Planes Gather Cellphone Data to Find Criminals

The Justice Department is collecting data from thousands of cellphones through high-tech gear deployed on airplanes that mimics communications towers, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The newspaper said the hunt for information about criminal suspects is also collecting data from many innocent Americans.

Citing sources familiar with the operations, the newspaper said the U.S. Marshal’s Service program, which became fully operational in 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports to collect the data. The airports were not identified in the Journal story.

The planes are equipped with devices that mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting unique registration information. The 2-foot-square devices allow investigators to collect data from thousands of cellphones in a single flight, the Journal reported. The devices collect their identifying information and general location.

The Justice Department would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a program to the Journal. An official told the newspaper that discussion of such matters would allow criminal suspects of foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance capabilities, adding that Justice Department agencies comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval.

Calling it “a dragnet surveillance program,” Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “It’s inexcusable and it’s likely — to the extent judges are authorizing it — they have no idea of the scale of it.”

The device being used by the Marshals Service identifies itself as having the closest, strongest signal — though it doesn’t — and causes all the cellphones that can detect its signal to send in their unique registration information. Cellphones are programmed to connect automatically to the strongest cell tower signal.

Phone companies are cut out in the search for suspects. Law enforcement has found that asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect can be slow and inaccurate. This program allows the government to get that information itself.

People familiar with the program told the Journal they do get court orders to search for phones, but it isn’t clear whether those orders describe the methods used because the orders are sealed.

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Massachusetts school deploys ‘shooter detection system’

METHUEN Massachusetts (Reuters) - A Massachusetts school has introduced a security system designed to alert authorities and administrators when shots are fired in the building, the first of its kind in the United States, according to the manufacturer.

The technology, adapted from a system in use by the U.S. military in war zones, is being marketed to schools and other public spaces across the country after a spate of deadly mass shootings.

Authorities in Methuen, about 30 miles north of Boston, demonstrated the Guardian Active Shooter Detection System on Tuesday, when the school was closed for the Veterans Day holiday, with a man firing blanks in the school’s hallways.

After the shots rang out, police coordinated a response over radios and an audience, which included Massachusetts Democratic representative Niki Tsongas and police chiefs from across the region, watched as circles pinpointing the shots appeared on a floor plan projected in the school’s auditorium.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure our schools are sanctuaries for learning,” Tsongas said ahead of the demonstration. “From Columbine to Sandy Hook, unspeakable acts of violence have occurred in our schools, and gun violence is now a major concern for our children, our educators and our parents,” she said.

U.S. schools have ramped up security in recent decades, installing metal detectors and surveillance systems to counter a surge in shootings. New England saw one of the worst such attacks in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 elementary students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, said a system like the one in Methuen could lead to fewer injuries and perhaps save lives.

Shooter Detection Systems’ CEO Christian Connors said the system was the first of its kind in the country, and that the company was talking to the federal government about its wider use. The system costs $50,000 to $100,000 for a school of Methuen’s size, Connors said.

The system consists of an outdoor acoustic system and 50 to 60 smoke-detector-size sensors installed in hallways and classrooms, he said. It also uses infrared cameras to detect muzzle flashes, he said.

The technology was developed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, an arm of the U.S. Defense Department, and Raytheon, which has deployed similar systems in Iraq and Afghanistan, the company said.

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Suspects target local NC Ulta shops for expensive perfume

ROCK HILL, S.C. -Nov 12 2014 – Rock Hill police released surveillance video Friday showing a shoplifter leaving a store with $2,700 worth of perfume bottles.

It’s the latest in a string of incidents targeting the Ulta Beauty chain. Authorities are working to see if the cases are connected.

The video shows the man heading straight to the Chanel counter and putting 30 bottles of Chanel perfume in his shopping bag.

Since September, perfume bandits have struck five area Ulta stores in Charlotte, Salisbury and Rock Hill.

Thieves are primarily after the Chanel products which retail at $100 dollars a bottle, on average.

In late September, CMPD released surveillance pictures of two suspects they say hit four Charlotte-area shops in three days.

This week, Salisbury Police released pictures of one suspects holding a bag of stolen bottled in his shopping bag.

Authorities say the suspects are becoming bolder in their perfume pursuit.

Police say the suspect threatened to spray the store employees with mace when confronted at a store in Charlotte in September.

This week, police say, the suspect claimed he had a gun before making his escape.

The suspect in the Salisbury case hit the same store on Tuesday and Thursday, and police say he was seen walking into the store with four females. Police say they distracted the clerk, as the suspect cleared the shelves of perfume.

If you can identify the individuals in the photos, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers.

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USPS Hacked: Postal Service Hit By Cyber Attack

The U.S. Postal Service said today it has been the victim of “a cyber-security intrusion” that exposed the personal information of some 800,000 employees.

