And, Of Course, UK Law Enforcement ALSO Using Cell Tower Spoofers, Refusing To Talk About Them

from the our-shared-surveillance-culture dept

No one seriously believed it was just US law enforcement agencies using repurposed war gear to track cellphone users, did they?

An investigation by the British news channel Sky News claims to have found evidence of fake cellphone towers operating in London and elsewhere that acts similarly to devices known as IMSI catchers, the most famous of which is manufactured under the brand name StingRay.
The results of Sky News' GDMK Cryptophone-enabled cell tower wardriving can be found in this file, which supposedly uncovered more than 20 cell tower imposters in London alone in a three-week period. We've still got the UK beat on nomenclature, though. IMSI catchers are pretty much always referred to as "stingrays" (actually a product name trademarked by manufacturer Harris Corporation). Due to the lack of official acknowledgement or FOA-ed documents, we're stuck with the clunky "ICT hardware," as produced by manufacturer Datong.*

*Time to crowdsource a better British nickname. We honestly can't be using "ICT hardware" in the future when further details inevitably leak out. You'd think the Brits would already have this handled, considering the split development of the language (American/English) has necessitated a need for an English-to-English dictionary at this point.

Here's what officials don't have to say about the Sky News revelations, which follows on the heels of previous investigations by The Guardian and the Times of London. The only thing on record -- outside of the inevitable refusal to confirm or deny -- is this statement, which implies the public's right to know what law enforcement is up to falls far, far behind law enforcement's need to bust bad guys.
“We’re not going to talk about it,” Met official Bernard Hogan-Howe told Sky News when asked for comment. “The only people who benefit [from a comment] are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing."
Of course. And then there's this "reassurance," which only states that whatever the police are doing with these devices, it's certainly not as bad as the worst case scenarios envisioned by the most overactively-imaginative.
“If people imagine that we’ve got the resources to do as much intrusion as they worry about, I would reassure them that’s impossible,” Hogan-Howe added without providing any evidence to support his claim.
But that's OK, because what we do know about IMSI catchers should be scary enough. They force phones to the "dumbest" connection -- 2G -- to better facilitate the interception of calls and texts. They indiscriminately hoover up all call data in the area and can often disrupt normal phone service. Their exisitence is routinely hidden from courts, judges and criminal defendants. And they've been deployed thousands of times by hundreds of law enforcement agencies without a warrant.

These are all reason the public should be made aware of the purchase and use of these devices. But because usage isn't as "intrusive" as Hogan-Howe fails to specify it could be, British citizens are apparently supposed to believe everything is perfectly fine.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:47am

    A few that come to mind

    Porta-spy
    Big Brother's Little Helper
    Grab-It-All
    Security Saboteur
    Judicial Bypass Device(JBD)*
    Voyeur's Delight/Best Friend

    *Probably my personal favorite, given how often those using them seem to 'forget' to mention it to the courts when it comes time to ask for permission to spy on someone and/or present evidence.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 6:05am

      Re: A few that come to mind

      Port-A-Spy, that's a great name, belongs on the back of the truck along with all the other port-a's that go to construction sites, company picnics, and other venues that have no sanitation facilities.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 10:53am

      Re: A few that come to mind

      At one time apparently, someone sold a vacuum cleaner that went by the name "Vax" ("Vax really sucks!" :-), which would go really well with the "Hoover" motif we have going on here in the colonies.

      How DEC got ahold of the name Vax (VAX/VMS), I have no idea.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re: A few that come to mind

        VAX = Virtual Address eXtension, DEC's description for the replacement to the PDP11.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:04pm

        Re: Re: A few that come to mind

        "Vax really sucks!"

        Was that the tag they used? If so, perhaps they got sued into nonexistence by Electrolux, who used to have the wonderful tagline "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux".

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

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 4:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: A few that come to mind

          "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux".

          Obviously before our time. Who'd want to buy one sold like that nowadays?

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 26 Jun 2015 @ 10:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: A few that come to mind

            Yes, it was a long while ago. Also, it was aimed at European audiences who, at least at the time, did not use "sucks" as slang for "terrible".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:58am

    “The only people who benefit [from a comment] are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing."

    "The other side" means the public, I guess.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      "The other side" means the public, I guess.

      Yes, we who've yet to be charged with having committed a crime. We simply must be patient while they work on that small detail.

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

  • icon
    127.0.0.1 (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 2:02am

    ICTH

    Anagrammatically speaking, I just have to scratch an ITCH.

    If it is warrant-less (judicially) that would be WITCH. Are these devices attached to broomsticks?

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

  • identicon
    AJ, 25 Jun 2015 @ 3:49am

    If you are a criminal and/or terrorist, and you still carry a cell phone thinking that your not being tracked, I'm really not that worried about you,as you are an idiot, and will soon be a comical 60 sec video on you tube blowing off a body part.

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 4:02am

    The other side

    “The only people who benefit [from a comment] are the other side,

    The "other side" in this case being the general public!

    He needs an attitude transplant.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 4:31am

      Re: The other side

      That's certainly a funny way to say 'fired'.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 5:57am

      Re: The other side

      Guess what the Nazis thought about external meddling in their affairs...

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:12am

      Re: The other side

      “The only people who benefit [from a comment] are the other side,

      The "other side" in this case being the general public!

      No, he believes the general public are on his side, and he's correct. Since nobody wants to tell the public what they're really doing, how would they know to object?

      Tyranny through obscurity?

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 4:10am

    Name

    How about "Snoopers' Toys" - we already have snoopers' charter.

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

  • identicon
    Klaus, 25 Jun 2015 @ 4:11am

    Born with a silver spoon up his arse, SIR Bernard Hogan-Howe deed-polled his name to a double-barreled one because, posh. He's a hard liner of the zero-tolerance kind who despises regular folk. Of course he sees the public as "the other side"; he's elite.

    As for the Sky News document, I find it telling there are such phrases as "Suspicious events weight", "Processor Suspicion level" "Event is untracked, suspicion: NONE" and so forth. The UK police have moved from being the lovable "Bobby on the Beat" to a bunch of keyboard-mashing, curtain-twitching goons. Enid Blyton was right all along.

    There's an image of a Stingray on Tim's first link to The Blot, based I think on this:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33076527

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 9:25am

    The war on Dissent. Do people really doubt that the government is using this to track everyone they don't like instead of just the criminals?

    If it was just criminals why does the government go to such efforts to hide what they are doing?

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:22am

      Re:

      Be careful, citizen. Your use of the blanket word "criminals" could be construed to imply you're downplaying the fact that that word contains within it kiddy-fiddlers, terrorists, and illicit drugs. You wouldn't want to be misunderstood.

      Doubleplusgood.

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


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