Courtesy of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  A stingray, made by Harris Corp. Courtesy of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

A legal fight over the government’s use of a secret surveillance tool has provided new insight into how the controversial tool works and the extent to which Verizon Wireless aided federal agents in using it to track a suspect.

Court documents in a case involving accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden describe how the wireless provider reached out remotely to reprogram an air card the suspect was using in order to make it communicate with the government’s surveillance tool so that he could be located.

Rigmaiden, who is accused of being the ringleader of a $4 million tax fraud operation, asserts in court documents that in July 2008 Verizon surreptitiously reprogrammed his air card to make it respond to incoming voice calls from the FBI and also reconfigured it so that it would connect to a fake cell site, or stingray, that the FBI was using to track his location.

The secretive technology, generically known as a stingray or IMSI catcher, allows law enforcement agents to spoof a legitimate cell tower in order to trick nearby mobile phones and other wireless communication devices like air cards into connecting to the stingray instead of a phone carrier’s legitimate tower. When devices connect, stingrays can see and record their unique ID numbers and traffic data, as well as information that points to the device’s location.

FBI’s Smartphone Surveillance Tool Revealed | DFI News.

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