back to article UK cops must justify using new mobile interception tech

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has bought technology that will allow it to intercept and shut off communications without the help of telecoms companies, according to media reports. The MPS has acquired a surveillance system that enables data sent over a communications network to be intercepted within an area approximately …

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Thats ok then

Under the Human Rights Act, individuals are guaranteed the right to privacy surrounding their communications other than if a public authority, such as the police, believe it necessary to interfere with that right "in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

Ah nice and broad then. You could envisage ANY scenario within those guidelines which the police could use grounds for interception. Why don't the government just have a law which states the truth for a change - "We can intercept anything you do, and you cannot do bugger all about it". Would save a few trees in the process to boot.

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I'm more interested in the bit where they can shut down phone networks. The Telecommunications act has something to say about that, of cause. Mainly it's an offense to do so, and the police are not immune to prosecution if they break the law.

Why? Well, let's say I'm within the affected radius and I find a guy, grey faced, collapsed on the floor not breathing. What do I do? Get my mobile and call 112 (and shout for help, but if there's problems near by, people maybe busy getting to cover). So that call had better get through without any messing about as this is a guy who has had a heart attack and could well be dead within a few minutes.

Or are they saying they can block specific phones only? Or is this system smart enough to allow emergency calls through... and will it know all the phone numbers for hospitals, fire stations, ambulance centers, GP's and so on?

Some how I doubt it.

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Big Brother

@Thats ok then

Yep, let's hear it for Weasel Clauses! "You have these rights, apart from the times when we decide that you shouldn't be allowed them"

"When's that?"

"Oh, whenever we feel like it..."

This is what worries me about the idea of this country having a written Constitution, it's a great idea, but unless rights are stated as absolutes, this sort of weaseling means that rights are only granted at the behest of the state and can be taken away at their whim :-(

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Holmes

Trust me, I'm a copper...

"...we can re-assure those who live and work in London that any activity we undertake is in compliance with legislation and codes of practice" - ah well that's all fine and dandy then. Move along! Nothing to see here!

On the other hand, try telling the above to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes or those of the many others who have died at the hands of Met Plods through incompetence, prejudice or political motivation. I wouldn't trust the Met with a rusty tin opener, especially under the oversight of recent supine Home Secretaries, Tory & Labour.

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The keyword is "square"

So 10 sq. km is not 6,2 sq.miles, but a bit less than 4 sq. miles... (couldn't find the time to convert to nanoWales, sorry 'bout that).

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Holmes

Blah Blah RIPA Blah

And who is responsible for enforcing RIPA... ? The Police.

They have demonstrated themselves to be remarkably uninterested in enforcing RIPA if it conflicts with their corruption...

viz; "RIPA is not a policing priority", "There was a measure of implied consent for interception", "RIPA has not kept pace with modern methods of communications", and "I'm a senior officer, I don't open bin bags of evidence, I'm far too busy shagging the press secretary" being among the exuses offered in recent years for refusing to investigate RIPA offences.

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Anonymous Coward

They've bought it, they'll use it.

Plod are not supposed to go out without ID badges but they regularly do and when they do no one is ever held accountable.

Plod not supposed to use excessive force but they do and even if there is some kind of token investigation (Menezes, Tomlinson, etc) no one is ever really held accountable.

Etc.

A fish rots from the head.

Shut them down, have everybody over the rank of Constable re-apply for their jobs, and anyone with any hint of being a regular down the Lodge is automatically disqualified.

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Meh

One or two systems beyond Plods reach.

One system Plod will find hard to hack - satellite phones and two way radio's. VHF CB units have a short range, but so do any attempts at jamming them due the limitations of frequencies used. Portable Marine radio's also can't easily be attacked and the costs are relatively low.

As i wrote yesterday, hacked TP Link WiFi base units, with high output RF, powered by batteries and carried around in backpacks would circumvent Datongs little box of tricks. This system has been used in the USA and Canada with success at G20 meetings.

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Anonymous Coward

Radio Frequency is fully determined

Rf signature analysis, (capturing the initial unique microsecond wanderings of your vhf cb units transmission) will give you a reproduceable individual MASINT id <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_and_signature_intelligence> take it for granted that there will be a SIGINT unit somewhere near your demo, most large cities have installed mesh sigint as far as we can guess from open source news. (Stockholm had these from the 1950's!)

hacked WiFi is a bit better than 2 way radio, but the entire rf environment is nowadays recordable and most probably recorded. Dr Tongs box is most likely a software defined radio 'fake GSM BTS' so switch OFF roaming, or better still , leave all your trendy devices at home, with the batteries out (sorry iPhone users) and have a nice peaceful cup of tea instead. more in Czech at places like <http://www.hack4fun.eu/2011/05/fake-gsm-base-station-imsi-catcher/>

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like they are exploiting a hole that needs to be plugged...

...before some hacker uses the same exploits.

Which is where these guys probably got their tricks from.