The FBI is investigating the source of the attack, but a source briefed on the incident told ABC News it appears to have originated in China and has been going on for the last two months.

The USPS said on its website that the intrusion “is limited in scope and all operations of the Postal Service are functioning normally.”

Employee information, like names, addresses and Social Security numbers, may have been compromised, the USPS said.

The agency said there is “no evidence” any customer credit card information was exposed, but the attack also compromised some call center data and may have swept up names, addresses telephone numbers and email addresses of people who provided that information between January and August this year.

The source told ABC News the attack is suspected to be the work of state actors in China, but said today’s disclosure by the USPS was unrelated to President Obama’s current visit there.

“It’s an unfortunate fact of life these days that every organization connected to the Internet is a constant target for cyber intrusion activity. The United States Postal Service is no different. Fortunately, we have seen no evidence of malicious use of the compromised data and we are taking steps to help our employees protect against any potential misuse of their data,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said. “As a result of this incident we have significantly strengthened our systems against future attacks. We take such threats seriously and regularly take action to protect our networks, our customers’ data and our employees’ information.”

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Police radios to aid principals in crisis situations

MANSFIELD – Each second is critical to first responders when dealing with a crisis in a school building.

Effective communication between law enforcement officers can stop a situation from escalating, or in the worst of situations, be the difference between life and death.

Mansfield police and city school officials recognize this, and the two entities jointly introduced a collaborative effort Wednesday that would allow more effective crisis communication between law enforcement and school administrators.

Mansfield police will provide the district with three police radios, which will be worn by Mansfield High School principal Brad Callender, middle school principal Jason Goings and Sherman Elementary School principal Steven Rizzo.

The principals will use the radios to communicate directly with police in the event a critical situation occurs.

“I think we’ve seen through the years with school shooting incidents that (response) time is definitely a factor,” Mansfield police Chief Ken Coontz said. “If something were to go wrong inside one of the schools, we would have the school administrator talk directly with responding officers to give up-to-the-second information on where the responding officers should arrive.”

The idea, Coontz added, is to eliminate the time it normally takes for an administrator to relay information to a dispatcher, who in turn communicates that to officers.

All three principals received training on how to use the radios.

Coontz said the police department will provide the three radios to the district at no cost. Police hope they can get radios into the district’s remaining five buildings and eventually into other schools in the area.

The collaborative effort represents the most recent attempt by the district to bolster school safety.

Mansfield City Schools employs a school resource officer, as well as part-time school specialists who monitor the hallways and intervene in the case of trouble among students.

The extra safety supervisors, along with the new effort to equip principals with radios, are a part of the district’s state-mandated school safety plan.

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This is how your Gmail account got hacked

It’s rare. On an average day, only nine in 1 million accounts gets stolen. But when it happens, the operation is swift. These are professional criminals at work, looking through your email to steal your bank account information.

The criminals are concentrated in five countries. Most of them live in China, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Africa. But they attack people worldwide, duping them into handing over Gmail usernames and passwords.

Google has effective scans to block them and emergency options to get your account back. But criminals still manage to pull off the attacks.
Here’s some more of what Google found in its three-year study.

In the mind of a hacker

Effective scams work 45% of the time. This number sounds huge, but well-crafted scams can be convincing. They send official-looking emails requesting your login credentials. And sometimes they redirect you to a page that looks like a Google login, but it’s not.

Safety tip: Don’t ever email your username or password — anywhere. And always check the Internet address in the URL above to ensure you’re at the actual Gmail site.

They usually steal your account in less than a day. Once they have your login credentials, the average criminal hijacks your account within seven hours. For an unlucky 20%, the bad guys do it in just 30 minutes. Then they change your password to lock you out.

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Burglars crash vehicle into Aurora store

Aurora police are investigating an early Tuesday morning burglary in which a vehicle was used to ram through the front window of a high-end department store in the city.

The burglars ended up making off with about $40,000 in purses and luggage and causing $20,000 damage to the store.

The burglary occurred at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday at Salvatore Ferragamo in the Chicago Premium Outlets Mall in the 1600 block of Premium Outlets Boulevard.

As Aurora police were responding to an alarm at the store, they saw a Dodge Grand Caravan with heavy front end damage parked on Premium Outlets Boulevard. The vehicle’s doors were open and several purses were laying inside and outside the Caravan.

When additional officers went to the Ferragamo store, they found the exterior entrance smashed in with tire prints leading into the business.

Pictures from security cameras show at least four offenders loading store merchandise into the vehicle after it smashes through the front window. Upon further investigation, it was learned that a mall security guard who was also responding to the alarm spotted the Caravan where police found it, but he apparently was not at a vantage point where he could see the damage to the vehicle so he continued onto the store.

