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United States Government Privacy Security

Catalogue of Government Gear For Cellphone Spying ( 69

Advocatus Diaboli sends word that The Intercept has obtained a secret catalog of surveillance gear used by the U.S. from a concerned intelligence official. They report: "The intercept has obtained a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies. The document, thick with previously undisclosed information, also offers rare insight into the spying capabilities of federal law enforcement and local police inside the United States. The catalogue includes details on the Stingray, a well-known brand of surveillance gear, as well as Boeing 'dirt boxes' and dozens of more obscure devices that can be mounted on vehicles, drones, and piloted aircraft. Some are designed to be used at static locations, while others can be discreetly carried by an individual. They have names like Cyberhawk, Yellowstone, Blackfin, Maximus, Cyclone, and Spartacus. Within the catalogue, the NSA is listed as the vendor of one device, while another was developed for use by the CIA, and another was developed for a special forces requirement. Nearly a third of the entries focus on equipment that seems to have never been described in public before."
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Catalogue of Government Gear For Cellphone Spying

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but at first sight I don't see any mentions of possible baseband hacks in that catalogue. That's a risk that many academics have talked about over the last few years, because several smartphones appear to give the baseband direct and unconditional access to the RAM, microphone and camera. Maybe baseband hacks are not that practical?

    • Maybe baseband hacks are not that practical?

      Or maybe they're just not, or not yet, lowered in classification, productized, and released to the readers of that catalogue.

  • Look, nsa, DOD, and CIA will make heavy use of these overseas to find and track ISIS, AQ, etc. That should not be the least bit surprising. In fact, I'm sure that we make all of this equipment available to the 5 eyes, as well as other allies. What should matter should only be the cases when it is found to be used by agencies like FBI or local police and without a legal warrent. Once this equipment is illegally, then you have a real issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Once this equipment is [used] illegally, then you have a real issue.

      You can't complain about the illegal, unethical, or otherwise questionable use of some equipment or method unless you know that such an item exists in the first place.

      Information of the kind that was released helps inform public discussion, and in any kind of democracy that should always be viewed as a good thing and encouraged. Democracy rapidly evaporates when information is replaced with secrecy.

      • Yup. Exactly right. For technology that is nsa/CIA/dod only and not being abused, then I would have an issue. However, this catalog is used by FBI, local police, etc. At that point, it absolutely should be public knowledge. In fact, other nations need to know about this as well, since their local police will be buying it as well.
    • Why be concerned about illegal searches when illegal wars are just hand-waived away?

      Prinicples are a bitch, I know, but rigorously reasoned arguments will require their use.

    • by matbury ( 3458347 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @12:44PM (#51144025) Homepage

      Look, nsa, DOD, and CIA will make heavy use of these overseas to find and track ISIS, AQ, etc. That should not be the least bit surprising. In fact, I'm sure that we make all of this equipment available to the 5 eyes, as well as other allies.

      What should matter should only be the cases when it is found to be used by agencies like FBI or local police and without a legal warrent. Once this equipment is illegally, then you have a real issue.

      This is a classic example of American double-standards. It's OK to undermine and abuse non-Americans' civil rights just as long as you don't do it to Americans. Well, the rest of the world hears this from American politicians, the military, and pundits. What kind of an impression do you think this makes? Do you think you're winning hearts and minds in the so called "War on Terror"?

      • get real.
        First off, do you think that America is spying on EVERYBODY around the world? Can not be done. However, as was shown recently, all of the western nations that we have listened in on, we had permission to do so. In fact, you will find that America and several of the allies have upgraded their relationship and we now help them to locate their own terrorists and spies.
        So, you can stop with your mightier than though BS.
        • I don't see how this addresses my point.

