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Feds Can Locate Cell Phones Without Telcos

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the marco-polo-if-you-can dept.

Privacy 199

schwit1 sends along an Ars Technica report covering the release of documents obtained under the FOIA suggesting that the Justice Department may have been evading privacy laws in their use of "triggerfish" technology. Triggerfish are cell-tower spoofing devices that induce cell phones to give up their location and other identifying information, without recourse to any cell carrier. "Courts in recent years have been raising the evidentiary bar law enforcement agents must meet in order to obtain historical cell phone records that reveal information about a target's location. But documents obtained by civil liberties groups under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that 'triggerfish' technology can be used to pinpoint cell phones without involving cell phone providers at all. The Justice Department's electronic surveillance manual explicitly suggests that triggerfish may be used to avoid restrictions in statutes like CALEA that bar the use of pen register or trap-and-trace devices..." The article does mention that the Patriot Act contains language that should require a court order to deploy triggerfish, whereas prior to 2001 "the statutory language governing pen register or trap-and-trace orders did not appear to cover location tracking technology."

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fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794363)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Re:fp (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796351)

Grr. Parent is about as on-topic as most posts below...

The EFF has been suing AT&T for piping all our location information directly to the NSA, while Bush has claimed it to be perfectly legal. Can we stay on topic for a change? This is important.

Just one question (3, Funny)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794367)

Yeah, patriot act, rights violations, unecessary power, etc etc...

Where can I get one?

Re:Just one question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794569)

You can find it at... Walmart!

Re:Just one question (-1, Troll)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794873)

You have to seize power in a rigged election and then conveniently suffer a terrorist attack just as soon as you are sworn in, so you can justify wiping your ass with the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Re:Just one question (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794989)

odd none of the other presidents who wiped their ass on the bill of rights needed those points.

Re:Just one question (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795141)

Yeh but bush isnt a very competent president. His methods and plans lack the... finesse of his predecessors

One more question (1)

LinuxGeek (6139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795539)

Can I call the feds when I get lost and find out where I'm at?

Feds can track my cell phone... (0, Redundant)

Super Dave Osbourne (688888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794375)

any time, I just flushed it down the toilet. Trigger this fish tracking...

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (5, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794435)

any time, I just flushed it down the toilet. Trigger this fish tracking...

Dude, your septic tank is only 50 feet from the house.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (0)

Super Dave Osbourne (688888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794677)

Most of the modern world is now on city treatment, no ceptic here at all.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

PerfectSmurf (882935) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794773)

I assume you're making this claim on a per person basis? On probably any other basis most of the modern world is rural and is no-where near close enough to a city to be connected to a sanitary sewer.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

Super Dave Osbourne (688888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795139)

rural != modern

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795453)

And he said that most of the modern world is rural.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (4, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795565)

rural != modern

Well, you're comparing traits on multiple axis, but to your point, individualistic remote living requires a higher level of technology than living in cities does. We probably went hunter/gatherer-tribes -> cities -> 'modern' agriculture -> rural individuals, though there's debate about which came first, cities or agriculture. n.b. sanitary sewers are rather new in the history of cities.

More concretely, you'd have a hard time arguing with the farmer running giant gps-guided irrigation robots or my friend who has linux boxes with webcams as shepherds, that rural != modern, but really any rural home is going to be packed full of technology to make life more enjoyable.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795455)

So what? Posting here is done from people, not patches of land.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795485)

Actually, with the urbanization of Africa, South America, etc, and the rise of the superghettos, most of the modern world is now urban. Of course, much of that urban space is not served by sewer systems.

This was the year that the urban population of the world exceeded the rural population.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796269)

Most shacks in the woods don't have a municipal sewerage system -- I guess the parent made assumptions about where you live [wordpress.com] based on the quality of your attempt to be funny and/or clever.

P.S. Congratulations on misspelling "septic" while replying to a post where it was spelt correctly.

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795395)

Well that depends, if the cell phone doesn't sink to the bottom and it is neutrality balanced then then cell phone will run out of the into the leach field and then it will be further than 50 feet out. However since feces are conductive it will short out once inside the septic tank and there will be no signal. Trust me on the shorted cell phone and feces... just don't who's cell phone it belonged to.
Well here is a sample:
http://www.wccca.com/unintentional_cellular_9.htm [wccca.com]

Re:Feds can track my cell phone... (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795669)

Well, doesn't this mean there are government broadcasts? Doesn't this mean we could detect and track these illegal probes?

