How the FBI Intercepts Cell Phone Data
Good article on “Stingrays,” which the FBI uses to monitor cell phone data. Basically, they trick the phone into joining a fake network. And, since cell phones inherently trust the network—as opposed to computers which inherently do not trust the Internet—it’s easy to track people and collect data. There are lots of questions about whether or not it is illegal for the FBI to do this without a warrant. We know that the FBI has been doing this for almost twenty years, and that they know that they’re on shaky legal ground.
The latest release, amounting to some 300 selectively redacted pages, not only suggests that sophisticated cellphone spy gear has been widely deployed since the mid-’90s. It reveals that the FBI conducted training sessions on cell tracking techniques in 2007 and around the same time was operating an internal “secret” website with the purpose of sharing information and interactive media about “effective tools” for surveillance. There are also some previously classified emails between FBI agents that show the feds joking about using the spy gear. “Are you smart enough to turn the knobs by yourself?” one agent asks a colleague.
Of course, if a policeman actually has your phone, he can suck pretty much everything out of it—again, without a warrant.
Using a single “data extraction session” they were able to pull:
- call activity
- phone book directory information
- stored voicemails and text messages
- photos and videos
- eight different passwords
- 659 geolocation points, including 227 cell towers and 403 WiFi networks with which the cell phone had previously connected.