Resources

Mysterious Company With Government Ties Plays Key Internet Role

An offshore company that is trusted by the major web browsers and other tech companies to vouch for the legitimacy of websites has connections to contractors for U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement, according to security researchers, documents and interviews. Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow the company, TrustCor Systems, to act as what’s known as a root certificate authority, a powerful spot in the internet’s infrastructure that guarantees websites are not fake, guiding users to them seamlessly.

The company’s Panamanian registration records show that it has the identical slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware maker identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which public contracting records and company documents show has sold communication interception services to U.S. government agencies for more than a decade. One of those TrustCor partners has the same name as a holding company managed by Raymond Saulino, who was quoted in a 2010 Wired article as a spokesman for Packet Forensics. Saulino also surfaced in 2021 as a contact for another company, Global Resource Systems, that caused speculation in the tech world when it briefly activated and ran more than 100 million previously dormant IP addresses assigned decades earlier to the Pentagon. The Pentagon reclaimed the digital territory months later, and it remains unclear what the brief transfer was about, but researchers said the activation of those IP addresses could have given the military access to a huge amount of internet traffic without revealing that the government was receiving it.

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Google is Quietly Working on a Wearable Device for Preteens

Google is developing a wearable device for preteens under its Fitbit group as it attempts to capture a growing demographic of younger users who own wearable tech, three employees familiar with the project told Insider.

Internally code-named “Project Eleven,” the wearable is designed to help older kids form healthy relationships with their phones and social media, two of the employees said. One of them said the device could include safety features that would let parents contact their children and know their whereabouts.

Project Eleven may be an opportunity to capture a growing market of younger users who would otherwise grow up to become Apple loyalists.

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New Mac App Wants To Record Everything You Do – So You Can ‘Rewind’ It Later

Yesterday, a company called Rewind AI announced a self-titled software product for Macs with Apple Silicon that reportedly keeps a highly compressed, searchable record of everything you do locally on your Mac and lets you “rewind” time to see it later. If you forget something you’ve “seen, said, or heard,” Rewind wants to help you find it easily. Rewind AI claims its product stores all recording data locally on your machine and does not require cloud integration. Among its promises, Rewind will reportedly let you rewind Zoom meetings and pull information from them in a searchable form. In a video demo on Rewind.AI’s site, the app opens when a user presses Command+Shift+Space. The search bar suggests typing “anything you’ve seen, said, or heard.” It also shows a timeline at the bottom of the screen that represents previous actions in apps.

After searching for “tps reports,” the video depicts a grid view of every time Rewind has encountered the phrase “tps reports” as audio or text in any app, including Zoom chats, text messages, emails, Slack conversations, and Word documents. It describes filtering the results by app — and the ability to copy and paste from these past instances if necessary. Founded by Dan Siroker and Brett Bejcek, Rewind AI is composed of a small remote team located in various cities around the US. Portions of the company previously created Scribe, a precursor to Rewind that received some press attention in 2021. In an introductory blog post, Rewind AI co-founder Dan Siroker writes, “What if we could use technology to augment our memory the same way a hearing aid can augment our hearing?”

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Ring Cameras Are Being Used To Control and Surveil Overworked Delivery Workers

Networked doorbell surveillance cameras like Amazon’s Ring are everywhere, and have changed the nature of delivery work by letting customers take on the role of bosses to monitor, control, and discipline workers, according to a recent report (PDF) by the Data & Society tech research institute. “The growing popularity of Ring and other networked doorbell cameras has normalized home and neighborhood surveillance in the name of safety and security,” Data & Society’s Labor Futures program director Aiha Nguyen and research analyst Eve Zelickson write. “But for delivery drivers, this has meant their work is increasingly surveilled by the doorbell cameras and supervised by customers. The result is a collision between the American ideas of private property and the business imperatives of doing a job.”

Thanks to interviews with surveillance camera users and delivery drivers, the researchers are able to dive into a few major developments interacting here to bring this to a head. Obviously, the first one is the widespread adoption of doorbell surveillance cameras like Ring. Just as important as the adoption of these cameras, however, is the rise of delivery work and its transformation into gig labor. […] As the report lays out, Ring cameras allow customers to surveil delivery workers and discipline their labor by, for example, sharing shaming footage online. This dovetails with the “gigification” of Amazon’s delivery workers in two ways: labor dynamics and customer behavior.

