Screw the telcos help – government can find your cell phone by itself

Technology is a wonderful thing but it is also the way that our rights can be infringed upon without us sometimes even knowing. For many years the U.S. government agency; the FBI has had a technology called triggerfish. With this technology and in the beginning the help of telecommunication companies the FBI has been able to track cell phones. It was this technology which helped them catch Kevin Mitnick in the 1990’s but an importance change has happened between then and now.

According to documents gained from the Department of Justice by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act it appears that the triggerfish technology has advanced to the point that the FBI can track cell phone all by their themselves – no help from the telcos needed. As posted to Daily Kos by Rachel Myers of the ACLU

An earlier EFF FOIA lawsuit turned up documents detailing how a little-known FBI telephone intercept unit had developed triggerfish technology that agents use to monitor the physical movements of surveillance targets. Back then it seemed the process required assistance from the provider. But the new documents plainly say that triggerfish surveillance can be done without provider assistance, as at the top of page 18 in this document (PDF): “This can be done without the user knowing about it, and without involving the cell phone provider.”

The way this works is also outlined in the post

The FBI now has what is called “triggerfish” technology — a cell site simulator that forces cell phones in the area to register its phone number, serial number and location — allowing it to track cell phones on its own.

That might be the light version but if the comments on Bruce Shneier’s post about the story are any indication much of the detailed information of how this technology works is easily found with a little bit of searching. One commenter even called it all old news.

Well it might be old news but it still stinks to high heaven.

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