Stingray: Law Enforcement Can Track Your Every Move
What Is the Big Secret Surrounding Stingray Surveillance?
Source: Scientific American, Larry Greenemeier, June 25, 2015
State and local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are setting up fake cell towers to gather mobile data, but few will admit it
…records indicate law enforcement agencies have used the technology hundreds of times without a search warrant, instead relying on a much more generic court order known as a pen register and trap and trace order. Last year Harris Corp., the Melbourne, Fla., company that makes the majority of cell site simulators, went so far as to petition the Federal Communications Commission to block a FOIA request for user manuals for some of the company’s products.
How Stingray, IMSI Catchers and Cell Tower Simulators Work
Long-Secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy On Cell Phones
Source: The Intercept, Sam Biddle, September 12, 2016
…the documents show the “Stingray II” device can impersonate four cellular communications towers at once, monitoring up to four cellular provider networks simultaneously, and with an add-on can operate on so-called 2G, 3G, and 4G networks simultaneously.
And the Harris software isn’t just extremely powerful, Tynan added, but relatively simple, providing any law enforcement agent with a modicum of computer literacy the ability to spy on large groups of people….
Although “Stingray” has become a catch-all name for devices of its kind, often referred to as “IMSI catchers,” the manuals include instructions for a range of other Harris surveillance boxes, including the Hailstorm, ArrowHead, AmberJack, and KingFish. They make clear the capability of those devices and the Stingray II to spy on cellphones by, at minimum, tracking their connection to the simulated tower, information about their location, and certain “over the air” electronic messages sent to and from them. Wessler added that parts of the manuals make specific reference to permanently storing this data, something that American law enforcement has denied doing in the past….
A video of the Gemini software installed on a personal computer, obtained by The Intercept and embedded below, provides not only an extensive demonstration of the app but also underlines how accessible the mass surveillance code can be: Installing a complete warrantless surveillance suite is no more complicated than installing Skype. Indeed, software such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, which require a registration key or some other proof of ownership, are more strictly controlled by their makers than software designed for cellular interception.
Stingray Tracking Devices: Who’s Got Them?
Source: ACLU, November 2018
The map below tracks what we know, based on press reports and publicly available documents, about the use of stingray tracking devices by state and local police departments. Following the map is a list of the federal agencies known to have the technology. The ACLU has identified 75 agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays, but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically under-represents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Stingrays, also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information. When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.
For map data, see source article at ACLU.org.