“Gig workers, including Flex drivers, are sold on the promise of flexibility, independence and freedom. Amazon tells Flex drivers that they have complete control over their schedule, and can work on their terms and in their space,” Nguyen and Zelickson write. “Through interviews with Flex drivers, it became apparent that these marketed perks have hidden costs: drivers often have to compete for shifts, spend hours trying to get reimbursed for lost wages, pay for wear and tear on their vehicle, and have no control over where they work.” That competition between workers manifests in other ways too, namely acquiescing to and complying with customer demands when delivering purchases to their homes. Even without cameras, customers have made onerous demands of Flex drivers even as the drivers are pressed to meet unrealistic and dangerous routes alongside unsafe and demanding productivity quotas. The introduction of surveillance cameras at the delivery destination, however, adds another level of surveillance to the gigification. […] The report’s conclusion is clear: Amazon has deputized its customers and made them partners in a scheme that encourages antagonistic social relations, undermines labor rights, and provides cover for a march towards increasingly ambitious monopolistic exploits.

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ByteDance Planned to Use TikTok to Monitor Locations of Specific American Citizens

A China-based team at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens, according to materials reviewed by Forbes.

The team behind the monitoring project — ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department — is led by Beijing-based executive Song Ye, who reports to ByteDance cofounder and CEO Rubo Liang. The team primarily conducts investigations into potential misconduct by current and former ByteDance employees. But in at least two cases, the Internal Audit team also planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company, the materials show.

It is unclear from the materials whether data about these Americans was actually collected; however, the plan was for a Beijing-based ByteDance team to obtain location data from U.S. users’ devices.

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Beijing Bus Drivers Have Been Told To Wear Wristbands To Monitor Their Emotions

The move was initiated by the state-run Beijing Public Transport Holding Group, which says it is aimed at protecting public safety. But legal experts have raised privacy concerns and say the wristbands could cause bus drivers undue distress and potentially lead to discrimination. Some 1,800 wristbands were distributed to bus drivers on cross-province and highway routes on Wednesday, the official Beijing Daily reported. It is unclear how many drivers will be required to wear the devices. The report said they would be used to monitor the drivers’ vital signs and emotional state in real time to improve safety.

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TikTok Tracks You Across the Web, Even If You Don’t Use the App

A Consumer Reports investigation finds that TikTok, one of the country’s most popular apps, is partnering with a growing number of other companies to hoover up data about people as they travel across the internet. That includes people who don’t have TikTok accounts. These companies embed tiny TikTok trackers called “pixels” in their websites. Then TikTok uses the information gathered by all those pixels to help the companies target ads at potential customers, and to measure how well their ads work. To look into TikTok’s use of online tracking, CR asked the security firm Disconnect to scan about 20,000 websites for the company’s pixels. In our list, we included the 1,000 most popular websites overall, as well as some of the biggest sites with domains ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov.” We wanted to look at those sites because they often deal with sensitive subjects. We found hundreds of organizations sharing data with TikTok.

If you go to the United Methodist Church’s main website, TikTok hears about it. Interested in joining Weight Watchers? TikTok finds that out, too. The Arizona Department of Economic Security tells TikTok when you view pages concerned with domestic violence or food assistance. Even Planned Parenthood uses the trackers, automatically notifying TikTok about every person who goes to its website, though it doesn’t share information from the pages where you can book an appointment. (None of those groups responded to requests for comment.) The number of TikTok trackers we saw was just a fraction of those we observed from Google and Meta. However, TikTok’s advertising business is exploding, and experts say the data collection will probably grow along with it.

After Disconnect researchers conducted a broad search for TikTok trackers, we asked them to take a close look at what kind of information was being shared by 15 specific websites. We focused on sites where we thought people would have a particular expectation of privacy, such as advocacy organizations and hospitals, along with retailers and other kinds of companies. Disconnect found that data being transmitted to TikTok can include your IP address, a unique ID number, what page you’re on, and what you’re clicking, typing, or searching for, depending on how the website has been set up. What does TikTok do with all that information? “Like other platforms, the data we receive from advertisers is used to improve the effectiveness of our advertising services,” says Melanie Bosselait, a TikTok spokesperson. The data “is not used to group individuals into particular interest categories for other advertisers to target.” If TikTok receives data about someone who doesn’t have a TikTok account, the company only uses that data for aggregated reports that they send to advertisers about their websites, she says. There’s no independent way for consumers or privacy researchers to verify such statements. But TikTok’s terms of service say its advertising customers aren’t allowed to send the company certain kinds of sensitive information, such as data about children, health conditions, or finances. “We continuously work with our partners to avoid inadvertent transmission of such data,” TikTok’s Bosselait says.

