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Mar 22, 2019

It's Friday. Time for It's a Security Thing with Craig Peterson. Today, Craig discusses triggerfish, stngrays, and the Michael Cohen investigation.

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Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.

Airing date: 03/22/2019

Michael Cohen Investigation - Triggerfish - Stingrays - Were You Caught Up In The Net

Craig Peterson 0:04
Hello, everybody, Craig Peterson here. And we're going to talk about a technology and security problem from a little bit of a different angle today. You know that we've had police surveillance for years. When they get a warrant, they can start to investigate a little bit further delve in, get some of our records, maybe our cell phone records, maybe even travel records and other things. And of course, they've been casting a pretty wide net with the whole NSA investigations and what they've been allegedly doing for many years. And of course as you know, the good news is it looks like those are coming rapidly to an end. Well, let's look at this Michael Cohen story that came out this week. And you'll see it up. This is on my website at and this is from CBS News. The FBI and this is by Graham Kate's, the FBI wanted Michael Cohen cell phones, but they knew they couldn't be found at his home. The problem was Cohen and his family moved into hotel while renovating their apartment. So on April 8, 2018, they decided that they would use something called triggerfish. And they wanted to find his exact location which was a room on the 17th floor at Lowes Regency Hotel. The FBI Special Agent wrote in an affidavit that was unsealed last Tuesday, that federal agents quote sought and obtained authority to employ electronic technique commonly known as trigger fish. To determine the locations of Cohen's two iPhones. The other federal agents ended up obtaining a warrant to retrieve the phones from the room. And there was a court ordered special master that later determined that the federal agents could review the vast majority of nearly 300,000 files on the two phones as well as an iPad, obtained in the search. Now, a special master's someone who can look at the evidence and determine if it might be client confidential, in the case of an attorney like Michael Cohen was, and that the FBI really shouldn't have access to it, or that the information is maybe something that might be pursuant to the case, and legit for them to look at. Now, you might have heard these triggerfishes called stingrays before. And what stingrays do is mimics cell phone towers. So they can pinpoint a phone's location, sometimes even before it makes a call or a text just because of the unique identifier that the phone has.

Craig 2:50
And we're not sure what law enforcement was hoping to get from its use of the stingrays that we're targeting Cohen, because these devices can also collect them calls a text messages and even emails that are sent to and from phones, because they're sitting in the middle and you can do what's known as a man in the middle attack. Now, because they're acting the cell towers, they not they don't just get the data and information from one phone. But any other cell phones a deer in the area are going to see it and try and connect to it. So they can take in information from entire neighborhoods, which is why civil liberties groups for years have objected to the use of these things. They are absolutely crazy. Now they're made by defense contractor Harris Corporation, and the patents that it's filed indicate that they've been used for about two decades, although law enforcement rarely even admits that they have them. So now we found that they are using them, they have been using them for a long time, and they were using them specifically in the Michael Cohen investigation.

Craig 4:01
Now that really is a very big deal because Michael Cohen of course with is the attorney who was involved with President Trump, in this whole Russian collusion investigation.

Craig 4:16
I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail here. But the Congress did authorize what's called a pen register, which is a process that records or decodes the dialing routing address, and you're signaling information so they can figure out who's someone called when they called it from. And a pen register is basically referring referring to back in the day where someone would have a pen and paper in the phone offices, right, the switching office and track the switches and where call was being routed and would write it all down. But there's some serious Fourth Amendment concerns. The rights of citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. In this case, obviously, for Michael Cohen, they did have a warrant. But how about for everybody else that was caught up in this thing? Yeah, it's a really good question, frankly. But these are cell site simulators. You can make them. I've got the plans to make something kind of similar to use cell phones on the ham radio bands and basically it pretends it's a cell site is not intended to do grab all of this data from all these people. But they are the most interesting know they are out there. There's passive and active ones. I am SI catchers, which are the passer ones as well as the cell site simulators. There is a ton of information out there you can find on it. Check out To find out more the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They've got a lot of really good stuff on it. But it looks like the FBI was using some of this latest technology to investigate Cohen and by doing so probably ended up catching a lot of other data that they may or may not have had legal access to as well. So keep that in mind next time you are online. You know it's a Security Thing. And that's what we talked about are right here on my podcast. And visit me online. Make sure you subscribe so you get all of these. and hit the subscribe button.


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