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Indiana State Police Acknowledge Use of Cell Phone Tracking Device 155

Posted by timothy
from the hoosier-friend-on-the-phone? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Indiana state police acknowledge use of cell phone tracking device 'Stingray', tricking all cellphones in a set distance into connecting to it as if it were a real cellphone tower. A joint USA Today and IndyStar investigation found earlier this month that the state police spent $373,995 on a device called a Stingray. Often installed in a surveillance vehicle, the suitcase-size Stingrays trick all cellphones in a set distance ('sometimes exceeding a mile, depending on the terrain and antennas') into connecting to it as if it were a real cellphone tower. That allows police agencies to capture location data and numbers dialed for calls and text messages from thousands of people at a time."
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Indiana State Police Acknowledge Use of Cell Phone Tracking Device

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  • My Question is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:18PM (#45691659)

    Who controls the Data that is collected?

    • Re:My Question is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:23PM (#45691681)

      srsly, that's your question? the collection itself is no biggie, but who gets the records? I assume the police are inept to handle this firehose of real-time data, and are just trying to spend down 9-11 anti-terrorist cash that US gives to agencies at every level. this is why the sheriff's dept in Wasilla, AK has an armored weaponized SWAT vehicle.

      I see a few important questions here, but tbh I'm feeling pretty weary to list them all.

      • Re:My Question is (Score:4, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @08:00PM (#45691891)

        .... but who gets the records?

        That is a big question, especially since various state governments in the US have passed data privacy laws, and they aren't always complied with by state agencies. This was in the news about six months ago. I have little doubt there are many more instances of illegal or abusive data transfers out there at the state or local level. Bureaucratic overreach is hardly confined to the Federal government, and often occurs in conjunction with it.

        Highway Patrol Handed Concealed Carry Information To Feds [cbslocal.com] - April 11, 2013

        It was revealed in Missouri Senate testimony Thursday morning that the Missouri State Highway Patrol has twice handed over to federal officials information regarding concealed carry permits in the state.

        The revelation validates the concerns of many Republican state legislators who have warned of the “gun list” for longer than a month.

        Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) has led the charge against the Missouri Department of Revenue and others over the list. He said in a press release that the Highway Patrol “asked for and received the full list from the state Division of Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing.”

        According to Schaefer, the list contains 185,000 names and “had been put online in one instance and given to the patrol on a disc in January.” ....

        Col. Ron Replogle with the Highway Patrol underwent nearly an hour of testimony Thursday morning in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Replogle testified that a Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General agent received the discs but was not able to read encrypted data and then destroyed the discs.

        “They said no names were retrieved,” Replogle told the committee this morning, according to the Columbia Tribune. “ ...

        The gun list issue was first raised in early March when Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder told KMOX News that the Missouri Department of Revenue was illegally sharing information on concealed gun permit applicants with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I'm going to hang up my hat. Cold is being reasonable and citing sources. The world must be ending. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
        • by symbolic (11752)

          > Bureaucratic overreach is hardly confined to the Federal government, and often occurs in conjunction with it.

          Especially if it's funded *by* the federal government. It wouldn't come as a bit of a surprise if the acquisition of this Stingray device was funded by one of many federal grants the the national government has been handing out in an effort to militarize local law enforcement agencies.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        the collection itself is no biggie

        The collection itself is a huge biggie; it simply should not happen.

      • by flyneye (84093)

        LOL, we got an armored SWAT buggy too. So far they've used it to ride to a stand off with an armed meth head, and probably "drove it" to the airport last week for the "Islamic" terrorist with the phony bomb.(Disgruntled airport employee nutball, turned Muslim and bought "components" from an undercover FBI flunky, needless to say, nothing exciting happened). Yeah, I bet it's got a sound system that keeps them groovin when they're movin. Must've been worth every penny since WE paid for it. BTW , fuck the cops

    • I wonder about internal security first and foremost on this stuff.

      Who in the **Indiana State Police** is monitoring the usage of this data? Some IT dude? State Police are especially 'bro' types b/c they have an inferiority complex.

      What's keeping them from just parking outside a popular youth area on a Friday night and lurk when things are slow down at the precinct?

      I"m saying, I question whether the people who approved this system even **know** what it is capable of and how the cops out in the field are usin

    • Re:My Question is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msauve (701917) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:58PM (#45691879)
      More significantly - cell phone frequencies are licensed, and some have been "sold" to cell providers. Methinks there's a felony here by some within the Indiana State Police, regarding theft of services, or something similar regarding use of frequencies they're not licensed to use. Who watches the watchers?