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America’s Funniest Home Surveillance Network Isn’t Funny

Amazon is normalizing neighborhood panopticons by turning its doorbell videos into a TV show. Orwell wouldn’t be laughing.

When smartphones first came on the scene, their built-in cameras were limited to personal use. Then social media sites like Facebook and Instagram created a beast that millions wanted to feed, and photos became a public spectacle. The same phenomenon is happening to doorbell cameras. Initially marketed to make customers feel safer in their homes, their footage is now being uploaded for entertainment. On TikTok, the hashtag Ringdoorbell has more than 2.7 billion views.

Amazon.com Inc., which owns market-dominating Ring, has seen and grabbed a lucrative opportunity, and is contributing to the gradual erosion of our privacy in the process.

On Monday, the company premiered Ring Nation, a television show syndicated across more than 70 American cities. Hosted by the comedian Wanda Sykes and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which Amazon finished buying in March, the 20-minute program features videos captured on smartphones and Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras, which the company sells for about $105.

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Spyware Scandals Are Ripping Through Europe

The ripple effects of the scandal are reaching the heart of the European Union. Over the past 13 months, it has been revealed that spyware had targeted opposition leaders, journalists, lawyers and activists in France, Spain, Hungary, Poland and even staff within the European Commission, the EU’s cabinet-style government, between 2019 and 2021. The bloc has already set up an inquiry into its own use of spyware, but even as the 38-person committee works toward producing a report for early 2023, the number of new scandals is quickly mounting up. What sets the scandal in Greece apart is the company behind the spyware that was used. Until then the surveillance software in every EU scandal could be traced back to one company, the notorious NSO Group. Yet the spyware stalking Koukakis’ phone was made by Cytrox, a company founded in the small European nation of North Macedonia and acquired in 2017 by Tal Dilian — an entrepreneur who achieved notoriety for driving a high-tech surveillance van around the island of Cyprus and showing a Forbes journalist how it could hack into passing people’s phones.

In that interview, Dilian said he had acquired Cytrox and absorbed the company into his intelligence company Intellexa, which is now thought to now be based in Greece. The arrival of Cytrox into Europe’s ongoing scandal shows the problem is bigger than just the NSO Group. The bloc has a thriving spyware industry of its own. As the NSO Group struggles with intense scrutiny and being blacklisted by the US, its less well-known European rivals are jostling to take its clients, researchers say. Over the past two months, Cytrox is not the only local company to generate headlines for hacking devices within the bloc. In June, Google discovered the Italian spyware vendor RCS Lab was targeting smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan. Alberto Nobili, RCS’ managing director, told WIRED that the company condemns the misuse of its products but declined to comment on whether the cases cited by Google were examples of misuse. “RCS personnel are not exposed, nor participate in any activities conducted by the relevant customers,” he says. More recently, in July, spyware made by Austria’s DSIRF was detected by Microsoft hacking into law firms, banks, and consultancies in Austria, the UK, and Panama.

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Police Across US Bypass Warrants With Mass Location-Tracking Tool

As summer winds down, researchers warned this week about systemic vulnerabilities in mobile app infrastructure, as well as a new iOS security flaw and one in TikTok. And new findings about ways to exploit Microsoft’s Power Automate tool in Windows 11 show how it can be used to distribute malware, from ransomware to keyloggers and beyond.