          • I addressed it, because we are legal within another nation's set of laws. Basically, every nation has a different set of laws on what is believes the correct civil rights should be. America has our famous constitution which embodies so many others ideas of what a nation Should have. Basically, it says what the gov can do, and then leaves all else to the citizens.
            China has a constitution that spells out what rights a citizen has, and reserves all else for their gov (i.e. it is the opposite of the American
            • To get an idea of just how wrong headed your arguments are here's a small sample of articles that dig into the reality of mass surveillance: [] The US is a rogue nation that no longer follows the rule of law (or its own constitution), ignoring Geneva conventions, conventions on human and civil rights, etc. That the US declares its mass surveillance on its allies to be legal is not surprising. That what they are doing is wrong has nothing to do with whatever declarations the of

      • The purpose of civil rights is to ensure that you are a free citizen in a free country. As long as the data that Government A is getting is about the citizens of Government B, from first principles there isn't an issue. Where it gets more complex is if the data is then provided to government B in a way that undermines the freedom of government B's citizens. If that data triggers legitimate data capture by the agencies of Government B - i.e. subject to the court processes of that country - then there still i
        • Point well made. So, do you think it's OK for the US to get Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia (AKA "the five eyes") to spy on Americans for them and reciprocate by spying on their citizens? Or if in practice, the data is merely (re-)routed between the five eyes in order to create technical loopholes so they can justify scooping everything up? (AKA GCHQ's "full take", code-named Tempora).

          • Of course not; the point about civil rights is that it is for your government not to violate them, and suffer MAJOR consequences when they do - as in imprisoning the people who authorised it with loss of all pensions - both civil service and social security. The muppets on the front line need to know that if they do it without an email authorisation which they can use as evidence, then they will also suffer similar treatment. By contrast AFAIK the CIA agents who hacked the Congressional data have got away s
      • This is a classic example of American double-standards. It's OK to undermine and abuse non-Americans' civil rights just as long as you don't do it to Americans. Well, the rest of the world hears this from American politicians, the military, and pundits. What kind of an impression do you think this makes? Do you think you're winning hearts and minds in the so called "War on Terror"?

        This is how spying works in real life. You spy on people outside your borders. You have legal spies (attaches and embassy personell) and illegal spies (covert operatives) and signals intelligence and analysts. Sometimes you get caught and maybe you look bad. But you have a selected set of people whom you treat differently because you have a different duty to them. You have a duty to protect their liberties and not look at them too closely unless there's a real problem. Just like you have a selected se

        • That's a fairly good summary of Cold War mentality. So who's at war with whom right now? Is the US at war with Brazil? The UK? Germany? etc.

      • This is a classic example of American double-standards.

        This isn't even remotely an issue unique to the US and has been an issue throughout the world for much longer than the US has existed. Focusing your ire on the US here only allows your own government to get away with not fulfilling its duties.

        Your own government is supposed to be representing you in this matter, just like Americans (should) expect the US government to not abuse them or allow them to be abused by the governments of other countries. There are a variety of means for governments to protect thei

        • So your argument is, the US government is abusing non-Americans' rights but that's OK because the non-Americans' governments should prevent the US, the most powerful empire in human history, from doing it. Does that characterise your argument appropriately?

          • by chihowa ( 366380 )

            Nope, that's not my argument at all. But, if it makes you feel better about letting your government get away with conspiring against your best interests while whining on the internet about the big old US empire being mean, then feel free to interpret it that way. It's a little silly that you complain about the double standards of others while blaming other governments for the same thing that your government does.

            • Ok, so you've changed the argument to tu quoque then: "You avoided having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser - you answered criticism with criticism." https://yourlogicalfallacyis.c... [] If you can't argue coherently against the point then perhaps there may be some truth in it?

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @07:44AM (#51142387)
    Just in time for Christmas
  • Spartacus (Score:5, Funny)

    by bob_jordan ( 39836 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @08:06AM (#51142439)

    What a great name for a piece of cell site spoofing equipment.

    "I'm Spartacus. No I'm Spartacus".

    I think the British should create a competitor product called Brian.


    • And the not so funny (Score:4, Informative)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @01:27PM (#51144329)

      I am wondering if the EFF knows one "Jennifer Lynch - Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation" is providing a huge amount of handy reviews for these products which include gems like.

