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UK Police Buy Covert Cellphone Surveillance System 103

digitig writes "UK Metropolitan Police have purchased a 'covert surveillance technology that can masquerade as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area.' Other customers apparently include 'the U.S. Secret Service, the Ministry of Defence and regimes in the Middle East.'"
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UK Police Buy Covert Cellphone Surveillance System

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  • Question: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by muckracer ( 1204794 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @05:29AM (#37892588)

    Will a phone in flight mode release its IMSI and IMEI identity codes?

  • Re:Question: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 31, 2011 @05:57AM (#37892716)

    There are always to ends of a stick. That scheme relies on devices' intelligent behavior. Phones could be hacked to ignore "the best signal cell-tower" or to emit false IMSI and IMEI at first, to test network sanity. If it accepts BS or takes too long to authenticate (it's a giveaway of Man in the Middle attack), ignore it!

  • Re:Question: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Monday October 31, 2011 @07:53AM (#37893146) Homepage

    There's an app for Android phones, called Antennas. It shows you the location and status of nearby towers, and can be configured to run and collect the status of nearby towers in the background.

    If a modified version of this app was used to crowd-source information about towers, false towers such as this could be identified. These mobile false towers will be physically located close to the interception victim, and will be a lot less powerful and have a lot less range than a typical tower. They'll also have less capacity than a normal tower, and maybe be physically located in an unusual spot (eg, on the street). These details should be able to be aggregated and the information used to warn about a new tower or a tower which has moved, or a tower whose signal strength is not on par with typical towers. Anyone curious about the status of a suspicious tower can drive out to its location and have a look to see if there's a real tower there, or instead it's a "news van" at that spot.

    It seems like on a rooted phone, you ought to be able to blacklist certain towers, maybe give the device a whitelist of verified towers to use in a certain area. Maybe even make that black/whitelisting selective - only disable suspicious towers when making / receiving a call (since it seems likely the purpose is not location awareness, but call interception).

  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:43AM (#37893448) Homepage

    Yup, listen in on conversation illegally and find out that the suspect will have incriminating evidence in their car on Tuesday at 10AM. Then at 10AM on Tuesday a cop happens to notice that they didn't signal 300 yards before changing lanes and pulls them over. Then they notice something unusual and search the car, and boom, you have a legal search finding evidence that can be used. The phone tap that led to it all would simply not be mentioned in court.

    Everybody violates the law 50 times a day, so if the cops need a reason to search you at any time chances are that you'll give them a legally valid one.

  • I wrote to my last MP (free to do online via The Work For You) to complain about the ever increasing internet surveillance. In the letter I pointed out that saving a single life, or even many lives, is not justification for the loss of privacy and rights. If saving a life came before all other considerations we would ban cars and shut down the road network. Given that I asked why she voted for the new laws.

    Her response was along the lines of "it saved the life of a woman who was said she was going to commit suicide on Facebook because the police were able to backtrace her IP address".

    She lost her seat at the last election (I won't say which because it would reveal where I live and I value my privacy). Good riddance.

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