That explains it! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794433)

I saw a poorly disguised cell tower in a shark suit just yesterday.

I said it had to be a cop.

batteries ftw (2, Insightful)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794457)

step 1, remove batteries.

or get a potato chip (mylar) bag and stuff it inside. (who know that the movie "Enemy of the State" would be so handy).

Re:batteries ftw (2, Informative)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794527)

Removing batteries only protects from the active 'pinging' replies.

The potato-chip bag only works if the mylar plastic's aluminum layer is sufficiently thick to act as an effective Farady Cage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage [wikipedia.org]
Just as RFID tags do not require batteries to give disclose their location and unique identifiers, modern cell phones also have similar functionality batteries or not...

Re:batteries ftw (3, Informative)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794619)

No, most cell phones have one and only one battery.

And for low power EMF (cell phones) even very thin cages can be used, I wouldn't be surprised if most aluminum foil were more than sufficient.

Re:batteries ftw (4, Funny)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794847)

I wouldn't be surprised if most aluminum foil were more than sufficient.

And to think people laughed at me when I put a pocket in my tinfoil hat!

Re:batteries ftw (2, Funny)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795187)

And to think people laughed at me when I put a pocket in my tinfoil hat!

Is that a tinfoil hat in your pocket, or are you just exercising your 4th amendment rights?

Re:batteries ftw (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795039)

Grocery store aluminum foil would certainly suffice, but the foil on a chip bag might be too thin.

Re:batteries ftw (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795309)

I always thought those so-called foil chip bags were just plastic with some silver non-metal coating, so the consumer would think they stay fresher. But I guess a microwave tells a different story.

Re:batteries ftw (4, Insightful)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795523)

Some cell phones work INSIDE a closed elevator box. Creating a good shielded enclosure is not a casual thing to do.

The only way to be sure, besides nuking from orbit, would be to seal up the phone, then call it. If it doesn't answer, you have *probably* got it right. But no guarantees.

Re:batteries ftw (2, Informative)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795083)

Just as RFID tags do not require batteries to give disclose their location and unique identifiers, modern cell phones also have similar functionality batteries or not...

Umm... no they don't? That's BS.
-Taylor

Re:batteries ftw (5, Informative)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795097)

Just as RFID tags do not require batteries to give disclose their location and unique identifiers, modern cell phones also have similar functionality batteries or not...

Do elaborate, please. RFID does, in fact, require power. It's just that that power is provided by the reader when in proximity to the tag. Are you suggesting there are RFID tags embedded into "modern cell phones"? Or something else? If you're suggesting that cell towers have the ability to blanket a region with an electric field capable of getting all of the cell phones to respond (loudly enough) to a "ping" for their location, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call BS. So what is this "functionality" that you claim allows cell phones to be identified and located without a battery?

Re:batteries ftw (5, Informative)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795283)

Just as RFID tags do not require batteries to give disclose their location and unique identifiers, modern cell phones also have similar functionality batteries or not...

I am a cell phone designer, and a phone reporting *anything*, even just a handshake, to a tower thousands of meters away takes significant power.

It is possible that the little coin cell battery in most phones could handle the receiving of a signal, and then wake the phone up and have it reply with the main battery, (though to the best of my knowledge we don't let phones do that [and yes, I design power systems]), but if the main battery isn't there, that's a no-go.

Passive RFID is a completely different batch of apples than active cellular communications. Passive RFID has a maximum range of around 10 meters (phased array antennas notwithstanding, but seriously...). You would need a specially designed phone to use some sort of active RFID when the battery is removed, and we don't make those.

Now, this isn't to say that I'm not pissed at the Feds for doing something like this--perhaps even more so than the average user. I can see how they are taking advantage of perfectly innocuous and functional code and systems designed by my co-workers to agreed standards, and then using those standards to make our customers lose their privacy.

*sheesh*

Re:batteries ftw (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795613)

Let me tack on;
Illegally.

Re:batteries ftw (2, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795307)

RFIDs also have a much shorter transmission range than cell phones, this is the price they pay for being powered by the RFID reader that reads them. I seriously doubt cell phones are capable of doing anything similar, and even if so, it would be limited to about the range of an RFID reader. If someone was using it to track your cell phone, you could turn around and ask them to please kindly go away.

