DOJ reportedly spies on mobile phone owners using fake airplane-mounted cell towers

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2014
The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly deployed specialized equipment to gather mobile phone data, including unique device identifiers and other sensitive data, from spoofed cell phone towers installed in planes.



As outlined by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the supposed secret spy program equips small aircraft with a device dubbed a "dirtbox," which pulls data from mobile phones by masquerading as a cell tower. The project aims to identify criminals through their devices, but the wide net also snares cellphones used by the general public.

Purportedly operated by the U.S. Marshals Service's Technical Operations Group, the dirtboxes are manufactured by Digital Receiver Technology, a subsidiary of Boeing, and installed on fixed-wing craft like those built by Cessna. The two-foot-square devices identify themselves as legitimate cell towers with the strong signals, tricking mobile phones into reporting IMSI information.

Privacy safeguards appear to be built in as the dirtboxes parse out devices linked to criminals and "lets go" of phones that are not suspect. Sources, however, suggest data is still gathered prior to release.

These people said the system can gather data and the general locations of tens of thousands of phones in a single flight. In addition, dirtboxes can interrupt calls, while newer versions are capable of jamming signals and scraping rich data like texts and photos.

Since dirtboxes are exploiting the fundamental structure shared by all cellular networks, no level of encryption is able to withstand the noninvasive attack. The DOJ would not confirm or deny the program's existence, but did say that its agencies are in compliance with federal laws. It is unclear how often the planes are sent out, but sources claim the program is operating on a regular basis.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    It's too bad DED didn't write this story. He would be able to do the mental gymnastics in order to find a way to pin this on google and samsung.
  • Reply 2 of 52
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,883member
    I have no problem for national security DOJ gathering/listening my cell call. Only, problem is those in charge of dissecting such info are human/people. None can know who among them are kind bad cops who can either exploit such info against you or pass such info for money to someone to use against you directly or indirectly. NSA does similar thing. Scary.
  • Reply 3 of 52
    Sadly, 9/11 has created a siege mentality by the U.S. government, which I don't feel is shared by the U.S. people.

    I hope this state of affairs changes for the better. There is far too much loss of privacy which needs to be regained.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    wood1208 wrote: »
    I have no problem for national security DOJ gathering/listening my cell call. Only, problem is those in charge of dissecting such info are human/people. None can know who among them are kind bad cops who can either exploit such info against you or pass such info for money to someone to use against you directly or indirectly. NSA does similar thing. Scary.

    In that case, you have no objection to being held for no reason by spies and questioned under duress. There is no difference.
  • Reply 5 of 52

    NO problem here .... as long as they don't sell my private info to google or samsung ... :smokey:

  • Reply 6 of 52
    Sadly, 9/11 has created a siege mentality by the U.S. government, which I don't feel is shared by the U.S. people.

    I hope this state of affairs changes for the better. There is far too much loss of privacy which needs to be regained.

    That's the most sensible thing you've ever posted.
  • Reply 7 of 52
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    Sadly, 9/11 has created a siege mentality by the U.S. government, which I don't feel is shared by the U.S. people.

    I hope this state of affairs changes for the better. There is far too much loss of privacy which needs to be regained.

    says the guy with eleventy-billion cctv cameras pointed at him right now? (i'm not disagreeing with your statement, mind you ... just pointing out a tad bit of irony. i never feel more watched or invaded than when i visit london.)
  • Reply 8 of 52
    Your privacy is you, warts and all.

    If/when we give up our privacy, we'll have nothing else left.
  • Reply 9 of 52
    Your privacy is you, warts and all.

    If/when we give up our privacy, we'll have nothing else left.

    No one has 'given' up our privacy. It's been taken by the U.S. govt and all the sheep in the nation are too stupid / lazy / clueless to do anything about stopping them.
  • Reply 10 of 52
    You can't honestly say the US is the land of the free anymore
    You're free to have your government spy on you, even though you are innocent
    And you are free to give up most of your rights
    For "security"

    It's sad when you see this
    A lot of Americans after 9/11 said the terrorists wanted to hurt us because they didn't like our way of life
    I hate to break it to you, but the bad guys won
    You're way of life has changed.
    You have given up most of your rights, all in the name of security
    Can you honestly tell me you are safer now than you were prior to 9/11?
  • Reply 11 of 52
    tomkarl wrote: »

    No one has 'given' up our privacy. It's been taken by the U.S. govt and all the sheep in the nation are too stupid / lazy / clueless to do anything about stopping them.

    Not trying to be contentious, but let's accept the fact that you and I are sheep too, just shrug, and move along.
  • Reply 12 of 52
    pooch wrote: »
    Sadly, 9/11 has created a siege mentality by the U.S. government, which I don't feel is shared by the U.S. people.

    I hope this state of affairs changes for the better. There is far too much loss of privacy which needs to be regained.

    says the guy with eleventy-billion cctv cameras pointed at him right now? (i'm not disagreeing with your statement, mind you ... just pointing out a tad bit of irony. i never feel more watched or invaded than when i visit london.)

    Oh, we're in a sorry mess, too, exasperated by decades of social breakdown.
  • Reply 13 of 52

    This proves that cell phone transmissions don't interfere with avionics.

  • Reply 14 of 52
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    hentaiboy wrote: »
    This proves that cell phone transmissions don't interfere with avionics.

    No, it doesn't. There are plenty of data that do strongly suggest that in-spec cellular devices do not interfere with in-spec avionics, but this is not among them.
  • Reply 15 of 52
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Sadly, 9/11 has created a siege mentality by the U.S. government, which I don't feel is shared by the U.S. people.

    I hope this state of affairs changes for the better. There is far too much loss of privacy which needs to be regained.

    That's the most sensible thing you've ever posted.

    The security/intelligence branches of all governments tend to focus on what they can do, often with fundamentally good intentions, rather than on what they should do. Remember that they are tasked with keeping their countries secure, and they get the blame when something happens. It doesn't surprise me that their priorities end up looking skewed.
  • Reply 16 of 52
    Originally Posted by kmarei View Post

    You can't honestly say the US is the land of the free anymore



    You can, and of course your statement is ludicrous.

     

    What you can also say is that there are a great number of people in the highest echelons of our government who need to be A. executed for treason, B. imprisoned for life for treason, C. imprisoned for life for felonies, and/or D. imprisoned for 5-20 years for felonies.

     

    What matters most is the will to see those convictions.

  • Reply 17 of 52
    Seems unlikely they could break in to iMessage content.
  • Reply 18 of 52
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wood1208 View Post

    I have no problem for national security DOJ gathering/listening my cell call.

    Then you would have no problem with police coming and searching your house (no warrant) every night at 3AM looking for illegal contraband/activities, right?

  • Reply 19 of 52
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Disturbia View Post

    NO problem here .... as long as they don't sell my private info to google or samsung ... :smokey:


    Too late.

    Who do you think is financing this operation? :smokey:

    -> http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2829762/Google-signs-1-billion-lease-Nasa-hangar-plans-use-developing-team-robots.html

  • Reply 20 of 52
    techlover wrote: »
    It's too bad DED didn't write this story. He would be able to do the mental gymnastics in order to find a way to pin this on google and samsung.

    If anyone could do it, DED could.
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