Surveillance leads to profit in Washington

In a small office in Ashburn, Va., ensconced among the government contractors that make up the Dulles Technology Corridor, a start-up called Babel Street is bringing government-style surveillance to an entirely new market.

The company’s Web crawlers, offered under a subscription called Babel X, trawl some 40 online sources, scooping up data from popular sites such as Instagram and a Korean social media platform as well as inside “dark Web” forums where cybercriminals lurk.

Police departments investigating a crime might use the service to scan posts linked to a certainneighborhood over a specified period of time. Stadium managers use it to hunt for security threats based on electronic chatter.

The Department of Homeland Security, county governments, law enforcement agencies and the FBI use it to keep tabs on dangerous individuals, even when they are communicating in one of more than 200 languages, including emoji.

The firm, staffed by former government intelligence veterans, is part of an insular but thriving cottage industry of data aggregators that operate outside of military and intelligence agencies. The 100-person company said it is profitable, something that is rare for a tech start-up in its third year. (It declined, though, to release financial details.) It recently took on $2.25 million from investors, bringing its total capital raised from investors to just over $5 million.

A U.S. subsidiary of the European software giant SAP is its largest institutional investor.

Businesses like Babel Street have to tread an ethical line to avoid igniting privacy concerns, even though the data they access is generally publicly available on the Internet. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regard the industry’s growth as a worrying proliferation of online surveillance.

“These products can provide a very detailed picture of a person’s private life,” said Matt Cagle, an ACLU lawyer who studies the issue.

Last year, Chicago-based social media aggregator Geofeedia was thrust into the national spotlight when the ACLU published a report alleging it had helped police departments track racially charged protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

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NC College Launches Drone Academy for Public Safety

A North Carolina college is offering a bird’s-eye view to enhanced public-safety innovation with the opening of a drone academy this fall.

Located 50 miles south of Greensboro, Montgomery Community College will launch the NC Public Safety Drone Academy to prepare regional emergency service members and first responders with the needed tools to become effective and well-educated drone pilots.

The college’s drone program got off the ground last year in offering a Part 107 Prep course as well as a basic flight training class for emergency services.

“We decided to legitimize ourselves throughout North Carolina by partnering with the state Division of Aviation, Department of Emergency Services, and several local and state municipalities to create the academy,” MCC Director of Health & Public Safety Riley Beaman said.

Tuition will be waived for emergency/public-safety employees such as sheriff’s deputies, police officers, firefighters and first responders.

The 95-hour academy will focus on drone laws and regulations while offering a hands-on flight school that will expose pilots to:

Simulation Flight Time: grasping drone mechanics and basic operation through simulation;
Real-World Flight Time: after learning the basics, completing real flight time objectives and training;
Live Scenario-based Flight Objectives: focusing on fire, rescue, police, and emergency management situations and scenarios;
UAV Mobile Command Center operations training.
The college deploys a variety of more than 40 drones of all sizes – from microdrones to quadcopters, specifically the industrial grade DJ1 Matrice 100 equipped with a thermal camera.

“There’s something about North Carolina being first in flight and first in unmanned flight,” MCC Dean of Continuing Education said in a recent interview with The (Asheboro, N.C.) Courier-Tribune. “It’s been said that drones are the most impactful thing in aviation since the jet engine.”

When it comes to innovative drone education, colleges and universities are soaring – especially in North Carolina.

As earlier reported in DroneLife, Lenoir Community College now offers a drone-piloting program and several Lenoir County agencies plan to take advantage of it to receive federally-mandated training. The program grants students an associate’s degree in drone piloting – the first ever in the state. Edgecombe Community College in eastern North Carolina offers a consumer-level class.

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Security officer discovers toxic leak after man drilled holes in tanks of cyanide

“A Wooster man faces criminal charges after he broke into an electroplating company he once owned and drilled holes in tanks of dangerous chemicals, Cleveland police investigators said.

The incident sent one employee to the hospital for exposure to toxic chemicals, and risked a potential environmental disaster, according to a Cleveland police report.

Benjamin Dagley, 50, is charged with breaking and entering in the Aug. 22 incident at Cleveland Plating on East 134th Street in the South Collinwood neighborhood.