      You’ll feel like a powerful Greek gladiator with the Spartacus II. It’s the smallest high-powered dual-band system on the market and can be moved easily from a plane to a car or even to your body — all without changing the system. While the $180,000 price tag might put it out of reach for smaller agencies, its cross-border capabilities could make it easy to acquire with DHS funding. And if it’s used at the border, you might not even need to get a warrant before you use it.


      If you want a device that doesn’t just locate your target but makes it impossible for him to make a call, look no further than the Stargazer III. In “attack mode,” the Stargazer can jam a handset and capture its metadata at the same time it pinpoints your target’s location. But watch out — the Stargazer may jam all the other phones in the area too — including your own.

      And not to be left out the ACLU has one "Nathan Wessler - Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project" providing reviews. including things like.

      The National Security Agency designed this little number itself, cutting out the usual corporate middleman.


      From the maker of the Stingray, this device provides the added power to listen in on calls and read text messages. Also useful for kicking nearby phones off the network (you can choose between just blocking a single target phone or scrambling the signals of all phones in the area). Take note: Wiretapping calls and text messages requires a special “superwarrant” signed by a judge. Playing around with a Blackfin without adequate court supervision can get you in a lot of trouble.

      Which in fairness this one device mentions a warrant. Most of the others just talk about how great they are at sucking up data and fucking up people in an area.

      Aren't the ACLU and EFF supposed to be the good guys? The leak would probably upset me if this was military stuff used in a war zone. What we see is quite different, where the Federal Government is happy to fund these devices for virtually any police agency in the US and devices used against it's own citizens. I'm upset to the point of being nauseous, but not at the leak.

    • Brian Bob? I don't get it.
  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @08:32AM (#51142487)

    Massive witch-hunt expected, followed by piling on multiple charges, civil and criminal. Maybe some asset-forfeiture for good measure. Sliming in the media.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      And he/she god damned well deserves it, for spilling shit that the CIA, NSA & military use overseas against our enemies.

      • If that were the only use, I would agree. But the CIA, NSA, FBI are using it against American citizens, in America.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2015 @08:34AM (#51142489)

    That latest leak from the UK: (revealing that the UK spooks have been spying on British networks for 15 years while lying to Parliament).

    Vodafone appears in that again:

    "In about 2008, Vodafone Cable, under its previous identity of Cable and Wireless, provided fibre optic cables to link intercepted internet communications and send communications data direct to NTAC....According to engineers who have worked at major telecommunication companies' headquarters, including Orange in Bristol and Vodafone in Newbury, the companies were compelled by secret orders to connect optical fibre links direct to NTAC in London."

    Vodafone BIDS ON SPECTRUM ACTIONS, and if it knew the competing bid it would have a clear advantage. If the spooks had helped them with info on the bids (which they have from the surveillance), then it would explain why so many bids were won by Vodafone.

    And the spooks (particularly the UK spooks) with access to the surveillance data, the private emails and documents that contain the sealed bids, it's in the spooks interest, they have a clear DESIRE to see Vodafone win more bids and thus more networks are under Vodafone's control and more are tapped.

    The spooks may have helped all these companies (the ones illegally doing the surveillance while keeping it secret from Parliament) win bids to spy more.

  • And yet, the main course of Boiled Frog can't be bothered to pay any true attention, as they squee with delight at the Trump shitshow, backed up with all the other Bread and Circus offerings that they watch from their White Man Terror Bunker / SUV entertainment centers.
  • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @09:25AM (#51142645)

    Another set of leaked documents they received allowed them to write a whole series of articles about the federal government's drone program. AFAIK, the source of that leak has yet to be identified and the feds have been refusing to comment.
    The most frustrating thing about drone wars, bank bailouts, foreign invasions, mass surveillance, etc. is that these scumbags fund themselves by confiscating our wealth.

  • At least here on Slashdot they should change the spelling, especially with the American flag icon on the story. ;-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's what happens when it isn't safe for an American journalist to put out a story like this. You have to rely on people in other countries to tell you the truth, and some of them spell funny.

