• SurveillanceFeds: We can read all your e-mail, and you’ll never know

    By Clark D. Cunningham

    Fear of hackers reading private e-mails in cloud-based systems like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo has recently sent regular people and public officials scrambling to delete entire accounts full of messages dating back years. What we don’t expect is our own government to hack our e-mail — but it’s happening. Federal court cases going on right now are revealing that federal officials can read all your e-mail without your knowledge. For example, in the case of U.S. v. Ravelo, pending in Newark, New Jersey, the government used a search warrant to download the entire contents of a lawyer’s personal cellphone – more than 90,000 items including text messages, e-mails, contact lists, and photos. When the phone’s owner complained to a judge, the government argued it could look at everything (except for privileged lawyer-client communications) before the court even issued a ruling. The judge in Ravelo is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on the feds’ arguments sometime in October. All Americans should be watching carefully to what happens next in these cases – the government may be already watching you without your knowledge.

  • SurveillanceSwiss approve broader surveillance powers for the government

    A majority of 65.5 percent of Swiss voters have on Sunday approved a new surveillance law, agreeing with the government’s argument that that the country’s security services needed more powers in an increasingly dangerous world. Relative to other European countries, the Swiss police and intelligence agencies have had limited investigative powers. For example, the law which was updated on Sunday had banned phone tapping and e-mail surveillance under any circumstances.

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  • Border securityCBP MVSS border surveillance system: Another border program mired in delays

    By Robert Lee Maril

    Political parties debate crucial immigration issues, including a call for a new border wall, but an essential component — frequently neglected in the run up to the November elections — is the efficacy of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract acquisition and management process. What is frequently overlooked is the “business side” of CBP – but the business side of CBP is crucial to any immigration policy. CBP agents and officers finally are benefiting from the much-delayed delivery of the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) surveillance technology program, but the status of the Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) and Ultra-Light Aircraft Detection (ULAD) surveillance technology programs has not been ascertained. After many needless Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) delays and problematic contract management decisions, both the MVSS program, along with the Mobile Surveillance Capabilities (MSC) program, now appear to be dead in the water. 

  • DronesTracking low-flying unmanned aerial systems in cities

    Airspace for the flying public today is perpetually congested yet remarkably safe, thanks in no small part to a well-established air traffic control system that tracks, guides, and continuously monitors thousands of flights a day. When it comes to small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as commercial quadcopters, however, no such comprehensive tracking system exists. And as off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft — especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.

  • DronesRules governing targeted killing by U.S. drones need clarifying

    Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has dramatically increased use of unmanned drones, developing technology to target and kill those identified as being terrorist leaders. Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies, a new report finds.

  • iOS vulnerabilityIsraeli tech company’s spyware turns UAE activist’s iPhone into a self-tracking device

    Two University of Toronto researchers have uncovered an iPhone-based attack on Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent United Arab Emirates human rights defender. The attack employed spyware produced by NSO Group — an Israeli technology company founded by former members of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s electronic surveillance branch – which is sold to government for the purpose of spying on their citizens.

  • SurveillanceMany sections of Baltimore are under secret, constant aerial video surveillance by BPD

    The Baltimore Police Department has secretly deployed a surveillance system using planes and powerful cameras that can continuously record 30-square-mile sections of the city at once. The technology, which is run by a private company, was originally developed for the Defense Department for use in Iraq. It stores the video footage for an undetermined amount of time, and police can use it to retroactively track any pedestrian or vehicle within the surveillance area.

  • DronesTechnical problems rather than operator errors cause most drone accidents

    Research has found that technical problems rather than operator errors are behind the majority of drone accidents, leading to a call for further safeguards for the industry. One of the researchers said the findings illustrated the need for further airworthiness requirements for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), as well as the mandatory reporting of all accidents or incidents. “Understanding what happens to drones, even those that don’t cause damage to people or property, is essential to improve safety,” he said.

  • DronesPolice seized drones trying to smuggle contraband into London prison

    The police have seized two drones carrying drugs and mobile phones as they were making their way toward the all-male Pentonville jail in Islington, north London. Drones were increasingly being used to smuggle items into prisons in England and Wales. Figures showed there were thirty-three incidents involving devices in 2015, compared to two in 2014 and none in 2013.bDrugs, phones, mobile chargers, and USB cards were among the items discovered.

  • DronesThe political role of drone strikes in U.S. grand strategy

    By Jacqueline L. Hazelton

    Years of debate on the issue of U.S. drone strikes show that many Americans have reservations. People are concerned that drone strikes devalue non-American lives, dangerously expand executive power, and drive terrorism and anti-Americanism. The concerns Americans have about these kinds of drone attacks – apparently unilateral, apparently violating the norm of state sovereignty, and conducted without a formal justice process — reflect well on a public wondering what the U.S. role in the world should be. But assessing the value of drone strikes requires looking beyond the attacks themselves to first identify and prioritize U.S. interests and threats. Only in that context is it possible to decide whether one supports or opposes drone strikes for what they may gain the United States politically.

  • IntelligenceCENTCOM’s assessment of U.S. anti-ISIS efforts too rosy: Congressional panel

    A congressional joint task force (JTF) investigating allegations of intelligence manipulation at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) last week released an initial report detailing persistent problems in 2014 and 2015 with CENTCOM analysis of U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi Security Forces and combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The JTF found that intelligence products approved by senior CENTCOM leaders typically provided a more positive depiction of U.S. antiterrorism efforts than was warranted by facts on the ground and were consistently more positive than analysis produced by other elements of the intelligence community.

  • European security Germany to search refugees' phones to establish identity, spot suspicious connections

    German interior minister Thomas de Maizière will next week announce a new German anti-terror steps, which, among other things, will require refugees and asylum-seekers arriving in Germany without a passport to surrender their smartphones – and all the passwords and security pin numbers associated with the phones – so German security agencies could check the owners’ social media accounts. The security services in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands already routinely examine refugees’ mobile phones to establish a refugee’s identity.

  • DronesSuccessful flight test of UAV with mass-actuated controls

    For the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle that uses moving weights in its wings, instead of traditional control surfaces or ailerons to turn, was successfully flight-tested. A recently graduated University of Texas at Arlington student  used existing UTA research to design, build, and test a UAV that uses mass actuation — weights that move back and forth within the wings to change the center of gravity from side to side — to turn while airborne.

  • Tracking extremistsNew tool keeps track of violent groups without having to geolocate the tweets

    Researchers have developed new sentiment analysis algorithms which can monitor the social network Twitter in search of violent groups. The system analyzes both the messages these individuals share and how their relationships develop. The police and other law enforcement agencies could use the tool to detect critical points, threats, and areas with concentrations of potentially dangerous people.

  • ISISISIS using drones with explosives, spy cameras: Pentagon

    The Pentagon says that ISIS fighters are have been posing a growing threat to U.S. and Iraqi forces by using small commercial drones to carry improvised explosives devices (IEDs) or surveillance cameras. These drones are especially threatening because they can evade detection. The growing threat led the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency, the Pentagon’s office charged with keeping tab on and countering IEDs, to ask Congress for permission to reallocate $20 million to provide money for a counter-drone program.