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Police Are Using Radar Devices To See Inside Homes

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In December 2014, in a federal appeals court in Denver, officers made it known they had used a radar device in order to “see through” walls before entering the house and arresting a man wanted for violating his parole. Enter the RANGE-R; a handheld radar device used by U.S. law enforcement agencies to detect movement behind walls.

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Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Moff testified he used a Range-R to detect that someone was inside. At least 50 U.S law enforcement agencies have equipped their officers with the RANGE-R and have been doing so for over two years. Federal contract records show that the Marshals Service began buying the RANGE-R in 2012 and spent at least $180,000 on the devices.

The RANGE-R looks like a fancy stud finder and uses three antennas, two sending signals and one to receiver. When placed on a wall, the device transmits a radar pulse through the wall and reads back the waves returned. No map or diagram of the inside is displayed. Instead, the device detects movement and can tell you how far away an object is. The RANGE-R does not work through metal but, according to their site, it can

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penetrate most common building wall, ceiling or floor types including poured concrete, concrete block, brick, wood, stucco glass, adobe, dirt, etc.

Public Left Out

range-rThe agencies have been using these devices with little notice to the courts and without any disclosure to the public as to when the devices are used. A judge in Denver expressed concerns that agents had used the RANGE-R without a search warrant and warned that,

the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.

Ideally these devices can be used to keep officers safe when storming buildings or rescuing hostages. However, privacy advocates and judges alike have expressed concerns about how these devices are used and why they have been doing so without public review. The use of this device without a warrant appears to stand in defiance of the 2001 Supreme Court ruling that Constitution generally bars police from using thermal imaging to scan the inside of a building without the use of a warrant. The ruling specifically noted that it also applied to radar-based systems that were in development.

The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic. Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.

– Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist

This is another case of military technology being adopted for civilian policing. RANGE-R is not the only device that peers through walls. Other devices exist that are more advanced and capable of displaying a three-dimensional layout of where people are located inside the building. These devices were designed for the use in Iraq and Afghanistan and are making their way into the hands of state and federal officers.

When U.S. Marshals Services tracked a man, wanted for violating his parole, to a house in Wichita, they used the RANGE-R to detect if someone was in the house. No mention of the devices is made in the report; instead the report only states that officers “developed reasonable suspicion that Denson was in the residence.” The man identified as Steven Denson was arrested and charged with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside the house. Denson’s lawyer sought to have the gun charges removed, in part because the search began with the use of the RANGE-E without a warrant. During which the judge expressed concerns used the device without a warrant and was surprised by the technology.

Privacy advocates want to know how a judge could be surprised by such a powerful surveillance tool when it’s be around for at least two years, and how these devices have been and will be used in the future.

Image from Shutterstock

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  1. Illutian Kade

    January 22, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Notice how they also happened to find firearms.

    They’ll probably spin it in such a way as to say: Without this device we wouldn’t have known and could have entered into a hostile situation. Therefore, we cannot disclose their use because the suspects could use simple material like aluminum foil to shield rooms they are hiding in.

    We need to have the authority to violate **everyone’s** fourth amendment rights to keep us safe.

    You know, just like how the TSA sexually assaults everyone (if I touch you in the groin without your express permission, I’ve just sexually assaulted you; and you would win in a court room.). Because “oh noes, da tay-row-ists are gonna git us”.

    “Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have
    been eroded.” – Friedrich August von Hayek

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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