  • by anorlunda ( 311253 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @10:07AM (#51142781) Homepage

    I just finished reading another article about counterfeit goods from China. Not just fashions, but sophisticated technical gear. Common sense should tell us that there is a black market for cell phone simulators that are sold to bad guys instead of government. It is hard to imagine how many of those things are hiding near FBI headquarters, the White House, NSA, and local law enforcement.

    I'm sure that government could design phones immune to sniffing, but outside the military they probably don't. Given the FBI's record with handling email technology, I expect that a secure phone engineered for the FBI would weigh no less than 50 pounds. Government and law enforcement uses the same brands of phones as we do.

    On a similar theme, I saw an article about a European device that alarms when it detects encrypted radio transmissions nearby of the kind used by their police. It could give warning of an impending raid.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @11:23AM (#51143393)

    Terrorism now or in the near technological future has the power to deconstruct human civilization. That's the Irresistible Force and it's real.

    Democratic nations who in practice abandon their liberty securing foundations will devolve into corrupt autocratic regimes of the very worst sort and likely stay there forever. This true fact makes those liberty securing foundations an Immovable Object- an object which must at all costs resist disintegrating forces, both from within and without.

    Clearly, the US Government has, in practice, thrown the US Fourth Amendment in the garbage. I don't think anyone can argue otherwise with a straight face. These devices are some of the gory details of how they do this.

    It's a slippery slope into an corrupt autocratic regime and we're sliding down it. We just are. /.ers don't need me to prove this to them but there are many things to think about which have not been properly teased out of the headlines. This is just one of them:

    For decades, the police have been using the NSA as the actual source of their knowledge of drug smugglers' (and other criminals) travel itineraries. Using this knowledge, they have pretexted pulling those smugglers over, for say failure to signal, and then searched the car for drugs. The fact that the NSA was the real ultimate source of the tip was deliberately and systematically withheld not just from the defense, but from the entire judicial system - judges grand juries and sometimes prosecutors alike.

    Now what this implies is it possible to rely on just the average local cop and apparently prosecutor to withhold knowledge of mass, ongoing Constitutional violations. This is a big deal because it is proof of a conspiracy, a conspiracy of silence, sustained for decades by thousands of the very people sworn to uphold and defend the laws and the Constitution. A conspiracy not to keep secret things secret but to keep unconstitutional processes a secret from the American system of justice.

    It has been normalized to the point where veteran officers consider both the use of this technique and the hiding of its use from courts to be "bedrock police technique". []

    The easy conclusion, that cops are bad, has to be false. Cops are (self) drawn from the general population and if there's any reason to think they're non-representative, it's probably to the better side of non-representative with respect to rule following and lawfulness; they are likely better than you would get from just a random draw of citizens.

    So it has to be something else. Group dynamics, identification with a group, loyalty, etc. are all at play, but it's also possible that they rationally -and correctly- judge themselves to have been forced into an untenable position where they cannot do their larger job - keep society safe- and also abide by the rules we have set out for them. Giving up the NSA program would result in a worse outcome for the nation overall and giving up using the NSA information would result in a worse outcome for their communities.

    In a certain sense it's our fault because we Americans cannot, in the words of Nathan R. Jessep, handle the truth. []

    I am not saying I agree with this reasoning, I don't but for complex reasons having to do with human psychology and the dangerous dynamics of "the broken window" phenomena where a little bit of bad, seen to be unanswered, brings on an avalanche of Very Bad. Still the cop's position (as guessed at by me) is rational and motivated by a desire to do good, and moreover it may accurately describe the reality of what has to be done in order for policing to be effective. That may just be the truth of the situation.

    Going on 15 years after 9-11 and 3 years after Snowden, I still see no dedicated widely

  • It is very simple to file a FOIA request.

    Will EPIC or any of us be mass-filing FOIA requests or contact to spokespersons to see if law enforcement have been using these pieces of technology?

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.