Electronic Warrantless Surveillance: What IT Should Know - InformationWeek

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Government // Cybersecurity
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8/26/2015
06:06 AM
Pablo Valerio
Pablo Valerio
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Electronic Warrantless Surveillance: What IT Should Know

Today, in the name of public safety, federal and local government agencies are piling up advanced technologies to monitor people, with little regard for the basic principles of privacy. Here's what businesses and individuals need to know.

However new, cheaper, passive technologies, based on WiFi and IMSI, are now in the police surveillance device market.

Jugular, PocketHound, and Wolfhound are trade names of a few handheld units that can be carried by officers and used to track cellphones in a limited area.

Those devices are not engaging the phones, they just "listen" to radio chatter when phones communicate with a cell tower and capture their unique IDs. At the same time, their manufacturers claim that "passive" listening doesn't require a warrant. It is like the ALPR technology but applied to anyone carrying a phone in his/her pocket.

Why IT Should Pay Attention

The rise of electronic surveillance creates serious problems for corporations, too.

More and more executives carry large amounts of information in mobile devices and connect to corporate servers through cellular mobile data. If data transmitted is not properly encrypted and secured it can end up in databases unknown to the company. Is there anything we can do to protect corporate data?

There are some steps CIOs can take to minimize the risk, although not completely eliminate it. First, ensure that any access to sensitive information is only allowed via secure VPN, with strong encryption and two-factor authentication.

Second, if possible, fully encrypt the mobile devices carrying corporate data. Both the iOS and Android operating systems permit full encryption of the devices, with keys known only to the owner, something that some law-enforcement agencies are trying to stop.

Many companies also use mobile device management solutions, such as one from AirWatch. This allows them to easily set up security policies, limit access to certain data and services, and remotely wipe data from stolen or compromised devices.

For some people who need maximum protection, solutions such as the one from Silent Circle can protect their devices against attacks from IMSI catchers, WiFi snoopers, and other forms of electronic surveillance.

[It may not be surprising, but learn Why AT&T's 'Willingness' To Help NSA Is Alarming.]

A few years ago Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan, of the US District Court for Western Pennsylvania, wrote an opinion about a law enforcement request to access location records held by a cellphone carrier. She said, "permitting surreptitious conversion of a cellphone into a tracking device without probable cause raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns, especially when the phone is monitored in the home or other places where privacy is reasonably expected."

Lenihan added, "Law enforcement's investigative intrusions on our private lives, in the interests of social order and safety, should not be unduly hindered, but must be balanced by appropriate degrees of accountability and judicial review."

If you are really concerned about electronic surveillance and how cellular carriers, government agencies, and Internet companies are tracking you, use public transportation, pay everything in cash, and, most importantly, leave your phone at home.

Pablo Valerio has been in the IT industry for 25+ years, mostly working for American companies in Europe. Over the years he has developed channels, established operations, and served as European general manager for several companies. While primarily based in Spain, he has ... View Full Bio
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zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 10:05:10 AM
Re: Electronic Warrantless Surveillance: What IT Should Know
I'm often ambivalent about the supposed privacy concerns in each and every technology that comes out. I know my social media providers sell my anonymous data to generate their profits. I know I could technically be agreeing to some unfavorable terms when I click 'accept' on a free WiFi hotspots - I'm okay with all that. I think consumers are getting a pretty fair deal in many cases. Regardless of all that, I applaud your continued dedication to keeping an eye out for the public's rights, Pablo, and the practices you describe here I will wholeheartedly agree leave a bad taste in my mouth. The more pervasive the technology becomes, the less we can do about it. Once we let it slip by without speaking up, it may be too late. Thank you for raising awareness here.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 7:35:05 AM
Re: Law Enforcement wants backdoor access
Good luck with that FBI. Any backdoor opens up a hole for hackers and other countries to invade the encryption just as the FBI does. These organisations aren't tight enough to avoid leaks. Just look at Edward Snowden absconding with the NSA's dirty laundry. 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 8:39:46 AM
Re: Wheelie Bad Warrantless Surveilance
A7,

This is true of virtually any big ticket industry today(attracting workers with Questionable ethics).

Not really surprising one bit.

The more interesting thing would be to figure out how many such scumbags are sitting in Law enforcement today.

LOL!

Sad but true reality.

 

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 8:30:01 AM
Re: London cameras
RoadCrime,

I am not at all surprised this is the current state of Police Enforcement Infrastructure in the UK.

Given the parlous nature of UKs Finances(its basically bankrupt today and neither does it have the advantage of the World's Reserve Currency Status) there is little doubt that it will struggle to finance Various sorts of Infrastructure.

This is a Good thing and Gives hope to ordinary people who believe very strongly in Civil Liberties worldwide.

