Cellphone Use in DC (and elsewhere)

It is no secret that Washington, D.C., and the whole DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area has the highest concentration of foreign intelligence officers in the U.S. and perhaps worldwide, considering number of officers per capita.  The real action is along Embassy Row and the Russian embassy.  The FBI teams track these officers, and in turn the officers carry out their collection missions.

With this phenomenon, there is of course frequent use of technology to monitor communications on both sides.  The key here is the distinction between mass, anonymous surveillance -- i.e., scooping up traffic to analyze later should someone raise suspicion -- and targeted, intentional surveillance of individuals, such as policymakers, diplomats, contractors, etc.  The Chinese, for example, are very interested in new technologies in the defense industry, and their presence among the Beltway Bandit Corridor (Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, SCIC) is known.

There are so many civilian contractors at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and scattered in nondescript buildings in Falls Church, Vienna, Tysons Corner, with signs that just say "Headquarters," planning espionage is not difficult.  The civilians live nearby and frequent the same business establishments.  Hence, a lot of human intelligence collection is at work, and for the most part, mass electronic surveillance is secondary for foreign actors.  They instead apply electronic surveillance here in the area, in close proximity to specific targets, while their departments at home launch "mass hacks of cell phones" from abroad similar to our NSA efforts, though a few years behind in overall breadth and sophistication.  Still, many devices are inexpensive and effective for targeted surveillance.

The Washington Free Beacon summarizes here.  RT updates here.  Descriptions of inexpensive equipment.

 

Cell phone information gathered by the program shows major anomalies in the D.C.-area indicating that a third-party is tracking en-masse a large number of cellphones. Such a tactic could be used to clone phones, introduce malware to facilitate spying, and track government phones being used by officials in the area.

 

Comparison to Journalism

How do some, but not all, thoughtful and aware contractors respond to this threat?  They do not carry or use a cellphone.  Despite the idea that one must always be connected to the Cloud and 4G network and available for calls 24 hours per day, recall there was a time long ago, before 2000, when there were no cellphones.  People lived, worked, managed their personal life and families, socialized, planned vacations, traveled abroad, and communicated with friends and colleagues on land lines and in person.  Business did not slow.  Few got lost.  And there was no threat of electronically tracking one's movements through the city.  And yet, the Privacy Movement today, does not return to non-digital life.  Instead, it updates, supplements more updates, adds tools, and counters using more digital strength.  The privacy minds of today are disordered by mathematics and science, rewriting the Art of War as the Science of War.

Remember the old Dexter episode when a main target took the battery out of his flip phone?  That aired in 2010.  Since the iPhone battery cannot be taken out easily and quickly, some older models, for secondary lines, make sense.  All the Blackberry phones have removable batteries, even the latest Priv.  The re-released Nokia 3310 is an excellent idea.  The concept of "return to the typewriter" includes retrieving "low tech," yes, on occasion an actual typewriter, as the Russians have done, among many other moves like using pay phones and international calling cards (Falls Church, with high immigrant population has unlimited calling cards that may be bought in cash from bodegas, and there are pay phones available around town), sending handwritten notes, and driving vehicles free of computer systems.

The problem in Privacy Movement today is self-described "technologists" move only one way: forward.  They ignore moving backward to retrieve workable and often preferable low tech options, depending on mission and purpose.  The Google car designers, when adversaries hack and drive models off cliffs, would go back to computer science and reinforce computer security.  Would anyone under targeted surveillance or concerned about mass surveillance wait for the new version, drive it for three months, then wait again for the next update following the next breach?  Or would she purchase a used 2004 Ford F150 and not worry about hacking?  Apply this thinking to phones, emails, and texts, even when lounging on the Facebook campus, thinking of safety.  The thought of getting hacked by a machete then set on fire in Algeria may be a distant thought when one is consumed with digital life, not considering the consequences for dangerous trades.  Turn attention to the US-Mexico border: there are beheadings, car bombings, and kidnappings and assassinations, and reporters covering topics along the border would be wise to treat cartels, for example, as equipped with intelligence collectors.