Re:batteries ftw (5, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794583)

>step 1, remove batteries.*

*Does not apply to iphone owners

Re:batteries ftw (4, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794641)

For your Faraday cage to be effective, it has to be very conductive. The higher the resistance, the worse it works.

A thin layer of metallised Mylar is not going to attenuate the signal very much. Certainly not enough to prevent my receiving a call just now. I even tried sealing the end with aluminium tape (which, btw, is much better than duct tape for almost everything, especially ducts).

If you want to make sure some piece of electronics isn't transmitting/in a position to be heard, there are only a few tools that are up to the task. If you're in a hurry: hammer. If you want to be sure: nuke from orbit.

Re:batteries ftw (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794901)

For your Faraday cage to be effective, it has to be very conductive. The higher the resistance, the worse it works.

Pringles can? Gotta love a dual-use cantenna.

Re:batteries ftw (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795177)

I've found that a very simple Faraday cage, capable of blocking cell-phone signals, can be made out of about 6 layers of aluminium foil - on each side of the centre of the bag - and duct tape.

Re:batteries ftw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25796429)

In California they deployed the FasTrak RFID system for payment on bridges and other tollways. At first they promised not to use it to track movement, and then later of course they changed their mind because it's just too convenient to resist. So now they track an individual ID's movement for the purpose of measuring traffic congestion, and you can opt out by putting the badge in a supplied mylar bag when not in use at a toll booth.

We got a new car, and just for fun I decided to get a free ride across the bridge before I get my license plate. For semi-plausible deniability, I held the FasTrak badge up but kept it *inside the mylar bag* as I passed, and of course it registered anyway.

Now maybe they aren't lying about the traffic congestion monitoring, maybe the antennae for that purpose aren't strong enough to scan right through the mylar bag like the toll booth ones do. All I'm saying is that if someone is determined, a mylar bag isn't going to stop them.

[Later I crossed again, and had the badge in it's bag in the car but not near the windows, and got my free ride. Woohoo! Enough rebellion for me, I'll pay my fair share next time. Probably.]

Privacy is an antiquated notion. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794465)

Much like the right to bear arms.

Re:Privacy is an antiquated notion. (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794771)

Privacy is not explicitly spelled out, though. I mean, there are the ninth and tenth amendments, but they're exactly the kind of thing you'd expect politicians to ignore due to their unambiguous, but unspecific language (and ironically, one of the more prominent "pro-privacy" rulings pretty much ignored the tenth amendment). Whittling at the weapons first, that's what's unexpected.

Re:Privacy is an antiquated notion. (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795311)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

If that isn't privacy then what is?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The 10th amendment is pretty specific, but you are correct in saying that it is completely ignored.

Re:Privacy is an antiquated notion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795315)

Whittling at the weapons first, that's what's unexpected.

And the Spanish Inquisition, because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

I wonder if this is why my cell phone has (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794475)

ONE time, but some of the sites i log into have ANOTHER time. Time in another time zone that I DID NOT SET on those profiles. Fuckers! (if it's them...)

Re:I wonder if this is why my cell phone has (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794595)

Oh it's probably them. I also blame the Feds for the slowness of Javascript on Slashdot, and I think that the CIA are probably responsible for the sporadic failures of my DSL. And those NSA satellites are causing my CPU fan to buzz noisily. FUCKERS! Why don't they just take the data directly from the phone company, like every other government?

Re:I wonder if this is why my cell phone has (3, Interesting)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794743)

I think it's because they want the public to THINK the courts are working, and that the government spies are having to bust their asses to do their jobs. But, they probably are 5 steps ahead, but then get outed. I wonder if anyone else is outing that Predator/drone/RPV that (almost) nightly buzzes/hovers over Glen Park BART Station with such a loud buz that it is annoying as hell. The police i talked to say they know nothing of it. They recommend I write the police chief/commissioner/city mayor.

Whatever nutcase dreamed up the drone surveillance (probably watching gangsters from LA/OC, or Salvadorian or Nicaraguan or Chilean/whomever cartel gangsters in the area, or just for gunshot triangulation, who knows?) seems to have thought that placing it OVER the GP BART building or near the freeway would mask it. But, the fucker is LOUD, and i can hear it adjusting power when coping with the local temperature and wind changes. The noise sweeps up the hill, unmolested by the thousands of homes. It may be quiet directly beneath it, but it's not at all quiet along the ridges and up the hill. They should buy a quieter model, or lose their permit to fly. Fortunately i don't have a brown-out gun, or i'd terminate it (without bragging, of course, lest i face jail/prison), not because of spying, but because that fucker makes it hard to sleep without the use of earplugs from ~~ 1030PM to ~ 0230...

