back to article No cellphones in cells, you slag! UK.gov moots prison mobe zap law

New legislation to be discussed in Parliament today will compel mobile phone networks to cut off the phones of criminals who use mobile phones in prison. There is no onus on the Prison Service to prove a targeted phone is being used by a specific prisoner; the service will be able to apply to a court for it to be disconnected …

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How do you identify the phone?

So how do the prison authorities identify the phone to the mobile company? If they physically find the phone then they can just confiscate it. If they don't know exactly where the phone is then each prison will need to deploy technology that can triangulate the position of a phone - to ensure it is actually inside - and then pull out its IMEI number. In which case they might just as well deploy jammers or micro-cells.

Sounds like this bit of legislation would be well-worth following up as it is discussed in Parliament - there's a very good chance of some idiotic statements being made for our entertainment.

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Re: How do you identify the phone?

They don't need to identify the phone. Just find an unauthorized SIM and/or IMEI is operating within the prison and have the cell company shut it down. The prisoner would still have the phone, but it would now be useless.

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Re: How do you identify the phone?

Easy - just ask GCHQ ... this should be a no-brainer to ID specific phones within a given location two or three days running and turn them off.

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Re: How do you identify the phone?

Triangulation or whatever might work where the prison is in the middle of nowhere, but many are located in the middle of built up areas. Reflections of signals from walls etc will make it difficult to correctly determine that the phone is being used just inside, or just outside the prison.

I am sure some people living or working near to a prison will find their phone gets blocked.

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Re: How do you identify the phone?

Derrrrrr.....

Each phone has a unique ID built into the hardware that persists sim changes.

Just leave a SDR and pick out the ID from cell tower communication, map the patterns then switch off the ID acceptance at the tower/network....

WTF would you try to triangulate a rarely used mobile phone or try to 'jam' it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How do you identify the phone?

I lost this one after the first paragraph! So the solution is to..... "Just leave a SDR and pick out the ID from cell tower communication, map the patterns then switch off the ID acceptance at the tower/network....".

I assume by "SDR" you mean some monitoring kit (though not sure why the reference to Software Defined Radio) and by "map the patterns" you mean triangulate so that ONLY devices within the walls of the prison are considered illegal (and hence blocked).

So the post re triangulation makes perfect sense to me whilst this one gets a WTF!

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Re: How do you identify the phone?

"and then pull out its IMEI number"

Which can be changed in minutes by anyone with the "right" knowledge. :(

Equipment to locally triangulate location of mobile phones isn't that expensive and is likely to be far more effective.

Of course if a prisoner is caught (or suspected of) having a contraband mobe, they should be transferred to somewhere where there's no coverage.

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Megaphone

Phone call costs

Will this legislation be combined with less punitive charging for the legitimate phones?

My (admittedly limited) understanding is while contraband phones are often used for criminal activity that an inmate would not wish to have monitored they also end up in the hands of those who find the black market's pricing to be far more within their grasp.

EDIT: I realise there will be a school of thought saying that prisoners should not have any contact with the outside world, but it's a world they'll have to live in upon release.

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Anonymous Coward

This is why drones....

are so important to the flow of drugs and cellphones to the prisons.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is why drones....

Drones have to push a lot of air to stay up and that kinda makes them noisy. I propose black microblimps - just enough propulsion to make it controllable - dropping stuff in at night...

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Grouty would use a Lumia 930

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xyz

Nobby "bonecrusher" Smith writes...

The missus got me a walky talky off Amazon yesterday.... gotta range of 10kms and no contract. I just tell her who's to get nailed when she's shopping at the Asda down the road. Blindin!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nobby "bonecrusher" Smith writes...

errr - sorry to tell you this Bonecrusher - but while you're inside - it's your wife that's getting nailed

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Holmes

Er, prison...

... so Faraday cage? Or don't they use bars anymore?

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Re: Er, prison...

No, they don't. Bars are a suicide risk.

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Trollface

Re: Er, prison...

And that's a problem? How? Judging from many commentards statements here, suicide should probably be an alternative choice for prison time.

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Re: Er, prison...

This week a Belgian paedo was granted the right to been euthanised ( is that the correct word) so maybe he should have been given a cell with bars years ago.

http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/60443/date-set-for-rapist-and-murderers-mercy-killing

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PCS

Re: Er, prison...