Fog Reveal Tool Gives Law Enforcement Cheap Access to US Location-Tracking Data From Smartphones

The data broker Fog Data Science has been selling access to what it claims are billions of location data points from over 250 million smartphones to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies around the US. The data comes from tech companies and cell phone towers and is collected in the Fog Reveal tool from thousands of iOS and Android apps. Crucially, access to the service is cheap, often costing local police departments less than $10,000 per year, and investigations by the Associated Press and Electronic Frontier Foundation found that law enforcement sometimes pulls location data without a warrant. The EFF conducted its investigation through more than 100 public records requests filed over several months. “Troublingly, those records show that Fog and some law enforcement did not believe Fog’s surveillance implicated people’s Fourth Amendment rights and required authorities to get a warrant,” the EFF wrote.

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Amazon’s empire of surveillance

Through recent billion-dollar acquisitions of health care services and smart home devices, the tech giant is leveraging its monopoly power to track ‘every aspect’ of our lives

Every step of the way, from its beginnings as an alternative to brick and mortar bookstores to snatching up over half of the online retail market, Amazon has relied on surveillance to dominate the competition, according to Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future.

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Pegasus Spyware Used Against Thailand’s Pro-Democracy Movement

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to target Thai pro-democracy protesters and leaders calling for reforms to the monarchy. “We forensically confirmed that at least 30 individuals were infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware,” reports Citizen Lab. “The observed infections took place between October 2020 and November 2021.” Here’s an excerpt from the report:
Introduction: Surveillance & Repression in Thailand: The Kingdom of Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary-style government divided into executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. The country has been beset by intense political conflict since 2005, during the government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Corruption allegations against the regime culminated in a military coup on September 19, 2006 that ousted Thaksin. The military launched another coup on May 22, 2014 and seized power following mass protests against the civilian government led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The junta claimed that the 2014 coup was needed to restore order and called itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Findings: Pegasus Infections in Thailand: On November 23, 2021, Apple began sending notifications to iPhone users targeted by state-backed attacks with mercenary spyware. The recipients included individuals that Apple believes were targeted with NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY exploit. Many Thai civil society members received this warning. Shortly thereafter, multiple recipients of the notification made contact with the Citizen Lab and regional groups. In collaboration with Thai organizations iLaw and DigitalReach, forensic evidence was obtained from notification recipients, and other suspected victims, who consented to participate in a research study with the Citizen Lab. We then performed a technical analysis of forensic artifacts to determine whether these individuals were infected with Pegasus or other spyware. Victims publicly named in this report consented to be identified as such, while others chose to remain anonymous, or have their cases described with limited detail.

Civil Society Pegasus Infections: We have identified at least 30 Pegasus victims among key civil society groups in Thailand, including activists, academics, lawyers, and NGO workers. The infections occurred from October 2020 to November 2021, coinciding with a period of widespread pro-democracy protests, and predominantly targeted key figures in the pro-democracy movement. In numerous cases, multiple members of movements or organizations were infected. Many of the victims included in this report have been repeatedly detained, arrested, and imprisoned for their political activities or criticism of the government. Many of the victims have also been the subject of lese-majeste prosecutions by the Thai government. While many of the infections were detected on the devices of prominent figures, hacking was also observed against individuals who are not publicly involved in the protests. Speculatively, this may reflect the attackers’ intent to uncover details about how opposition movements were organized, and may have been prompted by specific financial transactions that would have been known to Thai financial institutions and the government, but not the public.

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EU Found Evidence Employee Phones Compromised With Spyware

In a July 25 letter sent to European lawmaker Sophie in ‘t Veld, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said iPhone maker Apple had told him in 2021 that his iPhone had possibly been hacked using Pegasus, a tool developed and sold to government clients by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group. The warning from Apple triggered the inspection of Reynders’ personal and professional devices as well as other phones used by European Commission employees, the letter said. Though the investigation did not find conclusive proof that Reynders’ or EU staff phones were hacked, investigators discovered “indicators of compromise” â” a term used by security researchers to describe that evidence exists showing a hack occurred.

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UK Spy Agency MI5 ‘Breached Surveillance Laws For More Than A Decade’

A UK tribunal has been told that security service MI5 has been breaching surveillance laws since 2010, and unlawfully obtaining bulk surveillance warrants against the public.

Human rights groups Liberty and Privacy International have told the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that MI5 has stored data on members of the public without the legal right to do so, and failed to disclose this to the Home Office and oversight bodies.

It breached safeguards around how long data was retained, who had access to it, and how legally privileged material such as private correspondence between lawyers and clients was protected, they say.

