Law Enforcement Technology

  • SurveillanceNSA to destroy millions of American call records collected under controversial program

    The director of national intelligence said on Monday that the NSA would no longer examine call records collected by the NSA in its controversial bulk collection program before the June reauthorization of the Patriot Act which prohibits such collection. Bulk records are typically kept for five years, but the director said that although the records in the NSA database were collected lawfully, they would not be examined, and would soon be destroyed.

  • CybersecurityJournalists’ computer security tools lacking in a post-Snowden world

    Edward Snowden’s leak of classified documents to journalists around the world about massive government surveillance programs and threats to personal privacy ultimately resulted in a Pulitzer Prize for public service. Though Snowden had no intention of hiding his identity, the disclosures also raised new questions about how effectively news organizations can protect anonymous sources and sensitive information in an era of constant data collection and tracking. Researchers found a number of security weaknesses in journalists’ and news organizations’ technological tools and ad-hoc workarounds.

  • SurveillanceIn first case of its kind, UK high court rules surveillance law unconstitutional

    By Marianne Franklin

    Controversial surveillance legislation hustled through parliament last summer has been ruled unlawful by the U.K. High Court, which argued that the vague terms and descriptions of powers in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA) renders the act incompatible with human rights under European law. DRIPA, one in a series of laws supporting controversial surveillance powers passed by successive U.K. governments, establishes the principle by which anti-terrorism measures and national security priorities take precedence over human rights considerations. However, the judgment rules that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights must take precedence, and in doing so requires the U.K. government to undo its own act of parliament — a significant precedent by a British court.

  • BiometricsFingerprint accuracy stays the same over time: Study

    Fingerprints have been used by law enforcement and forensics experts to successfully identify people for more than 100 years. Though fingerprints are assumed to be infallible personal identifiers, there has been little scientific research to prove this claim to be true. As such, there have been repeated challenges to the admissibility of fingerprint evidence in courts of law. A new study shows that fingerprint recognition accuracy remains stable over time – and that the fingerprint recognition accuracy does not change even as the time between two fingerprints being compared increases.

  • Law enforcement technologyDetecting illegal, designer drugs from a single fingerprint

    An innovative technology can detect the presence of a range of illegal and designer drugs from a single fingerprint, which could be a valuable new tool in bringing drug dealers and other criminals to justice. The technology, known as Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MALDI-MSI), can detect the presence of cocaine, THC (the chemical present in marijuana), heroin, amphetamine and other designer drugs from a fingerprint.

  • SurveillanceNew U.K. surveillance review calls for a fresh start in the law for interception of communications

    After a year of investigation and consultation, the U.K. Independent Surveillance Review has delivered its conclusions to Prime Minister David Cameron. The authors presented their report, A Democratic License to Operate, yesterday (14 July 2015). The Review shows how a democracy can combine the high level of security the public has a right to expect, and also ensure the respect for privacy and freedom of speech that are the foundations of a democracy. The panel unanimously calls on government, civil society, and industry to accept its recommendations and work together to put them into practice.

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  • EncryptionGiving government special access to data poses major security risks

    By Adam Conner-Simons

    In recent months, government officials in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries have made repeated calls for law-enforcement agencies to be able to access, upon due authorization, encrypted data to help them solve crimes. Beyond the ethical and political implications of such an approach, though, is a more practical question: If we want to maintain the security of user information, is this sort of access even technically possible? A report by cybersecurity and encryption experts says that whether “backdoor” or “front-door,” such mechanisms “pose far more grave security risks, imperil innovation on which the world’s economies depend, and raise more thorny policy issues than we could have imagined when the Internet was in its infancy.”

  • EncryptionPrivacy vs. security debate intensifies as more companies offer end-to-end-encryption

    A long running debate has now come to the fore with greater urgency. The tension between the privacy that encryption offers, and the need for law enforcement and national security agencies to have access to secured and encrypted e-mail, has become more acute in the last two years. The revelations of Edward Snowden about the post-9/11 reach and scope of surveillance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement, have caused some tech giants to offer encrypted services to their customers – encrypted services which enhance customers’ privacy protection, but which at the same time make it impossible for law enforcement and intelligence services to track and monitor terrorists and criminals. “Our job is to find needles in a nationwide haystack, needles that are increasingly invisible to us because of end-to-end encryption,” FBI director James Comey told lawmakers in recent hearing on the Hill.