With the more advanced phones.... (2, Interesting)

Bomarc (306716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794503)

Can a program be written to notify if it's information is being 'given' out? Anyway, this is one more reason to NOT get one (cell phone). I was finally going to break down, and get one. With this report, it one more reason to just say no.

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (2, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794565)

Anyway, this is one more reason to NOT get one (cell phone). I was finally going to break down, and get one. With this report, it one more reason to just say no.

Well, if you're planning on the overthrow of Western Civilization or other misdemeanors, good idea.

If you just want to talk to people, perhaps this isn't such a problem.

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (5, Insightful)

pithen (912739) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794797)

Sure, what is the problem with gradually eroding civil liberties and ever increasing surveillance of the populace. Why don't we just throw the Constitution right in the garbage while we're at it?

All in all, its almost as much a problem as this "If you've got nothing to hide, what are you worried about?" attitude that we're seeing more and more.

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795047)

I think that you missed the point. The point here was not that we should give up our rights and freedoms because of "if you have nothing to hide, then who cares" mentality, but that this guy should get get on the bandwagon and get a cell phone.

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794599)

Cell phone providers probably wouldn't like that. Any false positives that showed up in your logs would just be revealing the "fault lines" in their network. Using the "real identifiers" is a last ditch effort by a network to identify a phone it doesn't have in it's databases.

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (4, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794757)

The thing is, you don't have control over the GSM/CDMA radio - it's controlled by a completely separate processor, and get access to the microphone, speakers, and a serial link to the main processor, so that the processor powering the phone's OS doesn't cause spurious radio transmissions.

Some data goes back and forth, yes, but you probably won't be able to tell when it's doing this versus a legit cell tower connection...

One word - Openmoko (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795165)

Full access to the software stack. Implement the controls you want in the way you want. Complete control is at your fingertips.

Re:One word - Openmoko (1)

x102output (536049) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795403)

I thought most GSM radios were locked down as per FCC regulations. My friend bought a GSM radio module off of sparkfun a few years ago. It had a slot for the SIM card, antenna, audio i/o, and serial for control. It was completely packaged in a tight metal cage which made any tampering to the radio itself very cumbersome.

Does the openMoko project use a completely custom radio? If so, I think that's illegal to use in the US. I could be wrong mistaken though...

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (2, Insightful)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795201)

Can a program be written to notify if it's information is being 'given' out? Anyway, this is one more reason to NOT get one (cell phone). I was finally going to break down, and get one. With this report, it one more reason to just say no.

What? No, this is a reason not to vote for people that don't understand basic civil rights. The cell phones are not the problem. Do you also not have any bank accounts, a car, any credit/bank cards, or any taxable income? Because if someone wants to track you, there are plenty of ways.

You seriously don't own a cell phone? On purpose? I mean, i know some people can't afford them, but you're telling me that you can afford one (i'm assuming that part) but you choose not to buy one because... what? Because the government could be tracking you?

I know that tracking people against their will is absolutely NOT okay, and we need to vote for people who will help put a stop to things like that, but realistically, do you ACTUALLY think someone has any reason to track you? I have a huge respect for civil rights and i very much think we should vote for people who do too, and we need to fix all of the laws that trample over these rights that have been passed lately, but when it comes down to it, for day to day stuff i'm not worried. Realistically, i can ditch my phone and buy a handful of prepaid phones, or stop using them at all, when i decide to overthrow the government. Till then, day to day, i absolutely don't think it's a reason to avoid owning a phone... what the hell do you do that you think is so important?
-Taylor

Re:With the more advanced phones.... (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796031)

Who needs a program? Just set your GSM phone near an FM radio. Every time the damned thing checks in with the tower, the radio starts buzzing.

There's an outfit that makes a little LED gadget that flashes whan your cell phone goes active, receiving a call, etc. These also flash a little when the phone contacts a tower.

WTF good is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794505)

Wouldn't they have to know in general where I was with my cell in order to even setup this device? And good luck picking me out of the traffic jam as I and a hundred others yak away.

Re:WTF good is that? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795999)

exactly, how is this information traceable? A cell phone company bills thousands of people, the information is verifiable to use in court because lots of people and companies touch the data. While these devices can find you if they're looking for you, there's no way to use them in court, no third party verification. It would be good if they were trying to follow you or to catch you, for somebody to do physical surveillance, but as far as proving you were at a location, like with company info, it's just a somebody's word they saw a number blip.