“MI5’s persistent failure to follow the law is inexcusable. For years, they have ignored safeguards put in place to protect us from abuse,” says Privacy International legal director Caroline Wilson Palow.

“These safeguards are a fundamental check on the vast power intelligence agencies can wield over all of us, especially when they engage in mass surveillance.”

The rights groups claim that the Home Office and various home secretaries failed to investigate these breaches. Surveillance warrants must be approved by the home secretary, who must be satisfied that legal safeguards around the handling of data are being met.

However, say Liberty and Privacy International, successive home secretaries repeatedly ignored the signs that MI5 was handling data unlawfully, and continued to sign off on surveillance warrants despite this.

“Surveillance safeguards can only protect us if they work in practice, and they don’t. For 10 years MI5 have been knowingly breaking the rules and failing to report it, and the government has failed to investigate clear red flags,” says Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding.

“There has been no proper investigation into MI5’s breaches by the Home Office, despite having been put on notice by briefings. Instead, the home secretary continued to issue unlawful warrants, and MI5 kept information from the authorities about how it mishandled our data.”

The allegations were first made in 2019 as part of Liberty’s separate legal challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, during which the government admitted that MI5 had been unlawfully retaining and mishandling the public’s data for years.

Documents shared with the court included correspondence between MI5 and its watchdog, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO), as well as correspondence between MI5 and the Home Office, and reports of inspections carried out by IPCO after they learnt of MI5’s failings.

These documents revealed that MI5 itself called its data stores ‘ungoverned spaces’, and that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner had concluded MI5 had held and handled data in an ‘undoubted unlawful manner’.

“When we campaigned against giving the state unprecedented new surveillance powers under the so-called Snooper’s Charter back in 2015, one of our key concerns was that the safeguards against abuse were just not strong enough,” says Wilson Palow.

“And here we are, seven years later, with even the rules that are enshrined in law being ignored in practice. Those rules need a radical overhaul.”

Liberty and Privacy International have called for all surveillance warrants issued unlawfully to be quashed, all unlawfully retained data to be destroyed, and for the tribunal to declare that the Investigatory Powers Act itself is unlawful, because it doesn’t work in practice.

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How Beijing’s surveillance cameras crept into widespread use across UK schools, hospitals and government buildings

In the confines of his small cell, Ovalbek Turdakun was watched 24/7. At any attempt to speak to others he was instantly told to be quiet, while lights in the room were on round the clock, making it impossible to know what time of day it was.

Turdakun and his fellow detainees in the Xinjiang camp were not watched by guards, but by software. Cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision monitored his every move, according to an account he gave to US surveillance website IPVM.

More than a million of the same company’s cameras are in Britain’s schools, hospitals and police departments. Tesco, Costa Coffee and McDonald’s have purchased Hikvision cameras. They are present in a string of Government buildings.

Britain’s population is caught on CCTV more than any nation outside of China, with 6m cameras in use – one for every 11 people. Hikvision is the biggest provider of them.

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Surveillance Tech Didn’t Stop the Uvalde Massacre

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, of which Robb is a member, followed this conventional wisdom and embraced modern security solutions at its schools. Indeed, the district had actually doubled its security budget over the past several years to invest in a variety of recommended precautions.

According to UCISD’s security page, the district employed a safety management system from security vendor Raptor Technologies, designed to monitor school visitors and screen for dangerous individuals. It also used a social media monitoring solution, Social Sentinel, that sifted through children’s online lives to scan for signs of violent or suicidal ideation. Students could download an anti-bullying app (the STOP!T app) to report abusive peers, and an online portal at ucisd.net allowed parents and community members to submit reports of troubling behavior to administrators for further investigation. As has been noted, UCISD also had its own police force, developed significant ties to the local police department, and had an emergency response plan. It even deployed “Threat Assessment Teams” that were scheduled to meet regularly to “identify, evaluate, classify and address threats or potential threats to school security.”

And yet, none of the new security measures seemed to matter much when a disturbed young man brought a legally purchased weapon to Robb and committed the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history. The perpetrator wasn’t a student and therefore couldn’t be monitored by its security systems.

