It’s 1230 on the 27th October 2015 and Julie Medina is returning by plane from a business trip from Monaco. She booked the flight at the last minute with a male colleague, but the pair asked not to be seated together as both preferred the window seat.
This seemingly innocent request flags them on UK E-Borders programme, Project Semaphore, which screens and records everyone entering and leaving the United Kingdom. It includes all 45,000,000 domestic plane and ferry journeys, providing a comprehensive passenger movement audit trail that can be checked against other databases.
On landing, the aircraft slowly taxies to a halt at its nominated gate. Julie, as do most of the passengers turns on her smart phone to check any messages she may have missed. Her phones IMSI number has now be automatically allocated to her position in the aircraft.
IMSI catchers are being used across several European airports; this is a virtual base station for identifying and intercepting mobile phones. The GSM specification requires the handset to authenticate to the network, but does not require the network to authenticate to the handset. An IMSI catcher exploits this well-known security hole. IMSI-catchers are often deployed by court order without a search warrant, the lower judicial standard of a pen register and trap-and-trace order being preferred by law enforcement.
Julie leaves the aircraft and heads for passport control, as she’s a regular traveller; she has noticed the corridors are narrower and longer these days.
Defensive architecture is used to funnel crowds and large bodies of people more and more in the United Kingdom. In some towns it is even used to prevent the homeless sleeping in traditional areas such as park benches/fire escapes. Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) cameras whose job it is to remotely search beneath passenger clothing for hidden weapons or drugs. Recently the employment of Thermal cameras has become paramount to combat the Ebola viruses, the cameras use to identify individuals with higher body temperatures.
Rather than waiting in the queue, Julie opts to use her new biometric passport, as it seems the faster route to get through to baggage reclaim.
Many countries including the US and EU nations use biometric identifiers to confirm the identity of passengers so that their details can be checked against a dozen mega-databasesincluding those of the FBI and Interpol. What Julie doesn’t realise, is that before she boarded the aircraft her details were already being distributed to various European databases, including the giant Schengen Information database.
Julie leaves the airport, hardly noticing the numerous CCTV cameras that record every aspect of her exit through the building, to her waiting taxi.
So numb are our observational skills that we now fail to notice the growth in CCTV cameras. In London alone, there are over 422,000 CCTV cameras, 1 for every 14 people. If the UK ever adopts an identity card system, facial recognition software and government access, overnight public anonymity will vanish; all citizens will be instantly identifiable to the gaze of a CCTV operator or software programme.
Julie doesn’t have to wait long for her taxi, recently she downloaded an app and created an account with a taxi company, they are very efficient and always send a picture of the driver and car, which makes her feel more secure.
The majority of app based taxi firms recruiting process for drivers are surprisingly negligent. These commercial entities hold a vast array of personal and financial information about so many private individuals. Drivers that would otherwise not be able to gain a hackney carriage license in the UK have often taken the shorter route to App based taxis. After all how important is it who knows when you are away from your house and how long you are away for?
Julie’s husband John calls, he always calls to ensure that Julie has landed safely, they have a short conversation, she mentions jokingly that she has collected all the devices, referring to items for their children picked up from Duty Free, John is a journalist and chats about a short piece he is writing on Turkey.
Due to several keywords monitored constantly by certain Intelligence services, an Echelon satellite immediately picks up the conversation. All telecommunications traffic across the planet is monitored by the Echelon system, which in turn is run by the NSA and GCHQ. Three major optical networks each carrying an alleged 100,000 calls are routed via a US base on UK soil. Julie’s conversation is recorded and as a precaution, a short lease trace is put on her number.
After speaking with John, Julie leaves her phone on, which enables the watchers to triangulate her position as she travels closer to Central London, but even with the phone off it, can still be manipulated. Julie notices the cameras near to the congestion-charging zone and wonders who watches them.
The London Congestion Charge Zone is linked to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANR) system, that records the number plates of all cars entering 24/7 and compares it to a number of ‘flagged’ vehicles wanted in connection to suspected criminal or terrorist activities. The cameras used are similar to those seen on all major motorways across the UK.
Traffic is slow, so Julie asks the driver to drop her at the tube; she jumps out and manages to get to the platform quickly as she’s remembered her Oyster card. She has to wait, but is happy as the station has free Wi-Fi for her to use, all she has to do to access the Wi-Fi is give a few personal details and agree to the terms and conditions.
Each time Julie uses her registered Oyster card, this automatically logs her identity and movements, giving a detailed travel plan covering several weeks, which in turn, is linked to her personal account and home address. Her every move is recorded by Transport for London’s extensive CCTV network. Free Wi-Fi networks are being manipulated by organised criminal gangs to harvest information, in the majority of cases there is no crime occurring as most people do not read the terms and conditions and simply agree to pass over their information.
Julie arrives home to hear how her two sons have been fingerprinted at school, to ease with registration and ‘to speed up the lunchtime queue’; the school have reassured parents that the data will only be stored on the school database.
At least 1 million children in the UK have had this biometric taken, often without consent, a biometric cannot be changed and if the school system is hacked then some children’s future ability to obtain driving licences, credit cards or passports could be compromised. There also exists the future capability of planting fingerprints stolen from less robust databases.
Julie nips out to the supermarket as the cupboards are bare, whilst buying foodstuffs, she also purchases some medicines for minor ailments, she uses her credit card and rewards card before heading home.
The credit card records every purchase, date and location in real time throughout the year, her reward card links the purchasing details, which are sold to marketing companies where purchasing options can place you onto separate databases for everything from medical concerns to dietary. Very soon Julie will be receiving unsolicited promotional brochures through the post, it is estimated that every economically active adult appears on an estimated 700 databases.
In the comfort of her home, Julie spends the rest of her evening browsing the Internet on her laptop and tablet
The evening, has generated numerous cookies that inform the search engine of every website visited, how many pages and for how long. The information generated will be sold to marketing companies and combined with the information recorded from the supermarket visit, means that Julie’s doormat and inbox will soon be full of unsolicited junk mail.
Julie goes to bed, the motion sensor light in the back garden goes on again, but that will just be the neighbour’s cat. The only thing that Julie does worry about is all of these entities that hold her data, but consoles herself with the thought that, ‘I’m sure they know what they’re doing’.
As the family sleeps, Police helicopters hover nearby using thermal cameras seeking potential cannabis farms hidden in houses.
Using a mixture of Social Networking, Property and Individual Search websites, criminals/investigators/fixated individuals are able to ascertain and target an individual’s identity, property and wealth
As we move ever closer to a completely connected world (with 50 Billion connected devices predicted by 2020) the debate regarding the balance between privacy and security is set only to intensify. Though the individuals mentioned above are fictional, the surveillance and monitoring architecture that surrounds them is very real. Navigating a path through this debate between security and privacy is something we help our clients with on a daily basis.
This blog was produced by Simon Giddins, Managing Director of Blackstone Consultancy, private security specialists who provide individuals and companies with bespoke, discreet, yet exceptionally vigilant security arrangements.