Dagley was identified in police reports as a former co-owner of the business, but court records indicate he owned a similar electroplating company at the same location before Cleveland Plating took over, and he still owns the property itself.

Employees called police around 8 p.m. Aug. 22 after a security guard discovered gas escaping in one of the facility’s chemical rooms.

Surveillance footage later revealed Dagley drilled into tanks of sodium cyanide, hydrochloric acid, yellow chromate, ferrous chloride, and sulfuric acid, according to a current owner, Ed Cochran.

“If you mix the (cyanide and hydrochloric acid), you basically have the cyanide gas of World War I,” Cochran said. “It certainly would produce a toxic vapor that could kill.”

Employees told police that the released chemicals “are severe enough to cause a large scale catastrophe, and Dagley knew what he was doing,” the report says.

Potential cyanide poisoning is the reason why the 27-year-old security guard who found the leaks was taken to University Hospitals, according to Cochran and the report.

Her injuries and current condition were not immediately available, but Cochran believes she has been released from the hospital.

Firefighters and a hazmat specialist went to the building the night of the break-in, and Cleveland police and firefighters also notified the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the report says.

Cochran told cleveland.com that the business hired a hazmat firm to oversee clean-up. Within 36 hours, that process was complete and the Ohio EPA determined all chemicals were contained inside the building, with no exposure to the neighborhood, according to an EPA spokesman.

The police report does not say how Dagley managed to break into the building. Surveillance showed him walking into the property around 6 p.m., drilling holes into the containers, then leaving about 15 minutes later, the report says.

“Thank god we have security guards there 24/7,” Cochran said. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been discovered until (the next morning), and it would’ve been late.”

A warrant was issued for Dagley last week, but he hasn’t been arrested, court records show.

Police didn’t outline a possible motive and Cochran declined to share details due to a pending civil case in Wayne County.

Court records there and in Cuyahoga County indicate that Dagley and his companies are locked in a financial dispute over the property, its mortgage, and Cleveland Plating’s lease, among other things.

“He wants us to settle and we won’t pay, that’s why I think he’s done all this,” Cochran said.

Cleveland Plating’s current owners asked a judge for a temporary restraining order against Dagley earlier this year, saying that he entered the building April 8 and put locks on almost all the doors, court records show. The judge denied that request.

About two months later, Dagley was charged with misdemeanor assault after he returned to the property with two other people and broke into the business through a roll door, the reports and court documents say.

A security guard told police that an irate Dagley yelled at him through a crack in an office door, then slammed the door into his knee and punched him in the mouth, the report says.
One of the other men said he rode to the business with Dagley that day to “help him lock the building up,” the report says.

The assault case is still pending in Cleveland Municipal Court, court records show. Dagley’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 7.”

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San Antonio Security Officer discovers human trafficking-aids victims

“Police now say that is was a Walmart security guard in a southwest section of the city that made the discovery of human trafficking after a tipster identified a tractor-trailer in the parking lot that was apparently full of migrants, said Joe Arrington, a spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department.

The tipster, who was not identified, had been in the truck and approached the security guard to ask for water, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus later told reporters.

The security guard found the dead and sick when he searched the back of the truck, Arrington said.

A total of 39 people were inside, the U.S. attorney’s office said Sunday afternoon.

Officials reported earlier that 38 people were found in the trailer, but they said later that they had found an additional person in a wooded area nearby.

“The truck was loaded with people,” Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters.

Eight people were initially found dead in the tractor-trailer, and an additional victim died at a hospital, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told NBC News.

All of the dead are adult men, the U.S. attorney’s office said, and 30 others were being treated at hospitals.

ICE had said earlier that two people died at hospitals, but it later revised the number, citing miscommunication with hospital officials.

A Florida truck driver was in custody Sunday after nine people were found dead in the back of a cramped, overheated 18-wheeler in San Antonio, Texas.

More than a dozen other people — whom authorities described as victims of a “horrific” human smuggling operation — suffered life-threatening injuries.

In a statement, the U.S. attorney’s office for western Texas said the driver, James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., was in custody pending criminal charges. A complaint will likely be filed Monday morning, the statement said.