Trolling through students’ online lives to look for signs of danger is now a routine procedure in many districts. In fact, legislators have discussed mandating such surveillance features for schools across the country. UCISD employed one such company, but Gov. Abbott said Wednesday that “there was no meaningful forewarning of this crime.” The shooter sent private messages threatening the attack via Facebook Messenger half an hour before it occurred, but they were private and therefore would have been invisible to outside observers.

Facial recognition is another technology that has been offered to schools as a basic safety mechanism. The number of schools that have adopted face recording solutions has risen precipitously in recent years (Clearview AI announced this week that it has its sights on cracking into the market). However, despite their growing popularity, there is little evidence that these security apparatuses actually do anything to stop school shootings. Even supporters of facial recognition admit that the systems probably won’t do much once a shooter’s on school property.

“Whether it’s facial recognition, monitoring software on school devices, cameras—all these types of surveillance have become extremely ubiquitous,” said Jason Kelley, digital strategist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an interview with Gizmodo. “The companies that sell these tools are trying to do something positive—they’re trying to minimize tragedy,” he said. Yet not only can these products ultimately be ineffective, they can also end up having negative side-effects on the children they’re meant to protect, Kelley offered. The intrusiveness of the tools are such that students may grow up feeling as if they have to be surveilled to be safe—even if the surveillance isn’t actually keeping them safe.

Some studies suggest that what surveillance actually provides is punishment rather than protection. The cameras and software can turn schools into little panopticons, where student behavior is constantly analyzed and assessed, and where minor infractions can be spotted and disciplined.

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San Francisco Police Are Using Driverless Cars as Mobile Surveillance Cameras

For the last five years, driverless car companies have been testing their vehicles on public roads. These vehicles constantly roam neighborhoods while laden with a variety of sensors including video cameras capturing everything going on around them in order to operate safely and analyze instances where they don’t.

While the companies themselves, such as Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise, tout the potential transportation benefits their services may one day offer, they don’t publicize another use case, one that is far less hypothetical: Mobile surveillance cameras for police departments.

The use of AVs as an investigative tool echoes how Ring, a doorbell and home security company owned by Amazon, became a key partner with law enforcement around the country by turning individual consumer products into a network of cameras with comprehensive coverage of American neighborhoods easily accessible to police. Police departments around the country use automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to track the movements of vehicles. The EFF has sued the SFPD for accessing business improvement district live cameras to spy on protestors.

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Virginia Police Routinely Use Secret GPS Pings To Track People’s Cell Phones

The nonprofit online news site Virginia Mercury investigated their state police departments’ “real-time location warrants,” which are “addressed to telephone companies, ordering them to regularly ping a customers’ phone for its GPS location and share the results with police.” Public records requests submitted to a sampling of 18 police departments around the state found officers used the technique to conduct more than 7,000 days worth of surveillance in 2020. Court records show the tracking efforts spanned cases ranging from high-profile murders to minor larcenies…. Seven departments responded that they did not have any relevant billing records, indicating they don’t use the technique. Only one of the departments surveyed, Alexandria, indicated it had an internal policy governing how their officers use cellphone tracking, but a copy of the document provided by the city was entirely redacted….

Drug investigations accounted for more than 60 percent of the search warrants taken out in the two jurisdictions. Larcenies were the second most frequent category. Major crimes like murders, rapes and abductions made up a fraction of the tracking requests, accounting for just under 25 of the nearly 400 warrants filed in the jurisdictions that year.
America’s Supreme Court “ruled that warrantless cellphone tracking is unconstitutional back in 2012,” the article points out — but in practice those warrants aren’t hard to get. “Officers simply have to attest in an affidavit that they have probable cause that the tracking data is ‘relevant to a crime that is being committed or has been committed’…. There’s been limited public discussion or awareness of the kinds of tracking warrants the judiciary is approving.” “I don’t think people know that their cell phones can be converted to tracking devices by police with no notice,” said Steve Benjamin, a criminal defense lawyer in Richmond who said he’s recently noticed an uptick in cases in which officers employed the technique. “And the reality of modern life is everyone has their phone on them during the day and on their nightstand at night. … It’s as if the police tagged them with a chip under their skin, and people have no idea how easily this is accomplished.”
The case for these phone-tracking warrants?