  • DetectionUsing microwave technology to detect concealed weapons

    A team of researchers in Canada and the Ukraine funded by NATO which will be exploring ways to equip soldiers and law enforcement with gear that could detect concealed threats, such as guns and explosive devices, used by terrorists and security threats. The three-year project, which launched 1 July, will study how microwave radar signals sent from either rigged vests or tripods could detect trouble as far as fifteen meters away and send early warning signals of pending danger. These devices could be used anywhere from borders to airports to crowded public events to bars and hotels.

  • DetectionTerahertz sensor detects hidden objects faster

    A new type of sensor, which is much faster than competing technologies used to detect and identify hidden objects. Called “Q-Eye,” the invention senses radiation across the spectrum between microwaves and infra-red, known as the Terahertz (THz) region of the spectrum — a goal that has challenged scientists for over thirty years. It works by detecting the rise in temperature produced when electromagnetic radiation emitted by an object is absorbed by the Q-Eye sensor, even down to the level of very small packets of quantum energy (a single photon).

  • First response gearAlumnus’s throwable tactical camera gets commercial release

    By Rob Matheson

    Unseen areas are troublesome for police and first responders: Rooms can harbor dangerous gunmen, while collapsed buildings can conceal survivors. Now Bounce Imaging, founded by an MIT alumnus, is giving officers and rescuers a safe glimpse into the unknown. In July, the Boston-based startup will release its first line of tactical spheres, equipped with cameras and sensors, which can be tossed into potentially hazardous areas to instantly transmit panoramic images of those areas back to a smartphone.

  • Security camerasNew fog chamber offers testing options which could improve security cameras

    Fog can play a key role in cloaking military invasions and retreats and the actions of intruders. This is why physical security experts seek to overcome fog, but it is difficult to field test security cameras, sensors, or other equipment in fog that is often either too thick or too ephemeral. Until now, collecting field test data in foggy environments was time-consuming and costly. Sandia Lab researchers thought it would be more efficient to develop a controlled-fog environment for sensor testing – and they have developed a fog chamber — one of the world’s largest — that meets the needs of the military, other government agencies, and industry: The chamber is in a tunnel owned by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

  • BusinessU.S. surveillance policies cost U.S. tech sector more than $35 billion in sales

    New report says the U.S. tech industry has under-performed as a result of concerns about the U.S. government’s electronic surveillance. The report estimates that the total economic impact on the U.S. tech sector of U.S. surveillance practices exceeds $35 billion annually. The report recommends policymakers level the playing field for the U.S. tech sector by implementing a series of reforms such as increasing the transparency of its surveillance practices, opposing government efforts to weaken encryption or introduce backdoors in software, and strengthening its mutual legal assistance treaties with other nations.

  • Quick Take // By Ben FrankelSnowden fallout: Revelations forced U.K. to pull out agents from “hostile countries”

    The British security services had to pull out agents from “hostile countries” as a result of information the Chinese and Russian intelligence services obtained when they gained access to the millions of top-secret NSA files Edward Snowed was carrying with him when he fled to Honk Kong and then to Russia. Snowden assured journalists who interviewed him that the Chinese and Russian intelligence services would not be able to access these files because he encrypted them with the highest encryption methods available. Security experts commented that he was either naïve or disingenuous – because he must have known, or should have known, that the cyber capabilities these two countries would make it relatively easy for them to crack the encrypted files he was carrying with him. We now know that these security experts were right.

  • SurveillanceAdministration rejects criticism of NSA’s surveillance of foreign hackers

    Just two years after the Edward Snowden leaks exposed the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, another report released last Friday from the Snowden files shares information about the NSA’s efforts to track foreign hackers. As with the NSA’s controversial foreign surveillance program which kept metadata records of suspected foreign terrorists’ conversations with Americans, the NSA’s hacker program may incidentally gather Americans’ private information from the files of foreign hackers.