Rule of thumb (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794531)

If it goes through the air, it can be tracked and located. This includes, to some extent, information that originates on the wire, but is then sent into space.

this is news? (2, Interesting)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794551)

The sentence "Courts in recent years have been raising the evidentiary bar law enforcement agents must meet in order to obtain historical cell phone records that reveal information about a target's location. But documents obtained by civil liberties groups under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that 'triggerfish' technology can be used to pinpoint cell phones without involving cell phone providers at all. " is weasily.

How does triggerfish lower the evidentiary bar required to authorize law enforcement to use special sensing technology to search for a cell phone?

Re:this is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794689)

You are kidding right? You don't even have to RTFA to get this, just the abstract!

Its getting progressively more difficult for law enforcement to get the data they're looking for from the telcos, so instead they're going around the telco's by setting up fake cell towers.

Re:this is news? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794835)

How does triggerfish lower the evidentiary bar required to authorize law enforcement to use special sensing technology to search for a cell phone?

Because a using a triggerfish means they don't need to produce a warrant to a third party before executing the warrant. This leaves a big opportunity for a compliant judge to issue a predated warrant after the fact.

It's not that I think telcos are going to act in the public service by refusing to comply with non-warrant requests... it's that there are now negative ramifications for doing so. Instead, the executive branch can sidestep that check on the system, and we are supposed to believe, based on our trust of the system, that no triggerfish searches are being done without a warrant.

Re:this is news? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796075)

but this is a mobile, non-documented technology, so the information gathered would be hearsay, not enough to be evidence and not enough for a real warrant. Nice to follow somebody around so they don't run away, but crap as proof if you're trying to gather evidence of a crime unless you can catch them in the act a little more quickly.

Re:this is news? (2, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795789)

The theory, in Australia at least, is this: (With some background info)

I first heard about these kinds of devices in 1997. (From a tin foil hat kind of person) At the time they were said to be the size of a regular briefcase and were used largely in airports or places where interesting people might be seen nearby. The reason for their use was simply to ID a specific handset of interest, tie it to an individual, then do the actual grunt work via all the little black (beige really) boxes installed at various exchanges around the country.

So how does this legally work? Backing up a few years earlier than this, a law was enacted (somewhere around 1994/95) that allowed the "government" to do 'domestic non communications signals' - in human speak this amounted to a free for all on in country transmissions that don't convey 'communications' intended to be understood or received by a person, or transmissions that are of a one way nature - things like beacons, RADAR, navigational aids, and, conveniently enough, your regular old mark 1 spoofed hand held cell tower. The astute reader will correctly surmise the wide ranging scope of such a law. One can easily envision situations where traffic analysis is of infinitely more value than any intelligible message content.

My guess is that similar legal word plays exist in the US.

This Was In HBO's The Wire (3, Interesting)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794653)

McNulty and Co. used "trigger fish" to collect info after the Barksdales moved to disposable cell phones. The devices would collect info without the use of pen registers and obviated the need for a lot of paperwork such as search warrants.

But this is like going through the trash. It's clearly an end-run against privacy laws, but I don't see where the deviousness is. If you carry a cellphone around that emits radio waves, you probably don't have a great expectation of privacy if you leave it on all the time. And it's not like the triggerfish are recording the conversation.

Re:This Was In HBO's The Wire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794939)

Nigga, please.

Re:This Was In HBO's The Wire (2, Insightful)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795071)

"If you carry a cellphone around that emits radio waves, you probably don't have a great expectation of privacy if you leave it on all the time. And it's not like the triggerfish are recording the conversation."

Maybe I'm underestimating the average individual, but I'm not so sure that the "normal" person would see it that way.

Anecdote: I'm taking a driver's ed course and the instructor was casually asking where everyone goes to school / does for a living. I told her that I'm in online advertising and she said "ah so you're the guy to ask about computer problems".

Most people don't have a clue when it involves electronics or radio waves. When I tell people that they can be located via their cellphone, even when they're not using it (and some cases when it's turned off), they don't believe me.

Re:This Was In HBO's The Wire (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795133)

This isn't like going through the trash at all. Besides, where are your manners? This is Slashdot, and the decision to opt for a trash analogy instead of a car analogy is just plain rude.