He said that at the time he spotted it, there was a dark-colored sedan parked next to the Caravan with at least two people moving about around the vehicles. Police said that the burglars were apparantly able to back the Caravan out of the store, transfer the merchandise to the other vehicle, and flee before police arrived.

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The Adultery Arms Race

Jay’s wife, Ann, was supposed to be out of town on business. It was a Tuesday evening in August 2013, and Jay, a 36-year-old IT manager, was at home in Indiana with their 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son when he made a jarring discovery. Their daughter had misplaced her iPad, so Jay used the app Find My iPhone to search for it. The app found the missing tablet right away, but it also located all the other devices on the family’s plan. What was Ann’s phone doing at a hotel five miles from their home?

His suspicions raised, Jay, who knew Ann’s passwords, read through her e-mails and Facebook messages. (Like others in this story, Jay asked that his and Ann’s names be changed.) He didn’t find anything incriminating, but neither could he imagine a good reason for Ann to be at that hotel. So Jay started using Find My iPhone for an altogether different purpose: to monitor his wife’s whereabouts.

Two nights later, when Ann said she was working late, Jay tracked her phone to the same spot. This time, he drove to the hotel, called her down to the parking lot, and demanded to know what was going on. Ann told him she was there posing for boudoir photos, with which she planned to surprise him for his upcoming birthday. She said the photographer was up in the room waiting for her.

Jay wanted to believe Ann. They’d been married for 12 years, and she had never given him cause to distrust her. So instead of demanding to meet the photographer or storming up to the room, Jay got in his car and drove home.

Still, something gnawed at him. According to Ann’s e-mails, the boudoir photo shoot had indeed taken place—but on the previous day, Wednesday. So her being at the hotel on Tuesday and again on Thursday didn’t make sense. Unless …

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West Michigan districts use random canine searches to find contraband

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – From alcohol stored inside plastic food containers and marijuana pipes fashioned out of produce, West Michigan school leaders routinely find students trying to hide contraband on district grounds.

And in some instances the discoveries are being made with the help of drug dogs searching buildings in a move that administrators say is equal parts prevention and awareness.

“Every school has drugs in it, this is one of our ways to control that,” Charlie Brown, Rockford Public Schools security director, said of canine searches at the district’s middle and high schools. “We believe it works.”

Rockford is among several West Michigan school systems that hire Interquest Detection Canines of Michigan Inc. to perform the inspections.

The dogs, which are trained to find drugs, alcohol, gun powder-based products, tobacco and medications, also are used locally in Grandville, Forest Hills, East Kentwood and Byron Center schools among 46 districts across the state. East Grand Rapids uses the city’s public safety department to conduct regular searches on its high school campus.

Records obtained by MLive and the Grand Rapids Press under the Freedom of Information Act show the findings by dogs at area schools are relatively low compared to overall student population, but educators believe the more vigilant they are, the better for students.

The public records request showed the discovery of more than 86 prohibited substances or items at the area schools that have used Interquest since 2011. Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana or drug paraphernalia were the most common finds, but dogs also alerted to fireworks and a toy cap gun among other items banned from school property.

The dogs have come up with 28 student code violations at the six Forest Hills high and middle schools, the most in the region. Canine searches at Grandville revealed 26 hits, Kentwood with 22, 10 at Byron Center and Rockford with two. East Grand Rapids searches found no substances or weapons.

There is no mandate for documenting details of what the dogs find and district record-keeping varies, making complete comparisons between districts difficult. The figures also don’t include items found by security staff or administrators during the year.

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Police start random searches of CTA rider bags

Police random searches of CTA passenger bags at some of 145 CTA rail stations began Monday — part of a new police counter-terrorism effort.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has endorsed the searches, saying the “world is different” and New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. were doing explosives searches on their transportation systems.

However, Police News Affairs officials didn’t have much news about the new effort Monday morning.

A spokeswoman for Police News Affairs declined to reveal what stations had been targeted Monday morning, saying “It’s going to be random. We are not disclosing locations because it would be counterproductive to our crime prevention and counterterrorism efforts.”

The spokeswoman did not know if anyone had been arrested yet, or if any passengers had refused to be searched, which means, under new search rules, they would be denied admission to ride CTA trains at the search location.

Earlier it the morning, CTA media relations — which put out the initial joint news release about the “new counterterrorism effort” — referred questions about it to Police News Affairs.

Officials previously have said two “mobile explosives screening teams” would be conducting the random searches. The searches are supposed to take less than a minute each and involve swabbing bags with sticks capable of detecting explosive material.

Critics have said would-terrorists who spot the search teams could merely move on to another station.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has said the agency will be closely monitoring the effort to see if searches are truly random.

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