Of course they use bars but given that the walls are at least 30cm thick any signal should be cut right down.

Having spent some time at Her Majesty's Pleasure I know that mobiles are there, inside the cells, but the Prison Officers do use trackers to trace them. When there is a lock-down during normal rec-time you know that somebodies cell is being searched....

As for the Faraday cage idea, not bad. The cell blocks are built from pre-cast concrete so it shouldn't be too hard to incorporate the wiring into the structure.

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Re: Er, prison... @Khaptain

This should be an option for any prisoner with a sentence over a certain length of time. For me, death would be infinitely more preferable than being incarcerated for any length of time, let alone periods of years.*

* I would also prefer death to long-term care in hospital/care home.

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Re: Er, prison... @Khaptain

I don't think the idea of punishment is to give you the option of the one you find more preferable.

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Happy

Re: Er, prison... @Khaptain

Maybe not, but it would cut costs and recividism

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Er, prison... @Khaptain

Being quite serious; having had two relatives in care homes with dementia, and knowing our idiotic British laws, I have taken appropriate steps for when the time comes and test my memory, short and long term, regularly.

Prison is quite another matter.

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phone tracing

They could use a dummy base-station, which in turn, impersonates each network. In the GSM and LTE standards, there is no mechanism for the network to securely identify itself to the phone. This will give them the phone's IMEI, and the SIM's IMSI. From there, they can ask the networks to nuke both.

If they are feeling vindictive, they could (ask the network to) check if the SIM has been topped-up via credit-card, or by calling a centre on another phone, and chase after whoever owns them.

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Joke

stingray...

No, not the Gerry Anderson production....

P.

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Solution

I know that in the U.S. there was a case where a criminal behind bars used a cell phone to arrange the murder of a witness against him. I think that they should move the prisons to locations without any cell towers in range.

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Re: Solution

That would be extremely expensive. A modern prison of decent size represents the better part of a £100M of expenditure. Many British prisons, new and old, are located near major population centres. Moving them all to areas without cellphone coverage would cost billions. Not to mention that in a country as densely populated as the UK, there aren't that many areas without coverage that aren't national parks.

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Re: Solution

Good idea. A disused slate or coal mine, for example.

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Re: Solution

Great idea. Move the prisons to places without cell towers. You do realize that most prisons were built well before cell towers were invented. Perhaps if we ask all the inmates to pitch in they can move all prisons to the moon, brick by brick. I hear they get limited cell reception. How about simply using a signal jammer? or adding 10 years on to discourage use?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Solution

Or one of the aircraft Carriers just pensioned off. Lovely metal walls already in place.

Anchor it off Rockall and they'd onlt be in SatPhone range.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solution

"or adding 10 years on to discourage use?"

10 years on a whole life tariff doesn't discourage anything, even killing other inmates only gets you a concurrent few more

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Joke

Re: Solution

move the prisons to locations without any cell towers in range

Oh, so that's what they were actually after when they moved them to Australia...

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Joke

Re: Solution

Convert the Isle of Wright to a meaga prison and take down all the towers - sorted

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Anonymous Coward

instant wiretap?

Wouldn't the use of a cell phone inside a prison be a good enough reason to grant a wiretap? You'll either find that Joe Criminal is talking to his wife and kids, or talking to someone who is involved in an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Maybe we could have some lifers start calling their MPs.

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Re: instant wiretap?

My thought exactly. It'd be much easier for them to take out huge criminal enterprises by finding whoever is still out there. And turning a criminal into an unknowing snitch would cause them to be ostracized from their former groups.

I'm pretty sure they wouldn't need a search warrant to intercept all the call since it is government property and all.

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Re: instant wiretap?

Although thinking about it, it is probably that the police aren't so much motivated to prevent crime but rather to make a big show of arresting people to boost their numbers and get a bigger pile of tax-payer cash. Besides, if the crime rate is low, how can they justify the additional budget to buy wire-tapping gear and CCTV cameras?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: instant wiretap?

You've got a point.

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Anonymous Coward

And I thought prisons were somewhat secure...

