Newly leaked manuals for “Stingray” surveillance provides a fresh look into how law enforcement and government agencies make use of the secretive device.
The Intercept has reported they have obtained several instruction manuals for cell-site simulators, also known as Stingrays. Stingray is the brand name of a popular cell-site simulator manufactured by the Harris Corporation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes Stingrays as “a brand name of an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) Catcher targeted and sold to law enforcement. A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower – to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not – and tricks your phone into connecting to it.”
As a result, whoever is in possession of the Stingray can figure out who, when, and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.
Both the Harris Corp. and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) require police to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) related to the use of the devices. Through these NDAs local police departments have become subordinate to Harris, and even in court cases in front of a judge, are not allowed to speak on the details of their arrangements. Due to this secrecy, very little has been known about how exactly the Stingrays work. The leaked manuals obtained by The Intercept help shine a light in the darkness.
The documents show the “Stingray II” device is capable of impersonating four cellular communications towers at once, which allows for monitoring up to four cellular provider networks simultaneously. The device can be upgraded to operate on 2G, 3G, and 4G networks simultaneously. The “Gemini” software is a platform which allows for the creation of “Subscriber lists” of targets that law enforcement may want to follow. Gemini will even notify officers anytime a message is sent to or from any active subscriber on the list.
“The documents described and linked below, instruction manuals for the software used by Stingray operators, were provided to The Intercept as part of a larger cache believed to have originated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” reports The Intercept. “Two of them contain a ‘distribution warning’ saying they contain ‘Proprietary Information and the release of this document and the information contained herein is prohibited to the fullest extent allowable by law.'”
The manuals also include instructions for other Harris Corp. devices, including the Hailstorm, ArrowHead, AmberJack, and KingFish. The Intercept notes that, despite what law enforcement would have the public believe, the devices can capture “over the air” electronic messages sent to and from phones and a specific reference to permanently storing this data.
The public previously learned Stingrays drain the battery of a targeted device, as well as raise signal strength. We also knew that as long as your phone is on, it could be targeted. Some newer details include the fact that the Stingray I and II will not work if the user is “engaged in a call.” Also, the device can gather data from phones within a 200-meter radius. And the next generation Hailstorm device is even capable of cracking encryption on the newer 4G LTE networks.
A previous leak released by The Intercept provided more details about other Harris corp devices, including:
- Cellbrite: “a portable, handheld, field proven forensic system for the quick extraction and analysis of 95% cell phones, smart phones and PDA devices,”capable of extracting “information such as phone book, pictures, video, text messages, and call logs.”
- Kingfish: a Stingray-like device that is “portable enough to be carried around in a backpack.”
- Stargrazer: “an Army system developed to deny, degrade and/or disrupt a targeted adversary’s command and control (C2) system,” which “can jam a handset and capture its metadata at the same time it pinpoints your target’s location. But watch out — the Stargazer may jam all the other phones in the area too — including your own.”
- Cyberhawk: which is capable of gathering “phonebook, names, SMS, media files, text, deleted SMS, calendar items and notes” from 79 cell phones.
The U.S. government and law enforcement agencies continue to argue that the devices are useful for catching terrorists or in emergency situations – arguments that have been rendered hollow in light of an abundance of abuses. In fact, in December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jennifer Lynch said, “I am not aware of any case in which a police agency has used a cell-site simulator to find a terrorist.”
The widespread abuse and secrecy surrounding the tools has led House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) initiate an investigation into Stingray surveillance.
“You will be shocked at what the federal government is doing to collect your personal information,” Chaffetz said in early September. “And they can’t keep it secure, that’s the point.”
Image Credit: TheFreeThoughtProject.com
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com
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