      This is a recurring issue - what makes law enforcement think they can break the law in order to enforce it (this, and simpler things like speeding while on patrol).
      • by PPH (736903)

        Who in the cell phone provider chain of managemet is going to file that complaint?

        Cop pulls exec's Mercedes over. "Looks like you've got a broken taillight there, buddy." [Smash, tinkle, tinkle.]

        And its surprising how easy it is to mistakenly enter "Wanted for killing two state patrol officers in cold blood" into the NCIC database instead of "defective equipment".

        • by Holi (250190)

          You really think the cops are going to pull that low rent shit on someone who probably could easily have them fired/transferred. You may suffer a broken tail light but they won't. And you think attempting to frame someone by entering such a fabrication in a national database (especially against a telecom ceo) wouldn't be met by the full power of the US Government. In the end the cop wouldn't even know where he was, and his family would have to deal with multimillion dollar cell phone bills for some curious

        • by mysidia (191772)

          Cop pulls exec's Mercedes over. "Looks like you've got a broken taillight there, buddy." [Smash, tinkle, tinkle.]

          Not likely. They couldn't even get Steve Jobs for parking in the handicapped spot, and he was driving around with no license plates.

        • by hoggoth (414195)

          I think you don't understand who owns who in this country. Upper management in a big corporation owns the politicians and the cops. They work at the pleasure of the corporation.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Yes, and I'm curious to what happens to the messages you send when connected to this fake 'tower': do they just go down the bit bucket or does that suitcase forward them to a real tower. For that matter, can you receive and place calls when you are conneccted to that ? How dangerous could that be, right ?

        Methinks that the only place where this should be allowed is in jail: to monitor the use of cell phones by the inmates. Record or block but don't let them connect to outside normal towers.

    • Don't worry, they only capture the phone meta data of foreigners...
  • Because fuck you, that's why.
  • Pussies. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why is the most armed nation such pussies? Scared of any and every damn thing.

    Fuck the government.errr....my bad...FUCK the citizens!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ps....fuck your karma, slashdot.

  • Is this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:28PM (#45691715)
    Doesn't the FCC regulate the frequencies used by cell phone towers? Do state police have the authority to use them as well? Do they have a special license from the FCC?
    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:39PM (#45691769)

      Even if it is technically illegal, and I don't know whether it is or not, who is going to arrest them?

      Do police have a tendency to be held accountable for their abuse of power in your jurisdiction?

      • Re:Is this legal? (Score:4, Informative)

        by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @11:19PM (#45692675)

        Even if it is technically illegal, and I don't know whether it is or not, who is going to arrest them?

        Do police have a tendency to be held accountable for their abuse of power in your jurisdiction?

        I think the point here is that these laws are federal laws and these are state police. I'm not sure how much deference the FCC pays to state police.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Where I come from, there are actually laws protecting police from what appear to be willful criminal actions as long as those actions are undertaken "in good faith", i.e. with the intent of doing their jobs. Worst case in egregious examples (say, when someone gets gunned down and it looks like it was for spite, not really public safety) the cop will get fired.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Even if it is technically illegal, and I don't know whether it is or not, who is going to arrest them?

        Perhaps they could target the manufacturer's first

        Someone manufactured and distributed these devices -- which is only lawful with the proper licenses..

        The FCC could start by revoking their certification of all their manufacturer's goods, and requiring a mandatory recall ---- and penalize the manufacturer by impairing their certifications for all products (even unrelated goods that just happen to be i

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The FCC could start by revoking their certification of all their manufacturer's goods, and requiring a mandatory recall ---- and penalize the manufacturer by impairing their certifications for all products (even unrelated goods that just happen to be intentional or unintentional RF emitters).

          Yeah right. An agency of the Federal government is going to limit the police surveillance state that the Reagan, Bush and Obama administrations have taken decades to set up and put into place.

    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tftp (111690) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:47PM (#45691819) Homepage

      Cell phone bands are licensed to providers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) They paid big bucks for the licenses. Nobody else is legally allowed to use those frequencies. A "tower in a suitcase" would be a major violation of the rights of license holders.

      I do not know if FCC allows the law enforcement to violate FCC's own rules and regulations. (Those are not laws, as I understand - if you run a pirate radio station you will be fined, but not imprisoned.) But why the police should care? Nobody is going to arrest them. The police can raid your home at 3am, kick your door in, shoot your dog and perhaps you, and nobody (except you) will be in trouble.

      • Why do you focus on freqs? That involves copporations, after all. I.e. money.
        Fuck them. Did you ever expect those to march to your tune?

