Hacker snooping — think it’s just the Feds we have to watch?


No – he’s not leaving his badge number

❝ …Many members of the public first became aware of the FBI’s interest in hacking in February, when the bureau and Apple battled over a locked iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. That spat ended abruptly when the FBI announced it had hacked into the iPhone without Apple’s assistance…

❝ The present debate around law enforcement hacking is, for good reason, focused mostly on the FBI. At present, the most sophisticated law enforcement hacking capabilities belong to the federal government and remain classified. And although state and local police certainly investigate some serious crimes within their jurisdictions, the FBI routinely handles serious crimes — child pornography, human trafficking, financial crime resulting in the loss of millions of dollars. By many measures, the gravity of the crimes the FBI investigates makes it understandable that when we consider extraordinary hacking measures used by law enforcement, we would start with the FBI.

❝ But law enforcement hacking is not just a matter for the feds, thanks to two trends in particular.

First, just like law-abiding citizens, criminals have access to legal services that allow them to encrypt communications, browse privately, and otherwise minimize their digital footprints. Smartphone encryption frequently prevents crime, but as these tools become easier to use and the commercial default, it isn’t difficult to imagine that criminals—even those who aren’t technologically sophisticated — will use them, too.

Second, state and local police departments are very interested in hacking capabilities that could, as they see it, improve their ability to fight crime. Leaked emails from the past several years show that law enforcement agencies around the country have received demonstrations of spyware being sold by the controversial Italian-based company Hacking Team, whose mission is to “provide effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities.” Hacking Team boasts of software that helps law enforcement “hack into [their] targets with the most advanced infection vectors available.”

❝ The federal government is also sharing cybercrime-related knowledge with state and local police departments. The National Computer Forensics Institute, a federally funded center, is “committed to training state and local officials in cyber crime investigations” and offers tuition-free education on many elements of policing in a high-tech crime era. And after unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, the FBI hastened to assure its local partners that it would share technical assistance whenever possible.

RTFA for details. Reflect upon your local coppers being as likely – more likely? – than the Feds to consider Free Speech a crime. They can expect the range of political fools from Trumpkins to FuzzyWhigs to back them up. Many of America’s conservatives look at the Bill of Rights as a failed experiment.

Here is the Cleveland Coppers’ shopping list for the Republican Convention

With the Republican National Convention imminent, the Cleveland Police Department is finalizing its security plan for what is expected to be a volatile few days. The city announced last Friday that it was updating its plan following last week’s mass shooting of police officers in Dallas, and though it shared scant detail, the Cleveland PD is set to be outfitted with plenty of heavy gear.

The RNC is designated as a National Special Security Event by the US Department of Homeland Security, which entitled Cleveland to a $50 million federal grant toward its security plan. According to bids the city has posted to its website and reports from local news outlets, so far Cleveland has spent the money on:

2,000 sets of riot gear

2,000 steel batons

325 sets of tactical armor

300 patrol bicycles, with accompanying riot gear

25 rifle scopes

10,000 flexible handcuffs

Other supplies include bulletproof helmets, pepper spray, two-point rifle slings and inmate mattresses.

The Cleveland PD also asked the Chicago Police Department to loan it three bearcats, and Taser International is loaning the department 300 body cameras that can be attached to riot suits. The city also put out a bid for tear gas, according to the Washington Post, and it recently upped its protest insurance coverage from $9.5 million to $50 million.

I don’t think this comes out of Cleveland’s How to Build Tourism Budget. In fact, I wonder how many folks will ever pay another visit to that fair city – after this.

Sprint to reimburse $15.5 million to snooping coppers

The office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag announced Thursday that Sprint Communications has agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle allegations that it overcharged law enforcement agencies for carrying out court-ordered wiretaps and other surveillance activities.

Lawyers from Haag’s office sued Sprint in March, alleging that from 2007 to 2010 the telecommunications giant overcharged law enforcement agencies to the tune of $21 million. They were seeking triple-damage compensation and additional civil penalties under the U.S. False Claims Act.

Telecommunications companies are permitted under federal law to bill agencies for “reasonable” expenses incurred in accomplishing a court ordered wiretap.

Under the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), however, telecom companies are required to cover the finance of upgrading their equipment and facilities to ensure that they’re “capable of enabling the government … to intercept and deliver communications and call-identifying information,” according to the U.S. Attorney.

WTF?

Sprint allegedly defrauded federal law enforcement agencies by billing them for those expenses while recovering the otherwise legitimate costs of carrying out court-ordered wiretaps — which was prohibited by a 2006 ruling from the Federal Communications Commission, according to the U.S. Attorney.

So, bad enough our government uses the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, every other war popular with politicians to snoop on us. They require the communications companies they order to snoop – to upgrade their equipment to do the best possible job of snooping.

Sprint tried to sneak the cost into charges for individual snooping jobs – whether court-ordered or “other surveillance activities”. The Feds bagged ’em for it.

Either way, we’re screwed.

Today’s stupid cop trick

banana gun
Quick draw banana!

A man is facing a felony menacing charge after two western Colorado sheriff’s deputies say he pointed a banana at them and they thought it was a gun.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports 27-year-old Nathan Rolf Channing, of Fruitvale, was arrested Sunday.

According to an arrest affidavit, Mesa County deputies Joshua Bunch and Donald Love said they feared for their lives even though they saw that the object was yellow. Bunch wrote in the affidavit that he has seen handguns in many shapes and colors.

He wrote that Love was drawing his service weapon when Channing yelled, “It’s a banana!

The deputies say Channing told them he was doing a trial run for a planned YouTube video and he thought it would “lighten the holiday spirit.”

Think these stalwart coppers would have been charged if they killed the guy threatening them with a banana?

6 leading spam scammers busted in India – they’re all from Nigeria!