"In 2013 a total of 7,451 seizures were made of illicit mobile phones or SIM cards in prisons, according to the MoJ."

So that's north of 20 phones/sims per day. How? I mean, seriously! If they can't spot mobile phones being smuggled in, what about drugs, knives, maybe firearms?

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Re: And I thought prisons were somewhat secure...

I have always been under the impression that Prison Authorities do not go overboard in preventing access to drugs as it helps to keep the population in a more manageable mental condition.

I am also under the impression that if something is wanted badly enough it can be obtained in many prisons ( there are dishonest people in many prisons!) although exactly how one would smuggle a firearm in I can't imagine. Not many gun shaped body cavities that I can think of.

Regarding drugs, I seem to remeber reading a report some years ago about the high levels of prisoners who are prescribed 'psychiatric' drugs particularly if they are trouble makers.

I remember visiting a friend in the '70s who was being treated with Largactil; I got more response from the table between us, the inmates referred to it as 'The Liquid Cosh'.

Surprised the article made no mention of the Government citing paedo's or terrists as additional reasons for clamping down on mobes in the nick.

Personally I would have thought that an installation in every prison provided by the boys form GCHQ would have been better than banning mobes, it would give them something useful to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And I thought prisons were somewhat secure...

"I am also under the impression that if something is wanted badly enough it can be obtained in many prisons ( there are dishonest people in many prisons!) although exactly how one would smuggle a firearm in I can't imagine. Not many gun shaped body cavities that I can think of"

You forget the low paid staff are always willing to "turn the other way", if you've ever worked for SERCO or G4S you'd know a £20 note is almost 10% of what you get for your 50 hour week

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Re: And I thought prisons were somewhat secure...

a gun is little more then a small pipe with a cartage and a nail to strike the pin...

I can think of a couple of pipe-shaped cavities.

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Anonymous Coward

It can be workable

It's a simple matter of blacklisting phones thought to be used inside prisons. The call detail records produced by the MSC include cell info, so its easy enough to differentiate those phones that are clearly used outside of prison. But what about people unfortunate enough to be living in the vicinity of a prison? A whitelist would be required for them. Now to the issues:

1. The time and expense to the networks in complying with the law. The networks have asked for legislation in order to buy themselves time.

2. Useless for time critical blocking of calls. It takes just one call to arrange a murder.

If the time critical blocking of calls is required then only active measures, inside the prison, will do.

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Re: It can be workable

"But what about people unfortunate enough to be living in the vicinity of a prison?"

If the phone is regularly appearing on other base stations then it can be discounted from being inside the premises in question.

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They could just use jammers

But then, all mobiles wouldn't work anymore.

Including the ones of the guards.

If they only disable the "unauthorized" ones, then a helpful guard can still sell err... lease...I mean lend an inmate his personal phone so that the poor guy can call his daughter and sing "Happy Birthday", while telling her he'll be back from his business trip soon.

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Re: They could just use jammers

Why do the guards need cellphones whilst on duty? I presume that they have access to fixed lines within their offices and walkie talkies or similar whilst doing their rounds.

Jammers would be the obvious solution, or is there something that I don't know about that requires a cell phone on duty.

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Re: They could just use jammers

Why do the guards need cellphones whilst on duty?

It's a moot point because it's illegal for anyone to take a mobile phone onto prison property, not just for prisoners.

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Re: They could just use jammers

"But then, all mobiles wouldn't work anymore.

Including the ones of the guards."

Guards aren't supposed to be using mobes within the premises. That's what their comms radios are for.

New Zealand has authorised jammers in jails, with the direct result that a large part of an Auckland suburb has no coverage thanks to the presence of Mt Eden prison. That's something like 10,000 people affected _outside_ the walls.

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Update

When I was researching the story I asked lots of technical questions but the MOJ, perhaps understandably said that they didn't want to go into details.

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Re: Update

Ah... you got stonewalled then. Seems it's the same no matter what country you're in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Update

Suggest you have a look a Cobham Surveillance products - specifically the lines they acquired with the purchase of MMI research.

A patent search on "M M I Res" suggests they use spoof base stations to capture device IMSI / IMEI details - these are transmitted prior to network authentication.

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Happy

Moving Prisons

Neddie Seagoon already thought of that one..

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