        Come on, get some sense of reality.
        What I mean to say: Have you submitted to the idea that you have no rights yourself ?
        • by tftp (111690)

          What I mean to say: Have you submitted to the idea that you have no rights yourself ?

          Having rights, and having those rights respected by others, logically are two different things. Technically, however, the only thing that matters is what men with guns tell you.

      • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @10:45PM (#45692529)

        > Nobody is going to arrest them.

        That's not necessary. The major phone companies can sue the Indiana State Police for whatever the corporate lawyers can come up with. And those lawyers don't live in Indiana, so they aren't subject to being pulled over in a traffic stop by the local cops. Alternately, independent lawyers can start a class action on behalf of the phone customers for violation of their civil rights. The cops may not go to jail, but their employers may face big financial settlements.

        • The major phone companies can sue the Indiana State Police for whatever the corpdne customers for violation of their civil rights. The cops may not go to jail, but their employers may face big financial settlements.

          That's hardly a victory at all. You know who their employers are, right? Hint: they probably live in roughly the same area where the cops are active....

      • by mysidia (191772)

        I do not know if FCC allows the law enforcement to violate FCC's own rules and regulations.

        The FCC agents can deliver a forfeiture order to the local law officers, ordering them to pay a $100,000 fine, for operating an unlawful radio station, same as anyone else.

    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:52PM (#45691843)

      Do state police have the authority to use them as well? Do they have a special license from the FCC?

      Surly you jest! Are you not aware that laws do not apply to "LE"? Especially when tracking "terrorists"? Come on, dude, get out of the basement!

      And if the Boston coppers were passing this all on to a Three Letter Agency, you can bet the FCC knew and turned a "blind eye".

    • If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. Only because you are a balrog.

    • Its already been proven the cops and the feds can do whatever they want without repercussions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cold fjord (826450)

      Doesn't the FCC regulate the frequencies used by cell phone towers? Do state police have the authority to use them as well? Do they have a special license from the FCC?

      Two things to remember. First, each state police agency is already a licensed user of sophisticated radio equipment that will generally have state-wide reach, a law enforcement agency, increasingly automated with sophisticated equipment, and able to engage in surveillance. Second, Congress has passed laws that the FCC is involved with overseeing for the assistance of law enforcement.

      Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act [fcc.gov]

      In response to concerns that emerging technologies such as digital and wireless communications were making it increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies to execute authorized surveillance, Congress enacted CALEA on October 25, 1994. CALEA requires a "telecommunications carrier," as defined by the Act, to ensure that equipment, facilities, or services that allow a customer or subscriber to "originate, terminate, or direct communications," enable law enforcement officials to conduct electronic surveillance pursuant to court order or other lawful authorization. CALEA was intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have the necessary surveillance capabilities as communications network technologies evolve

      • by msauve (701917)
        Where's the "court order?" Furthermore, there's nothing which would allow blanket surveillance of all users in an area, as opposed to individuals covered under a legitimate warrant.
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      You can get a license to "offer alternative cell phone connectivity"? Nice!

    • Is this legal

      When did they start giving a shit?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      All I can find so far: http://files.cloudprivacy.net/FOIA/FCC/fcc-stingray-reply.pdf

    • by swb (14022)

      My guess is that the Stingray device is licensed by the FCC to law enforcement agencies and when a local agency buys it, they get a license issued to them for its use.

  • by avelyn (861334)
    I RTFA and got the first two words of the headline backwards, reading "Police State Acknowledge Use Of Cell Phone Tracking Device." Guess it's really the same either way, though.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:44PM (#45691803)

      State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police
      Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State
      State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police
      Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State
      State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police State Police

      Which do you see?

      First seen at protests in Boston--in the 1980's.

  • by Eggplant62 (120514) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @07:42PM (#45691789)

    How is this not illegal wiretapping?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      the same exact way "parallel construction" isnt illegal.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here: if the police actually have a warrant, then it isn't illegal.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      No wires are involved. The law protecting you from wire tapping does not provide explicit language for non-wired communication and therefore does not apply.

  • if GPS determines the phone hasn't moved, question this new "tower"...
    • by tftp (111690)

      The GPS reading on your phone may not change even if the calculation uses triangulation. The fake tower only needs to transmit its correct position.

      And how would you "question" "that" tower? A cell phone does not tell you much about anything, and it has no controls to select one tower or another. Perhaps a criminal could turn the phone off; this would make this whole scheme even worse: only honest people would be spied upon.

      • I have an app on my Android phone that logs cell tower locations and plots them on a map. I wonder if this Stingray device's ID would show up in multiple locations whenever it's moved. If so, that in itself would give it away in places that it's being used.
        • by plover (150551)

          There are legitimate reasons for towers moving around. The cellular service might temporarily bring in a tower-on-a-truck to support a large event, such as a state fair. They might also use a portable tower to temporarily stand in for a non-functioning tower. Those may be uncommon scenarios, but they're still likely more common than a Stingray.