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Pirate

Sounds like they are exploiting a hole that needs to be plugged...

I guess they use the hole that was presented at US hacker conferences misleading all GSM phones into using 'fake' networks.

It's a good thing that was presented, pretending there is no hole which would therefore never be abused is a thing of the past.

What I do wonder: do they have enough cooperation from the telco's to have access to the encryption keys or will a (very tiny) amount of phones suddenly start to warn about using an unencrypted network?

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I ain't no lawyer...

...but if a "right" can be suspended by the government without due process of law and review, then it is not a right to begin with.

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Facepalm

Gotta love old F*ck Georgie

"Folks, I hate to spoil your fun but...there's no such thing as rights. They're imaginary. We made 'em up. Rights are an idea. They're just imaginary. But if you think you do have rights, let me ask you this, where do they come from?"

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erm.... no need to be a lawyer to understand that. George Carlin explained it perfectly - You have no rights. If a right REALLY were a fundamental human right, then it would not ever be possible under any circumstances to revoke that right. Clearly, all governments reserve for themselves special circumstances where they CAN revoke those 'rights', so clearly they are not rights at all, just concessions that the government of the day makes to the citizenry.

Equally clearly, history shows us that the citizenry need to actively push to hold on to the 'rights' that the government of the day bestows upon them, because the default mode of ANY ruling caste is to abrogate the rights of the governed.

The only way to avoid a police state is to refuse to be afraid of the (mostly invented) bogeyman terrorist/child molester/criminal mastermind, and to recognise that the powers that be cause at least as much harm to society as the bogeymen they build up as villains

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Holmes

Oooh

I bet that bt of kit will never be used without going through the proper channels Guvn'r.

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Big Brother

In a fast moving situation

"any time law enforcement bodies such as the police want to access such communication information proportionality needs to be considered. In a fast moving situation, such as the threat of public riots, assessing these trade offs can clearly be a complex activity"

What constitutes a threat of public riots? A popular protest against the vested interests of the establishment? Who does the assessing? The Home Secratary of an unpopular* government? The police chief who ordered the kettling of a peaceful demonstration?

* I'm not referring to any particular government, past or present. Just highlighting how loosely worded legislation could be used by a future draconian one.

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With wire tapping don't the police have to apply per phone number rather than say 'any phone used by X'?

Shouldn't the courts reject any request which is excessive?

Wouldn't a reasonable person judge tapping all mobile communications within an area excessive just as they would (should) reject an application for the police to open all post and parcels passing through a sorting office on the off chance someone is sending something illegal through the post?

I think it's called fishing. I'm pretty sure the Police are forbidden to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

"Although we do not discuss specific technology or tactics, we can re-assure those who live and work in London that any activity we undertake is in compliance with legislation and codes of practice," it said."

While the MPS can certainly make statements designed to reassure, but whether or not anyone finds them reassuring (or believes them credible) is another matter.

/tinfoilhat

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FAIL

It might be legal under RIPA to intercept, but...

...I was under the impression that the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 s.8(5) forbids the operation of a wireless telegraphy station "likely to involve undue interference with wireless telegraphy."

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, eh?

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Big Brother

Does the Met have a licence for this kit?

This is licenced spectrum, right? Isn't it an offence to transmit without a licence?

I don't know for a fact, but I thought it was.

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Quite right

Yes, it is (an OFCOM class licence exists), and yes it is, most particularly where it can interfere ("undue interference") with lawful - meaning licensed, or licence-exempt - transmissions.

Even if OFCOM granted a licence for the radio under WTA 2006s.8(1), use of it to interfere with lawful transmissions would still fall foul of s.8(5), under which any use to cause undue interference is illegal.

I'm not a lawyer, blah, blah, but that's how I read the Act. I don't think I'm too far off-beam.

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Stop

Not only that but surely they also would have to inadvertently slurp the information of innocent users and by doing so would be exceeding their authority, no?

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Anonymous Coward

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I trust the cops in this country about as far as I can comfortably spit out a plague infested rat.

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Anonymous Coward

I fear the general population currently lacks the confidence that any restraint will be apparent with use..

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Hands up anyone who thinks that there is the slightest chance that permission will be refused and not just rubber-stamped with wholly inadequate controls on usage.

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Anonymous Coward

As usual

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

The plods usual line in cases like this.

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Big Brother

"Give me 6 lines from an honest man"

"and I'll find something to hang him."

No one complains when this sort of thing is used against people we don't like.

The only problem is *whose* definition of "people we don't like" is being used?

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"Police and other law enforcement bodies have the power to intercept communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) subject to approval by the Home Secretary."

Yet another case where the home secretary has bypassed the courts. It frightens me that an elected politician with no formal qualifications or training in law could be given this amount of power. Let's go back to the old system where any such permission had to be granted by a judge.

It's not that I think the judiciary are angels or anything, but there's always very real danger that a politician will have other agendas.

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