  • The executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police tells the site that physical surveillance ofen requires too many resources — and that cellphone tracking is safer. “It may be considered an intrusive way of gathering data on someone, but it’s certainly less dangerous than physical tracking.”
  • A spokesperson for the Chesterfield County police department [responsible for 64% of the state’s tracking] argued that “We exist to preserve human life and protect the vulnerable, and we will use all lawful tools at our disposal to do so.” And they added that such “continued robust enforcement efforts” were a part of the reason that the county’s still-rising number of fatal drug overdoses had not risen more.

The site also obtained bills from four major US cellphone carriers, and reported how much they were charging police for providing their cellphone-tracking services:

  • “T-Mobile charged $30 per day, which comes to $900 per month of tracking.”
  • “AT&T charged a monthly service fee of $100 and an additional $25 per day the service is utilized, which comes to $850 per 30 days of tracking…”
  • “Verizon calls the service ‘periodic location updates,’ charging $5 per day on top of a monthly service fee of $100, which comes to $200 per 30 days of tracking.”
  • “Sprint offered the cheapest prices to report locations back to law enforcement, charging a flat fee of $100 per month.”
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Mitto Secret Surveillance Operation for Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, Telegram, TikTok, Tencent and Alibaba

The co-founder of a company that has been trusted by technology giants including Google and Twitter to deliver sensitive passwords to millions of their customers also operated a service that ultimately helped governments secretly surveil and track mobile phones, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing former employees and clients. From the report:
Since it started in 2013, Mitto AG has established itself as a provider of automated text messages for such things as sales promotions, appointment reminders and security codes needed to log in to online accounts, telling customers that text messages are more likely to be read and engaged with than emails as part of their marketing efforts. Mitto, a closely held company with headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, has grown its business by establishing relationships with telecom operators in more than 100 countries. It has brokered deals that gave it the ability to deliver text messages to billions of phones in most corners of the world, including countries that are otherwise difficult for Western companies to penetrate, such as Iran and Afghanistan. Mitto has attracted major technology giants as customers, including Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, Microsoft’s LinkedIn and messaging app Telegram, in addition to China’s TikTok, Tencent and Alibaba, according to Mitto documents and former employees.

But a Bloomberg News investigation, carried out in collaboration with the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, indicates that the company’s co-founder and chief operating officer, Ilja Gorelik, was also providing another service: selling access to Mitto’s networks to secretly locate people via their mobile phones. That Mitto’s networks were also being used for surveillance work wasn’t shared with the company’s technology clients or the mobile operators Mitto works with to spread its text messages and other communications, according to four former Mitto employees. The existence of the alternate service was known only to a small number of people within the company, these people said. Gorelik sold the service to surveillance-technology companies which in turn contracted with government agencies, according to the employees.

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Seemingly Normal Lightning Cable Will Leak Everything You Type

It looks like a Lightning cable, it works like a Lightning cable, and I can use it to connect my keyboard to my Mac. But it is actually a malicious cable that can record everything I type, including passwords, and wirelessly send that data to a hacker who could be more than a mile away. This is the new version of a series of penetration testing tools made by the security researcher known as MG. MG previously demoed an earlier version of the cables for Motherboard at the DEF CON hacking conference in 2019. Shortly after that, MG said he had successfully moved the cables into mass production, and cybersecurity vendor Hak5 started selling the cables. But the more recent cables come in new physical variations, including Lightning to USB-C, and include more capabilities for hackers to play with.

“There were people who said that Type C cables were safe from this type of implant because there isn’t enough space. So, clearly, I had to prove that wrong. :),” MG told Motherboard in an online chat. The OMG Cables, as they’re called, work by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot itself that a hacker can connect to from their own device. From here, an interface in an ordinary web browser lets the hacker start recording keystrokes. The malicious implant itself takes up around half the length of the plastic shell, MG said. MG said that the new cables now have geofencing features, where a user can trigger or block the device’s payloads based on the physical location of the cable. “It pairs well with the self-destruct feature if an OMG Cable leaves the scope of your engagement and you do not want your payloads leaking or being accidentally run against random computers,” he said. “We tested this out in downtown Oakland and were able to trigger payloads at over 1 mile,” he added. He said that the Type C cables allow the same sort of attacks to be carried out against smartphones and tablets. Various other improvements include being able to change keyboard mappings, the ability to forge the identity of specific USB devices, such as pretending to be a device that leverages a particular vulnerability on a system.

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