London policemen have been investing in a natty bit of surveillance technology which pretends it is a mobile phone network to gather data, track users and even deny service.
The Met Police have been operating a surveillance system which masks itself as a fake phone network. It can be used to track mobiles, gather data and even remotely shut off devices.
According to the Guardian, the technology has been developed by a Leeds outfit called Datong plc. Datong works in 40 countries ncluding South America and the Middle East, giving military, law enforcement and security agencies a helping hand finding people that their states might not like.
In a recent demonstration Datong showed how its devices could intercept SMS messages by masking itself as a false network. It uses a transceiver which is about the size of a suitcase and can be placed in a vehicle operated remotely.
Dubbed “Listed X”, the device emits a signal that forces hundreds of cell phones each minute to release unique identity codes allowing user movement to be tracked. It can send out a denial of service attack which is designed to stop mobiles being used as detonators on explosive devices.
Under the UK law, covert surveillance is regulated by Ripa, an act that states warrants must be only in the interests of national security, serious crimes or economic stability.
The Guardian asked a Ripa expert barrister Jonathan Lennon, what he thought about it and his view was that there needed to be clarification on whether “interception of multiple people’s communications is compliant with the act.”
The Metropolitan Police has refused to comment on how the Datong tech is being used, but it seems that large protests or demonstrations would be a good time to use it.