5-megapixel images and 720p resolution video, and FaceTime, which allows users to video-chat during calls. Additionally, the Apple iPhone - 16 GB Smartphone features Touchscreen, Bluetooth, GPS, Speakerphone, and Internet browser/email capabilities. Technical features of the Apple iPhone 4 Smartphone include a lithium-Ion battery capable of approximately 840 minutes of talk-time and 300 hours of stand-by time. Furthermore, users of this Apple iPhone Smartphone, available unlocked, can opt for iMovie video editing software. Overall, the Apple iPhone 4 - 16 GB Smartphone is a top-of-the-line, multi-functional smartphone that delivers impressive features.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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