Some inside the semi ran into nearby woods, triggering a search by helicopter and on foot, McManus said, adding that police would look for the missing again in the morning.

“We’re looking at a human trafficking crime here this evening,” he said, describing it as a “horrific tragedy.” He added that the Department of Homeland Security was working with local police.
After the victims are treated, they will be investigated by ICE, McManus said.

First responders raced to the scene shortly after 12:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET), officials said. Hood said that the people in the truck were “very hot to the touch” and that there were no signs of water inside. The air conditioning was not working, he said.

“Our paramedics and firefighters found that each one of them had heart rates over about 130 beats per minute,” he said. “You’re looking at a lot of heat stroke, a lot of dehydration.”

San Antonio police said in a statement later Sunday that all of the dead were believed to have succumbed to heat exposure and asphyxiation. Official causes of death will be determined by the

Bexar County medical examiner.

Police added that they do not yet know the exact country of origin, destination or demographics of the dead and injured, although Mexico’s consul general, Rayna Torres, confirmed Sunday that

Mexican nationals were among them.

Citing the U.S. law enforcement investigation, Torres said she did not want to provide specifics, but she said that some were minors. Some could not speak, she added, because they are in grave condition.

Police said that the two youngest known victims, both of whom survived, were 15 years old.

Had it not been for the quick response by the security guard there would probably have been many other deaths said police.

The National Weather Service said the temperature in San Antonio hit 101 degrees on Saturday and didn’t dip below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m., according to The Associated Press.

Closed-circuit TV images from before emergency services arrived showed several cars turn up to pick up many of those who had survived the journey inside the truck, McManus said.

The driver and anyone else involved in the incident will face state and federal charges, McManus said.

“This is not an isolated incident,” he said, as he urged anyone who sees anything similar to call 911. “Fortunately, we came across this one. Fortunately, there are people who survived. But this happens all the time.”

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement Sunday that smuggling networks “have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle, as last night’s case demonstrates.”

“By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished,” he said.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said the deaths were “tragic and avoidable.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that Texas is “working to eradicate” traffickers, while Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said the political environment was partly to blame.

“You can draw a direct line between the hostile policies and rhetoric against immigrants that are happening nationally, and here in our state, to events like what happened today,” Ryan said.

“You can change laws. You can change policies,” he said. “But you cannot change the fact that people fleeing violence, people seeking to save and protect their families, are going to do whatever they can to flee that danger and find safety.”

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GLOBAL POLICE SPRING A TRAP ON THOUSANDS OF DARK WEB USERS

“WHEN ALPHABAY, THE world’s largest dark web bazaar, went offline two weeks ago, it threw the darknet into chaos as its buyers and sellers scrambled to find new venues. What those dark web users didn’t—and couldn’t—know: That chaos was planned. Dutch authorities had already seized Hansa, another another major dark web market, the previous month.

For weeks, they operated it as usual, quietly logging the user names, passwords, and activities of its visitors–including a massive influx of Alphabay refugees.

On Thursday, Europol and the US Department of Justice jointly announced the fruits of the largest-ever sting operation against the dark web’s black markets, including the seizure of AlphaBay, a market Europol estimates generated more than a billion dollars in sales of drugs, stolen data, and other illegal goods over its three years online. While Alpabay’s closure had previously been reported as an FBI operation, the agency has now confirmed that takedown, while Europol also revealed details of its tightly coordinated Hansa takeover.

With Hansa also shuttered as of Thursday, the dark web looks substantially diminished from just a few short weeks ago—and its denizens shaken by law enforcement’s deep intrusion into their underground economy.

“This is likely one of the most important criminal cases of the year,” attorney general Jeff Sessions said in a press conference Thursday morning. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by ‘going dark.’ This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you.”

The Sting

So far, neither Europol nor the Department of Justice has named any of the administrators, sellers, or customers from either Hansa or AlphaBay that they plan to indict. The FBI and DEA had sought the extradition from Thailand of one AlphaBay administrator, Canadian Alexandre Cazes after identifying him in an operation they called Bayonet. But Cazes was found hanged in a Bangkok jail cell last week in an apparent suicide.