Police in India say they have arrested six foreign nationals suspected of defrauding hundreds of people using text message and email scams…

Authorities seized 14 laptops, seven memory sticks and 23 mobile phones, as well as fake documents and cash. The arrests come after security firm Kaspersky reported that India now sent more spam than any other country in the world.

Police said the six men, all Nigerian, would be remanded in custody until 12 January. The arrests signal attempts to crack down on a growing cybercrime problem in the region…

Mumbai-based internet security specialist Vijay Mukhi said poor enforcement of laws meant spammers could act with impunity.

We have an Information Technology Act that was introduced in 2000. But we don’t have any convictions under it and it’s silent on spam,” he said…If I’m a spammer, I would rather spam from India to India and the rest of world because nothing will happen to me.”

It’s still the biggest hoot of the day that the 6 spammers busted happen to be from Nigeria.

Is it because of bigotry on the part of the coppers? Easier to arrest African nationals. Or have the world’s leading spam hustlers actually started moving to India because they feel safer committing cybercrimes from there?

Coppers want Telecom/Internet firms to hand over all your info

Internet companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly co-opted for surveillance work as the information they gather proves irresistible to law enforcement agencies…

Although such companies try to keep their users’ information private, their business models depend on exploiting it to sell targeted advertising, and when governments demand they hand it over, they have little choice but to comply…

But the vast amount of personal information that companies like Google collect to run their businesses has become simply too valuable for police and governments to ignore, delegates to the Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi said.

“When the possibility exists for information to be obtained that wasn’t possible before, it’s entirely understandable that law enforcement is interested,” Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf told Reuters in an interview. “Then the issue would be, what’s the right policy? And that, of course, engenders a lot of debate,” said Cerf…

Demands from governments for Internet companies to hand over user information have become routine, according to online privacy researcher and activist Christopher Soghoian, who makes extensive use of freedom-of-information requests in his work.

Every decent-sized U.S. telecom and Internet company has a team that does nothing but respond to requests for information,” Soghoian told Reuters…

Soghoian estimates that U.S. Internet and telecoms companies may receive about 300,000 such requests in connection with law enforcement each year…

“Now, one police officer from the comfort of their desk can track 20, 30, 50 people all through Web interfaces provided by mobile companies and cloud computing companies,” he said.

I realize some of my regular readers are already paranoid about what companies like Google and Facebook are doing with the information they gather about users. Anonymized or not.

Now, it’s becoming more and more clear that the cost to governments of tracking your every movement and thought – is a bargain at any price.

Fingerprinting program expanded in all 25 U.S. border counties

Immigration officials now have access to the fingerprints of every inmate booked into jail in all 25 U.S. counties along the Mexican border, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced, touting the program as a way of identifying and deporting “criminal aliens.”

Napolitano’s announcement came as immigrant rights activists criticized the fingerprinting program, known as Secure Communities, after obtaining documents showing that more than a quarter of those deported under its auspices had no criminal records…

That charge is baseless, DHS officials said. Secure Communities gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement the ability to check the fingerprints of those arrested against a database that will show whether they have ever been deported or otherwise had contact with immigration agents…

By some estimates, as many as a million illegal immigrants now living in the U.S. have committed crimes, Morton has said. ICE often is unaware of them, even when they are in jail or prison…

Secure Communities makes such notifications automatic. ICE says the program has identified more than 262,900 illegal immigrants in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 39,000 charged with or convicted of violent offenses or major drug crimes says…

In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2010, 142,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records were deported, ICE says, one-third more than in the same period of the prior year. About 50,000 non-criminals were removed.

I live in a county where the best guesstimate is that 15% of the population is undocumentados.

Reading the morning paper and finding that the latest armed robbery and/or murder involved an illegal is about as common as noticing that someone killed in an automobile accident wasn’t using their seatbelt. Both violations – at root – of federal law. Both ignored as common practice.

The way Secure Communities is implemented in the largest city in New Mexico – is that the only fingerprints regularly checked by ICE are of folks under arrest, booked into jail.

States, municipalities beginning to use GPS to track abusers

When Theresa, a 51-year-old mother of two living near this coastal town, filed for a restraining order against her husband, she thought it would help put an end to the beatings, death threats and stalking that had tormented her family for years.

She won the order, but her husband, Joel, a West Point graduate with a master’s degree who police reports say hid 17 guns in their home, did not seem to care. He violated the restraining order three times, she said.

“He’d come to our child’s school and beat both of us up in front of everyone,” Theresa said.

In Massachusetts, where about one-quarter of restraining orders are violated each year, according to the state’s probation office, a recent law has expanded the use of global positioning devices to include domestic abusers and stalkers who have violated orders of protection. A judge ordered Joel to wear a Global Positioning System monitor, alerting law enforcement officials if he went near his wife’s house, her work or their children’s school.

It was the first time I could turn my house alarm off and feel O.K.,” said Theresa, who has since been divorced and who insisted that only her first name be used, to protect her children’s privacy.

Twelve other states have passed similar legislation — most recently, Indiana this week — and about 5,000 domestic abusers are being tracked nationwide, said George Drake, who oversees Colorado’s Electronic Monitoring Resource Center, which gathers data from equipment vendors…

“Using GPS monitoring to enforce an order of protection makes the order more than just a piece of paper,” said Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and a longtime advocate of using GPS in domestic abuse cases. “It’s a way of making the criminal justice system treat domestic violence as potentially serious. By detecting any escalation in the behavior of a batterer, GPS can prevent these unnecessary tragedies.”

Not a cure-all; but, every step forward means a safer, freer life for the abused.

Hopefully, those who support blanket rights of privacy will grow to understand that self-defense isn’t just limited to firearms – and the electronic tools of the state can play a useful role.