This is like you're driving down the highway, listening to tunes and shit, and some dude on the side of the highway is using x-ray vision, man, X-RAY VISION, to look at the driver's license in your wallet to see who you are...

Except he's got a bunch of machines to do it for him, and get this -- with three machines, he can not only see who you are, but he can also see exactly *WHERE* you are, dude. He's all violating Heisenberger's Uncertainty Principle or something... and the worst part is, he can ALSO tell if you're alive or dead *before* he gets a warrant, so he's violating the fundamental laws of physics not once, but twice.

Put that in your trashcan.

Besides... The Wire? As a source of tech knowledge by a Slashdot reader? What is the world coming to?

Re:This Was In HBO's The Wire (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795677)

People say that the world is coming to a T. I think it is coming to an O. Or maybe an F.

Here is the real deal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795747)

Posting AC for obvious reasons.

These IMSI catchers DO require a court order for local and state governments to use and more importantly to present to the phone companies when trying to retrieve subscriber information. Common carriers will NOT hand over subscriber information on an IMSI without one and the standard for LE to show probable cause remains.

Re:This Was In HBO's The Wire (2, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796427)

But this is like going through the trash. It's clearly an end-run against privacy laws, but I don't see where the deviousness is. If you carry a cellphone around that emits radio waves, you probably don't have a great expectation of privacy if you leave it on all the time.

If it is illegal to receive broadcast signals like satellite television, then logically this sort of interception should be illegal too.

And it's not like the triggerfish are recording the conversation.

No, they are going one step further. Recording the conversation would be simply passive - in this case they are gaining unauthorized access to a computer (the one in the phone).

A similar goose and gander comparison comes to mind - if it is illegal for joe blow to gain unauthorized access to a computer, then it should be illegal for the government to gain unauthorized access to a computer.

Patriot act (5, Funny)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794655)

The article must be in error. Bush passed the patriot act to allow this to happen without warrants, not to impose the need for warrants, right?

Re:Patriot act (1)

riceboy50 (631755) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795075)

It's a matter of the new definition of what is covered. By grouping this technique in with other surveillance techniques, the bar went from none to low.

Re:Patriot act (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795393)

No, you fucking retard, he didn't. However, since the law is classified, you get a lot more out of making shit up then believing the people who know. So go keep worshiping Obama.

Can it be rescinded by Bulk Executive Order 1? (0, Offtopic)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794667)

Cause I'd like to see a giant rollback on that one, and a restoration of our innate civil rights and liberties, thanks.

1/20/2009 - the day America is BACK!

Re:Can it be rescinded by Bulk Executive Order 1? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794977)

Barack will not change America in the way you're hoping.

Re:Can it be rescinded by Bulk Executive Order 1? (4, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795025)

You have no idea as to what I'm hoping, Comrade.

Re:Can it be rescinded by Bulk Executive Order 1? (1)

rdoger6424 (879843) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795359)

Pass the vodka.

I saw the Patriot Act mentioned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794671)

and I didn't RTFA, I already knew..

WARNING... (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794685)

Looks like we're going to need A LOT more tinfoil!

Re:WARNING... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794863)

Doesn't Saran Wrap work better?

Triggerfish...? (3, Funny)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794687)

I wonder why they didn't use the Hawaiian name, "humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a"...

*shrug*

Re:Triggerfish...? (2, Funny)

cailith1970 (1325195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795563)

Interestingly enough, that's the same interference sound that comes through my radio in the car when my phone rings... :)

Re:Triggerfish...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25796491)

I wonder why they didn't use the Hawaiian name, "humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a"...

Do you mean humuhumunukunukuapua'a? It's confusing with the dashes.

What happens if you don't even have a cell phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794755)

I have not carried a cell phone (on or off) for about a year.

How will they find me?

Re:What happens if you don't even have a cell phon (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795101)

The chip they put in your brain when you were an infant.

Unfortunately, its removal will cause instant death.

I'll make this simple for you. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794875)

Look, this kind of thing will continue until the people say enough is enough. If you want this to stop, the only realistic course of action is to expose them.
It's that simple. The courts won't stop them. The apathetic public won't. Their superiors certainly won't. The only way to stop them is to utterly and completely expose them, and leave them totally naked before the court of public opinion. You've got a camera and a computer right? Start using them. Conclusively prove what we've known all along -- that this isn't about stopping the terrorists, it's about pursuing a political agenda that hasn't really changed since the 1950s. Do that, and you'll be doing more to protect the average person's civil liberties than a hundred FOIA requests or a thousand injunctions, or a dozen oversight committees. Kill their reputation, make them a political liability and an embarrassment both domestically and internationally, and nobody else will want to touch them. They'll dry up under the bright lights of the camera.

