They followed suit. After months of tracking him via sting bank accounts and confidential informants, the officers had their man. The Hacker was found out through the warrantless use of a secretive surveillance technology known as a stingray, which snoops on cell phones.
As we completed the book, and as I reported on security as part of my job at National Journal , I tried to confirm the story. Sometimes, stalkerware is used to monitor partners and spouses covertly, or occasionally with the full knowledge of the victim. Law enforcement is also suspected of dragging its feet as many departments and agencies rely on Stingrays to surveil suspects. IMSI catchers work by mimicking phone towers, which fools cell phones and allows the devices to intercept calls, texts, and data streams, according to The Washington Post. Security Remote code execution vulnerability in VLC remains unpatched. After Sen. However, it may also appear under another generic name, and so before deleting any apps, perform a search on the app name first.
Stingrays, or cell-site simulators, act as false cell phone towers that trick phones into giving up their location. When he tugged on that thread, he found out something else: that police might be tracking a lot more than we even know on our phones, often without the warrants that are usually needed for comparable methods of invasive surveillance. The Hacker began breathing more heavily. He may have thought about heading toward the nearby train station, which would take him out of town, or perhaps towards the San Jose International Airport, just three miles away.
But as soon as he saw the marked Santa Clara Police Department cars, he knew the truth, and he started running. He was quickly surrounded, arrested and searched. Later, after police obtained a warrant to search his apartment, they found there a folding chair and a folding table that served as a desk. There was no other furniture—his bed was a cot. Investigators identified the Hacker, via his fingerprints, as Daniel Rigmaiden, previously convicted of state-level misdemeanors.
In and early , the IRS identified a bank account at Compass Bank in Phoenix that was receiving fraudulent tax refunds under an LLC as being involved in the possible scheme. But from the start, Rigmaiden declined to cooperate, and moved to represent himself after firing three attorneys , and the case was subsequently unsealed in They refuse to engage, they refuse to say that they bought them.
We need a public debate around this sort of stuff. That debate is very slowly starting to happen. Rigmaiden found out about fraudulent tax return schemes in the mids. He quickly figured out that tax returns are largely voluntary. Most IRS personnel do the best they can, but a few slip through the cracks. This meant that Rigmaiden could file a fake tax return for someone who had died, and pocket the refund.
He would file dozens at a time, sometimes more, before one would come back with money. In late , Rigmaiden moved to Santa Clara. The city, then as now, is home to students and lots of tech workers.
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He had a comfortable life in an urban area, and lived near a train station and airport should he need to make a quick getaway. But he knew that the longer he stayed in one place, the more exposed to law enforcement he would be. Unbeknownst to the fraudster, federal prosecutors in Arizona—one of the places where he had stashed his money—filed a sealed indictment against Rigmaiden on July 23, After Rigmaiden was arrested in California, he was quickly transported to the Florence Correctional Center, about 65 miles southeast of Phoenix.
Despite being incarcerated, Rigmaiden could not sit still. He knew that he had been careful. He had used multiple fake identities, with fake documents, and paid in cash.
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How could law enforcement have not only found him out, but found him in his own apartment, where hardly anyone knew he lived? Eventually, the accused fraudster got permission to represent himself pro se , a legally risky move. Once he was representing himself, he was allowed to use the law library for five hours a day up from the usual three hours a week. It became a full-time job, immersing himself in legal procedures—but it was likely the most productive way to spend his time behind bars. Fortunately, at the beginning, a fellow inmate and disbarred attorney helped him out with some of the basics, including general court procedure, how to draft a motion and correct legal citation.
Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA
By October , Rigmaiden had received boxes and boxes over 14, pages in total of criminal discovery that would help him understand how the government planned to prosecute its case. The device advertised various types of cellular interception. Although Rigmaiden was pro se , he had a shadow counsel, or a lawyer who was ready to step in if the pro se defendant wished to take on formal counsel. That lawyer had a paralegal, a man named Dan Colmerauer. Rigmaiden could call Colmerauer from a jailhouse pay phone and ask him to run Google searches for him, and tell him the results by phone.
Stingray phone tracker
Then Colmerauer would print those webpages, and put them in the mail to Rigmaiden, who in turn would have to make handwritten notes about which links to follow and mail that back to Colmerauer. While StingRay is a trademark, stingray has since become so ubiquitous in law enforcement and national security circles as to also often act as the catch-all generic term—like Kleenex or Xerox.
Stingrays are big boxes—roughly the size of a laser printer—like something out of a s-era switchboard, with all kinds of knobs and dials and readouts. Stingrays can easily be hidden inside a police surveillance van or another nearby location. As we move across a city, mobile networks seamlessly hand off our call from one tower to the next, usually providing an uninterrupted call.
But in order for the system to work, the mobile phone provider needs to know where the phone actually is so that it can direct a signal to it. It does so by sending a short message to the phone nearly constantly—in industry terminology this is known as a ping.
If your phone cannot receive a ping, it cannot receive service. The bottom line is, if your phone can receive service, then the mobile provider and possibly the cops, too know where you are. Rigmaiden eventually pieced together the story of his capture. Police found him by tracking his Internet Protocol IP address online first, and then taking it to Verizon Wireless, the Internet service provider connected with the account.
Verizon provided records that showed that the AirCard associated with the IP address was transmitting through certain cell towers in certain parts of Santa Clara. Cell phones and other wireless electronic devices are vital communications tools that have become necessary for full participation in modern life.
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But they are also powerful tracking devices that can be used to infringe on individual privacy. Law enforcement agencies can often obtain this personal information without ever getting a warrant from a judge. The federal government also invokes powerful surveillance authorities to collect this information and more, including our call records, contact lists, and even the contents of our text messages and calls.
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The ACLU works to ensure that cell phone data is protected against unjustified disclosure. Our work in this area includes public records requests , friend-of-the-court briefs , and legislative advocacy. Know your rights. For almost years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.