Ultimately the State will over-reach(as it is doing currently) and stretch its limited resources beyond breaking point at which it will have to reform or change its behavior.

The end reality otherwise is collapse as we are seeing in Brazil,Venezuela,Argentina,Indonesia,Malaysia and even China today.

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 8:20:14 AM
Re: Wheelie Bad Warrantless Surveilance
Pablo,

The UN Chief was not off the mark with his comments.

Have you tried the Diffusion Plugin from Firefox?

The first time I used it  just blew my mind!

Most common websites ship our personal data to so many-many different places its a massive battle to find out exactly where it goes.

How much do you want to bet that the Feds also keep track of all this data ??

LOL!

I could use a Proxy and TOR but then access all my favorite SItes becomes a pain(because of Slow Networks).

LOL!!!

Same thing is also happening on the Cellphone Data collection front today,especially after the NSA+GCHQ tag-team hacked Gemalto-firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/02/19/great-sim-heist

But the best response came from the US Court of Appeals recently- firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/08/28/court-cant-rule-nsa-bulk-collection-dont-know-whose-data-collected


Beyond Laughable what these clowns(the Judiciary,the Executive and the Legislature) have turned America into today.

Excellent example of passing the buck on without anyone taking responsibility for anything.


 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 8:00:39 AM
The Judge Lisa Lenihan had absolutely the right idea
Pablo,

The Judge-Madam Lisa definitely had the right idea HERE-

Judge Lisa of the US District Court for Western Pennsylvania, wrote an opinion about a law enforcement request to access location records held by a cellphone carrier. She said, "permitting surreptitious conversion of a cellphone into a tracking device without probable cause raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns, especially when the phone is monitored in the home or other places where privacy is reasonably expected."

Lenihan added, "Law enforcement's investigative intrusions on our private lives, in the interests of social order and safety, should not be unduly hindered, but must be balanced by appropriate degrees of accountability and judicial review."

Wish everyone in Govenment could stick to such Basic Guidelines and avoid unneccesary collection of Privacy Data in the name of "Data Collection Efforts".


We really have become very much a surveillance State here in US and Europe and we are'nt exactly much better for it.

Look at the recent Virginia TV Reporter shooting for instance;if you would have asked any of the Shooters Friends and Family they would all say he had a serious Psychological Problem which could be dangerous to folks around him.

Why did Law Authorities not use all that Data they tracked on him to isolate him earlier?

All This Online Surveillance has just become a Tool for Governments to push their wasteful agendas.

Remember how Obama used to track the Tea Party here in America ?


Things are about to get much worse(than they already are) on The Personal Privacy front thanks to the IoT Wave which is sweeping Global Tech markets today.

I am not really surprised one bit that Osama Bin Laden refused to have anything to do with Digital Technology (which was the single-most reason he managed to escape America's clutches for so long).

It would genuinely be a sad day(from a Techie point of view) if eventually going back intime is the only way to avoid the Surveillance State.

 

 
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2015 | 7:44:20 AM
Re: Wheelie Bad Warrantless Surveilance
@Stratustician, that's right, we have become so used to surveillance that it doesn't bother us anymore.

Recently the UN has appointed a new Privacy chief, from Europe, an university researcher that was the head of some European projects, including RESPECT. I hope he does a good job exposing some of the most controversial programs.

There is an interesting story in The Guardian:

Digital surveillance 'worse than Orwell', says new UN privacy chief 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2015 | 7:17:08 AM
Re: London cameras
That's what's so weird. You'd imagine that with the way camera traps can earn money for local forces so easily, they would be really diligant in making sure they all worked. 
RoadCrimeUK
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RoadCrimeUK,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/27/2015 | 5:54:47 AM
Re: London cameras
The figure is actually a lot higher, from my knowledge somewhere in the region of 85%, but is it not that they dont work, it for two reasons:-

1) Old wet-film cameras have run out of film

2) Police move the active enforcement component of the systems between sites, as they simply dont ave the resources to have all cameras enforcing at the same time. These cameras still trigger then you speed past as they are still collecting speed data so hence provided a deturant. It a simple question of which one is live and which on is not.

 

 
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
8/26/2015 | 3:13:48 PM
Re: Wheelie Bad Warrantless Surveilance
I think this just leads to a general lack of caring for many consumers.  We've become so accustomed to being recorded, monitored and caught on camera that we just have learned to accept it since the reality is that even if we fight the companies we *know* are doing it, there is no incentive for them to change unless there is enough of a petition (and then honestly, very little will still change).  Not to mention the data being tracked or collected without our knowledge.  For a tech-savvy generation, we really don't seem to care enough about how that technology is going to haunt us in the future.
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