And stuff like this IS embarrassing, as it should be for every American. It shows just how far we've fallen; to the point now where China sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council and we do not. We have no international credibility right now. We need to rebuild our justice system, and it's gotta start by permanently removing the malefactors responsible for these decisions from the system -- they can go work in retail for all I care, but remove them from the criminal justice system and do it post-haste.

Re:I'll make this simple for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25794997)

The first paragraph was good, but your second paragraph ruined the entire thing.

Re:I'll make this simple for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25795895)

The second paragraph was good, but your first paragraph ruined the entire thing.

Fixed that for ya!

Why are cell phones so lame? (2, Funny)

joekrahn (544037) | more than 5 years ago | (#25794917)

Apparently, cell phones are designed to transmit everything they know: phone numbers, call logs, etc. Why are cell phones designed to be so insecure?

Surely there are cell phones that are not so lame, unless the government is requiring anonymous access for snooping purposes.

Re:Why are cell phones so lame? (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795195)

> Why are cell phones designed to be so insecure?

For the same reason bank accounts, Web sites, etc. are. Not more than one user in a million cares.

Billing and e911 (3, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795813)

As far as I know, phones don't transmit call logs. But the reason they transmit it's serial number and phone number and GSM IDs, is because they need to have a unique identifier to hand off call from one cell tower to another, and that ID must be traceable to an account in order to bill it properly. So you can't really opt out of this even if you controlled the hardware, although I suppose you might be able to filter the towers that the phone will talk to.

The rest of the privacy invading features are intended to provided a more accurate triangulation for use with the e911 system. This could be evaded except it's against the law to manufacture/distribute a phone without e911 support.

Get an IMSI Catcher from Rohde and Schwarz (5, Interesting)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795569)

http://www2.rohde-schwarz.com/en/products/radiomonitoring/product_categories/signal_intelligence/overview/ [rohde-schwarz.com]
Click on the GC128 datasheet. They have a firmware for that device that turns it into an IMSI Catcher. There is
also a portable suitcase version of the device.

IMSI Catchers basically work by impersonating the cell tower of the network the subscriber is on, forcing his
handset to it by protocol and higher signal strength and then (this is important) flipping whatever calls are
made into non-encrypted mode. Some phones have a debug mode that will show you whether encryption is activated
or not so if you're making a call and encryption is suddenly off - you know what to do at least I hope.

Basically an IMSI catcher is a still a device that is used on the levels of industrial espionage or espionage
by foreign services that don't have access to the normal national monitoring - which incidentally _all_ (cell)
phone networks are hooked into. The claim US intelligence services are not plugged into their telcos and have to
go outside for surveillance by using a device like this is what it is: Disinfo.

Good (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795737)

Maybe they can tell me where I left it.

I eagerly await the application of this technology to my car keys.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing (0)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25795777)

I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Its hardly like the Feds are going to be spying on ordinary citizens.

I don't see this method as catching persons of interest to national security (e.g. in this case spies with the KGB, etc). It will probably catch some AQ guys.

The thing is, there are some people that are really sneaky. You suspect they are guilty but can't quite catch them. Usually the Feds have had to do some B&Es, install bugs, etc. There was a Mafia case on A&E where the FBI said that's how they got some evidence with a court order. Even if this isn't court ordered (below the radar), you can at least get some info on the where and when.

It seems to me, this is also a weakness (intentional or otherwise) in the Cell Phone protocols and transmission methods.

Frankly, if this takes some bad guys off the street, I'm a happy man.

Re:This isn't necessarily a bad thing (1)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796291)

I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Its hardly like the Feds are going to be spying on ordinary citizens.

You're not very old, are you?

Re:This isn't necessarily a bad thing (1)

akgooseman (632715) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796403)

I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Its hardly like the Feds are going to be spying on ordinary citizens.

You're not very old, are you?

Erm, there are plenty of old idiots, too.

Hurry, France powa! (1)

meuhlavache (1101089) | more than 5 years ago | (#25796365)

Your feds don't have any right here, in France. Bleh!
Sarkozy is a [This message was caught by Hadopi [privacydigest.com] , the internaute is now banned from the Internet]
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