Still, expect plenty of prosecutions to emerge from the double-takedown of Hansa and AlphaBay, given the amount of information Dutch police could have swept up in the period after Alphabay’s closure.

“They flocked to Hansa in their droves,” said Interpol director Rob Wainwright. “We recorded an eight-times increase in the number of new users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of Alphabay.” The influx was so large, in fact, that Hansa put up a notice just last week that it was no longer accepting new registrations, a mysterious development given that Dutch police controlled it at the time.

That surveillance means that law enforcement likely now has identifying details on an untold number of dark web sellers—and particularly buyers. Europol claims that it gathered 10,000 postal addresses of Hansa customers, and tens of thousands of their messages, from the operation, at least some of which were likely AlphaBay customers who had migrated to the site in recent weeks.

Though customers on dark web sites are advised to encrypt their addresses so that only the seller of the purchased contraband can read it, many don’t, creating a short trail of breadcrumbs to their homes for law enforcement when they seize the sites’ servers.”

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Foot Surveillance: Keeping Your Cover

Vehicular surveillance and foot surveillance each have their challenges, but they share a common objective: to be invisible by hiding in plain sight. I’ve done plenty of both and tend to enjoy foot surveillance the most—mainly because I like the freedom of not being confined to a car.

The success of any surveillance operation relies heavily on preparation. And a good surveillance operative should be ready to go from mobile vehicular to foot surveillance at a moment’s notice. You might be riding along with another investigator as a passenger, ready to jump out and follow on foot. Or you might be following a subject by public transport—which means that surveillance on foot is your only option.

If you suspect that you’ll be on foot for all or part of the job, plan accordingly. Choose clothing that blends well into the places you’re likely to go (and is weather-appropriate), carry lightweight recording equipment that won’t attract attention (including your smartphone), and review the local transport system thoroughly.

Once you arrive at the initial assignment location, canvass the area for surveillance cameras, security guards, or anyone who might notice your activities (such as a doorman). Check for all possible exits from the location under surveillance, and choose the best possible observation post.

From there, don’t just watch the exit(s); keep assessing the whole area, and planning how you might follow your subject(s) once they appear. Is the area busy enough with foot traffic for you to follow closely on the same side of the street, or should you stay further back, or even cross the street to follow? You may be in a busy area, but if there aren’t many pedestrians, you’ll have to maintain your distance. You don’t want be too close, as illustrated in figure 1, without any cover.

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How To Know Which NIST Framework To Use

“One of the most important aspects of the recent cybersecurity executive order is also the aspect causing the most confusion.

When President Donald Trump signed the executive order in May, it included the requirement federal agencies use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to manage their cybersecurity risk. However, some have confused the NIST CSF with the NIST Risk Management Framework, which all federal agencies have been required to follow since its 2010 introduction.

To put it succinctly, they are two different frameworks. As industry and government work together to execute this order, it is very important for everyone to fully understand the two frameworks, and how they differ.

NIST CSF Overview

The NIST CSF was released in February 2014 in response to a 2013 executive order that called for a voluntary framework of industry standards and best practices to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk.

The CSF was created as a result of collaboration between government and the private sector. It “uses a common language to address and manage cybersecurity risk in a cost-effective way based on business needs without placing additional regulatory requirements on businesses.”

The heart of the NIST CSF is the Framework Core, which consists of five functions: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. The functions and their components aren’t a checklist of actions to be performed in order. Rather, they are concurrent and continuous activities that “provide a high-level, strategic view of the life cycle of an organization’s management of cybersecurity risk.”

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Corporate Sector Special Operations: Myths & Realities

“It was still dark outside when the first undercover operative arrived at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. A thick layer of fog swirled through the streets as the operative made his way into the lobby. He sat down to wait for his partner, and for the man who had hired them for the job. The hotel was to be the site of a large tech conference that day, and the two operatives had to be in position fast. Conference attendees would soon be streaming in for registration, and before long, the guest speakers would begin to arrive—including one specific Silicon Valley billionaire they would be watching for.

As the hubbub in the lobby built to a crescendo, the operatives slid into the background. It was imperative for their mission that no one knew who they were or what they were doing there.

