Leaked Law Enforcement Supply Catalog Shows Souped-Up Cell Tower Spoofers, Tons Of Pervasive Surveillance Options

from the all-the-better-to-see/hear-you-with,-my-dears dept

The Intercept has obtained what appears to be another set of leaked documents — these ones originating from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The first document released (assuming that more are on the way) is a catalog of law enforcement-only tech products from UK firm Cobham, including Stingray-like devices capable of not only locating suspects, but also intercepting their phone calls and messages.

Information about Cobham’s own suite of Stingray-style boxes is almost nonexistent on the web. But starting far down on Page 105 of the catalogue is a section titled “Cellular Surveillance,” wherein the U.K.-based manufacturer of defense and intelligence-oriented hardware lays out all the small wonders it sells for spying on people’s private conversations, whether they’re in Baghdad or Baltimore…

From the catalog [PDF]:

Cobham designs and manufactures Active Cellular Surveillance Systems. These are designed for tactical operations in short to medium range missions and provide the user with intelligence to help identify and monitor criminal activities, criminals and terrorists.

They can also be employed for humanitarian operations. Solutions are typically used for:

• Counter terrorism and organized crime operations, identifying and monitoring suspects, exploring target contact details and intercepting outgoing voice calls and SMS messages.

• Situational control, enabling identification and network denial of cellular devices through ‘intelligent’ jamming, including creating controlled areas of coverage.

• Suspect geo-locating capabilities.

Cell emulators, direction finders and coverage analysis provide ideal applications for: suspect identification, exploration of target’s contact networks, suspect monitoring and search and rescue. In-country support contracts are available to ensure effective maintenance and support of the cellular technologies.

Harris’ Stingrays also provide the same interception capabilities, but every law enforcement agency that has been forced to discuss their use of IMSI catchers denies using these features, including the FBI. But the fact that this capability is in the hands of law enforcement is still a concern.

[ACLU attorney Nathan] Wessler said “the note at the top of the page about the ability to intercept calls and text messages (in addition to the ability to geo-locate phones)” is of particular interest, because “domestic law enforcement agencies generally say they don’t use that capability.” Also remarkable to Wessler is the claim that cellphone users can be “tracked to less than 1 [meter] of accuracy.”

Just as concerning is the fact that law enforcement has routinely deployed this equipment using only pen register orders — locating suspects using legal paperwork that’s only supposed to cover numbers dialed by a phone, not its current location. With these features built in, law enforcement agencies have access to wiretap capabilities at pen register prices, in terms of the Fourth Amendment.

Also of note are the variety of IMSI catchers offered by Cobham, which include products with enough power to grab as many connecting phones as a full-blown cell tower. Others offer the capability to deny service to all phones within their reach or, conversely, grab up to 200 unique cell phone identifiers a minute. Cobham also sells body-worn companion trackers for use with its larger cell tower spoofers, designed to be worn covertly to better narrow down the location of devices.

Cobham also offers cities complete surveillance systems with IP mesh networks for securely transmitting footage, data, etc. to control centers and cameras that do more than simply watch — they also tag, track and locate suspects. Add-ons include thermal cameras and ground sensors.

And there’s so much more. A plethora of covert surveillance cameras which Cobham will gladly shove into anything from a street light cover to a smoke detector (or a splice boot, wall clock, utility pedestal…). Many of the product descriptions contain a bit of military op lingo — which makes sense considering Cobham’s history of acquiring US defense and intelligence contractors like Sparta and Argotek, along with its partnership with Northrop Grumman. (It also — like other purveyors of surveillance/intelligence tech — is less than discriminate as to who it sells to. Its customer list includes Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.) What could make more sense than selling repurposed war gear to law enforcement agencies which seemingly view themselves as both military forces and intelligence agencies?

Finally, like all good leaked documents, this catalog comes with a warning to unauthorized readers.

This catalog is the property of Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance and must be returned upon request.

Yeah. Let us know how that goes.

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Companies: cobham

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Comments on “Leaked Law Enforcement Supply Catalog Shows Souped-Up Cell Tower Spoofers, Tons Of Pervasive Surveillance Options”

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DannyB (profile) says:


They can also be employed for humanitarian operations.

Followed immediately by a 3 item list of things that sound like what any fascist tyrant dictator police state repressive regime needs to maintain control of its population.
1. Counter terrorism and organized crime operations
2. Situational control, enabling identification and network denial of cellular devices through ‘intelligent’ jamming, including creating controlled areas of coverage.
3. Suspect geo-locating capabilities
Wow, great humanitarian operations.

I wonder what the FCC would say about importing a foreign made product that does item 2 above? We want to make sure the police cell phones work, but not their victims.

More importantly, the fact that local law enforcement sees themselves as some kind of occupying invasion army, and sees the citizens as those to conduct “counter terrorism” against, should be, but no longer is, shocking.

This combined with viral video documented behavior of police in recent years should give anyone serious doubts that police would have any kind of restraint about listening to calls or intercepting messages of citizens. For no reason at all. Just because they can.

Hey, you were looking suspicious! Hand over your phone for a deeply intrusive search of its contents.

And they wonder why everyone wants to use encrypted communications. And encrypted phone storage. They brought it on themselves. They started a war and escalated it.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Even setting aside governments and local police, I wonder how many corporations and their private investigation firms are on the mailing list for this catalog. There’s a long history of corporate espionage and spying on reporters who report leaks.

It’s only a matter of time until we hear about these things being used to find out who leaked a movie script or insulted a CEO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: understanding advertising

Rule one of understanding advertising:

1. Invert the advertised message to get the real meaning


Cars: We give you freedom -> you get stuck in traffic jams

Real estate developer: We make space -> we turn this beautiful landscape into walled sections.

Cobham: “The most important thing we build is trust.”
-> (you can figure out this meaning 🙂

Sok Puppette (profile) says:

I think the most interesting thing is that there is NO emphasis on minimization, selective surveillance, privacy, whatever. When they talk about targeting, it’s always in the context of not losing the target, never making sure they attack only the target. I’m sure they can do all kinds of selective stuff, but it’s obvious that they don’t think not spying on the wrong people is at the top of the customer’s mind. And I’m sure they’re right.

The best they do is “Correctly interact with non-target cell phones to preserve service”. Which is as much a stealth feature as anything else.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: The police state is complete... suckers!

Just a waiting game until the massacre then. I seriously doubt they have learned from the mistakes of those who held power in tyrannies in the past.

The question would be if people will rise up or accept their new lives as serfs when it happens.

There is always a massacre when a tyranny decides to make an example of those that dissent against it.

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