Chicago Police Uses Stingray Cellphone Surveillance on Protesters of Eric Garner Death

This article was updated on 12.9.2014 to include the stub at the end of the piece. It contains additional evidence that the Chicago PD is using Stingray cell interception technology.

Evidence has surfaced that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has used a Stingray surveillance device to break into protesters cellular phones.

The claim, which includes some pretty damning radio chatter, as well as a part of a speech by Obama defending the practice, and statements by the NSA stating that the technology would never be used against people exercising their first amendment rights, you can see the posting by Anonymous here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpdpjX8Vsfw

The insinuation is extremely serious, because it would smear the "terrorism" arguments that agencies have been using to defend their unconstitutional actions with further evidence strongly to the contrary. A few years ago the ACLU published a document where the Department of Defense was defining 1st amendment protected activity as "low-level terrorism", no doubt to justify turning peaceful American citizens into adversaries. It would seem that "the danger of terrorism" is the method of getting the public to accept use of the devices, and these invasive surveillance techniques are used by anyone the government, or now the local police, see as a "threat". Recent history of these devices have seen the government considers Amnesty International, The Red Cross, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as "threats" worthy of surveillance. Lets not forget the entire nations of Afghanistan, Mexico, The Bahamas, Kenya, and The Philippines. 

These Chicago protests have been violence free. It is important to note that there is no reason for the CPD to believe that there is anything beyond a disruption in traffic going to happen in Chicago due to these protests. These people are rightfully exercising their first amendment rights to openly assemble, and are being met with advanced surveillance techniques that are intended for terrorists.

The Stingray, which is a device that is sold to governments and police forces worldwide, is a "secret" device that people use to intercept the GSM traffic of other people. GSM one of the systems of voice signaling that cellular phones use, the alternative being the slightly more secure CDMA. The Stingray device can only intercept phone calls and SMS, not data, as 3G and 4G systems have additional measures to prevent this kind of interception from taking place. There are actually a number of these spying devices out there that go by different names, but the Stingray is the one that has gotten the most press, so it has become a "blanket name" for the devices when they are discussed in the privacy community.

Here are some of the technical details of a Stingray-like device called the Typhon, as revealed by Jacob Appelbaum and Der Spiegel. The Typhon is talked about at around 37:20.
http://youtu.be/vILAlhwUgIU?t=37m20s

There are also other devices like Septier and even Open-Source solutions. There is also equipment in development that is worn on your person, so that person is effectively a cell phone tower that intercepts calls.

The GSM carriers in the United States are AT&T and T-mobile. Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA.

It also appears that iPhones on AT&T and T-mobile are particularly vulnerable to this kind of interception attack. In the video, Chris Paget demonstrates how to intercept iPhone GSM phone calls pretty trivially using less than $2000 worth of equipment. In his demonstration, he also notes that 3G and 4G are much harder to intercept, so surveillance devices typically have to jam those signals and force everyone down to the old 2G (GSM) signaling in order to enable their interception.

This means that one of the ways to tell if your cellular signal is being intercepted, is by the type of signal your phone is receiving. If you are getting a mysterious strong 2G signal in downtown Chicago, and 3G and 4G are not working, you should be extremely suspicious of it. Cellular coverage in the downtown area is excellent and 3G and 4G are available nearly everywhere in the city of Chicago. It is easy to conclude that if you cannot get a 3G signal in downtown Chicago, that something is wrong.

How to combat Stingray surveillance devices:

Avoid using GSM carriers!

Turn your phone off when you are not using it! Any smartphone is routinely spewing GPS information as well as a lot of other information about your device. Don't make it easy for illegal surveillance of your location to happen.

Use apps that work over a voice over IP connection (using your internet connection for phone calls, instead of the wireless phone signal) and feature end-to-end encryption. This would be apps like Silent Circle or Redphone. Google Voice or Talkatone with a VPN would also work and not require the other end to also have the app installed. Just be sure that the person you are calling also has security measures installed.

Use apps that feature end-to-end encryption for text messaging like Textsecure.

Use a VPN service like VikingVPN to encrypt all of your data on your device before it leaves your device and goes out to any tower that receives it. This means that your intercepted data will be unreadable. (Note: You have to be using Voice Over IP. Regular calls will not be routed over a VPN and would be subject to surveillance).

Only use your phone if you are getting 3G or 4G connectivity, and only use voice over IP.

If you want to be extra sinister, if you strongly suspect your calls are being intercepted (for example, spotting a vehicle with a giant directional antenna dish on top of it, and getting a mysterious 2G signal and no 3G or 4G, then disseminate some false information over the phone lines like where the protest is going next, or talk about looting nearby stores, or that aliens have landed and have joined the protest. Have some fun with your unethical and outright illegal adversaries!

12.9.2014 Update:

CBS has obtained an invoice showing the purchase of $125,000 of equipment from Harris Corp that includes IMSI catchers, upgrades, and specialized directional antennae and amplifiers associated with cellular interception technology.

The invoice can be viewed here:  https://cbschicago.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/purchase-order.png

The related article is here: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/10/01/chicago-police-department-admits-purchase-of-cell-phone-spying-devices/

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