          Also, consider that a Stingray lies about the signal strength it's receiving from your mobile phone. In order to monitor as much as possible, it baits your mobile

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            In other words, it causes poor cell reception for LOTS of people in return for investigative data on a few people.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            Also, does it lie about the receiving strength only to the target phone or to all the phones it comes in contact with?

            • by plover (150551)

              All of them, AFAIK. Cell connections are like potato chips to the FBI - they can't stop at just one.

              Actually, that was the job of the old CARNIVORE system - to sniff all the data, but then to get rid of the data that didn't pertain to the target of the investigation. We all mocked it, but at least back then they were trying to respect the privacy of citizens. Nowadays, it's just easier to classify everything and not answer all those pesky questions.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      Someone finally got to the point. Know what cell towers you connect to so you know you are not connected to one that suddenly came into existence.

      There is an app for that [opensignal.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Things like this are just going to get worse and worse until either someone in power does something drastic or else we wind up having a revolution / civil war, etc.The sad thing is that I understand the intentions behind it all (behind the things that place privacy in jeopardy, I mean), but we've reached such a fine-grained level of existence now with so many aspects of our everyday life that the gray areas separating privacy and security are no longer "minor inconveniences" but rather tragic infringements

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is a joke to the elitists in power, and the joke is on you. They have been in power for thousands of years, selectively inbreeding. They are psychopaths, they will destroy everything before they let us destroy them. Answer to the topic of this question, don't use a cell phone.

      There is only so much people can take until you are taken away and executed for not behaving. Not standing in line, that is the end game of all of this. It happened in Germany not so long ago.

      Unfortunately most don't get it. Y

  • in the apathic neck of the woods.
  • ... the police agencies of 49 other states express displeasure with Indiana for spilling the beans.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...it is also entirely unconscionable. How does this not send Capt. Dave Bursten's head spinning with cognitive dissonance...

    Indiana State Police Captain Dave Bursten said in a statement the department is working well within the bounds of the law.
    [...]
    USA Today and the IndyStar also sought records about what are known as âoetower dumps,â in which police seek court orders requiring cell phone companies to provide investigators with massive amounts of phone data.

    So, 'tower dumps' require court order

  • by Thor Ablestar (321949) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @09:28PM (#45692261)

    Once upon a time, working for some Russian defense project I used there a Cellular Modem. The Modem has lots of AT commands that precisely informed about almost everything. As I know, CDMA modems have a similar set of functions.

    Then, the second fact. The stingray does NOT use the same frequency as a real tower. It uses any free frequency and real credentials (If it uses the real frequency it will immediately cause lots of interference). And it should overpower the real tower since the phones connect to the most powerful tower. The Chinese cellular suppressors use the same tactic.

    What does it mean: Any sufficiently opensource phone ( http://neo900.org/#main [neo900.org] for instance) can have a software that monitors the cellular connections for anything strange and immediately report it.

    Also, the encoded GSM communications become trivial if you control your phone. It does NOT protect your metainfo but there are other means for it.

  • Indiana wants me, Lord, I can't go back there
    Indiana wants me, Lord, I can't go back there
    I wish I had you to talk to

    Red lights are flashing around me, good Lord, it looks like they found me

    Indiana wants me, Lord, I can't go back there
    Indiana wants me, Lord, I can't go back there
    I wish I had you to talk to...
  • banned the use of tracking devices without a warrant. If they are tracking thousands at the same time they need thousands of warrants, one for each trackee. I doubt this happens. I hope the ACLU is on to the Indiana cops like fleas on a dog.
  • Several weeks ago I was driving from Michigan to Indiana on an interstate highway. Ordinarily my carrier (Verizon) has good coverage along interstate highways and I had a strong signal but was unable to place a call. I tried several times and nothing happened after I dialed the number and pressed the call button until the phone reported something like "unable to place the call - try again later." I wonder if the ISP was monitoring cell phones in the area or if Verizon's equipment was just fubar.

  • The State is NOT your friend.

  • They've all been putting up huge towers, paying land-owners large sums of money, paying for the towers, climbers of those towers, and all that comes with upkeep... and all they needed was an array of briefcases.

    Seriously though, how the hell does the briefcase handle the connection between the cell phones? If those towers have to many users on them at once (and remember, each tower isn't dealing with ALL CELL PHONES that are within their range) they cannot handle the traffic, just try to use your celly

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