While this might sound like a nefarious plot in some Hollywood movie, this was actually a covert protective operation, and part of a whole undercover world that very few people know exists—an invisible world I call the “surveillance zone.”

Introducing the “Surveillance Zone”

Let me offer you a peek behind the curtain—and into the “zone.” That first undercover operative mentioned above? That was actually me, and the man who had hired us was the senior security director for a well-known Silicon Valley corporation. We’d been hired to covertly protect the billionaire founder and CEO, whose company—despite some dramatic downswings and falling stock prices—was about to unveil a new venture. The mix of angry stockholders, excited techies, and nervous investors had company execs feeling skittish and us on our guard, and made for a tricky and interesting assignment.

On top of all that, the CEO had been receiving increasingly violent threats from a dedicated stalker who had demonstrated the will and ability to take things to the next level. Having surveilled the CEO’s home and workplace, and even physically confronted the CEO, there was ample reason to take the stalker’s intentions seriously.

When the threat to harm the CEO at the convention had come in (just a day before the event), the company decided to take action. At ten pm, I received a call from the security director, requesting our presence at the hotel at six am the following morning.”

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Texas school police to use drones to keep campuses safe

“School district police officers here completed a months-long drone training program at Sanchez Elementary on Friday.

This spring, Drone Pilot Inc., a Central Texas training firm, taught four officers from the McAllen Independent School District Police Department on the usage of drones. The 100-hour training, which began in February, went through various real-life scenarios.

Friday, the officers had their final exam on completing would-be scenarios of search and rescue. Their drone skills were tested on finding a missing child/endangered adult and identifying an unknown object, a skill that could help diffuse a bomb scare. Another mission was going through hazardous materials like an ammonia leak from a car.
Gene Robinson, vice president, co-founder and flight team director of Drone Pilot, said the officers learned to problem solve and jointly worked together in their missions.

“They (officers) will use the skills that we taught them, go out and try to solve,” Robinson said.
The drones will be used for faster response times and be used for investigative purposes to hold aerial views of parking lots, reconstruct collisions, look for evidence/crime scenes, and assess structural damage to buildings after a natural disaster or arson and most commonly, locate intruders in and around campuses.

“This training will be good for the public to keep them safe,” McAllen ISD Police Sgt. Charles Eric Treviño said. “When you look at it at ground level, it doesn’t look the same when you take it at aerial photographs. It’s different.”

“It’ll take minutes versus possible hours bringing an agency to check it out,” Treviño added about response times.

The drone training was divided into three phases. The introductory section covered legal issues and copyright information. Section two, covered the proper usage of equipment and regulations with recording and documenting the missions on logbooks. The final section was team cooperation and following proper procedures before beginning a mission.
Government use of aerial drones became much easier when the Federal Aviation Administration flipped the switch on new regulations last year, prompting some law enforcement agencies to adopt the technology.

The San Marcos Police Department has purchased a drone that will be used for investigations into vehicle crashes involving serious injury or death.

Before the FAA created new regulations last summer, the Austin Fire Department had already been operating drones to monitor and respond to wildfires for more than a year under a rare exemption that made it one of the first public safety agencies in the country allowed to use drones.”

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Security and police make several arrests at Livingston Mall

“Police assisted security officers and made several arrests with various charges on May 13 and May 14 at the Livingston Mall.

The first call from the Livingston Mall was about person being held in the parking lot by security for potentially being in possession of stolen property, according to police.

Upon police arrival, it was revealed that the individual possessed multiple items stolen from six different stores at the Livingston Mall. Subsequent to investigation, Robert Braswell, 33, of East Orange was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property and was released on his own recognizance pending court action.

The next afternoon, police received a call from both Lord & Taylor security and Livingston Mall security, whom were attempting to take an individual into custody who may have previously passed bad checks. Upon arrival, the female was fighting with security officers, according to police.

Ultimately, Latesha Shavers, 35, of Perth Amboy, was charged with assault and resisting arrest. Police said she had also been under investigation by Lord & Taylor security the previous week for passing bad checks.

Shavers was subsequently charged by Livingston police for passing bad checks and theft by deception on an incident that occurred on May 7. Following these charges, she was remanded to the Essex County Jail.”

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