Revealed: TrapWire spy cams' ticket to Australia
posted by Keito
2012-08-13 15:53:39'A shadowy private security company with deep links to the CIA - and a parent company awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in Australian government transport contracts - is operating a pervasive global surveillance and facial recognition network on behalf of law enforcement.
Over the past few days the internet has been abuzz with revelations regarding TrapWire, an analytical system that integrates with surveillance cameras to capture photographs or video evidence of "suspicious activity".
All Australians should be concerned about the outsourcing of Australian government (or military operations) to foreign-owned, private contractors with links to spy agencies
TrapWire is owned by the multinational conglomerate, Cubic Corporation, which in 2010 signed a $370 million contract with the NSW Government to provide Sydney's electronic ticketing system for public transport, based on the London Oyster card system.
In April this year it was awarded a $65 million contract to provide services to CityRail and also runs the Brisbane "go card" system.
Fairfax is seeking comment from the government about whether there has been any consideration of bringing the TrapWire system here.
The TrapWire story began late last week, when emails from a private intelligence company, Stratfor - originally released as part of WikiLeaks's Global Intelligence Files in February - appeared online.
The emails and other documentation revealed TrapWire is installed in some of the western world's most sensitive locations - including the White House, 10 Downing Street, New Scotland Yard, the London Stock Exchange and five hundred locations in the New York subway system. Trapwire is also installed in many Las Vegas casinos.
An Australian single mother who online is an anti-surveillance state activist known as Asher Wolf is leading a campaign to expose the clandestine operation, which was created in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has been operating without public scrutiny for years.
Australia is leading the way in development of facial recognition technology and Australian government agencies have reacted enthusiastically to it.
The founder of TrapWire is 30-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran Richard Hollis Helms. Several of TrapWire's top managers are also former CIA officers. It is part of security company Abraxas Corporation, which reportedly holds sensitive and lucrative contracts involving activities such as creating fake identities for CIA officers.
In December 2010 Cubic Corporation bought Abraxas for $US124 million.
The aim of TrapWire is to prevent terrorist attacks by recognising suspicious patterns in activity. It forwards its reports to police departments across the US and law enforcement organisations such as FBI and US Department of Homeland Security.
Helms said in a 2005 interview that TrapWire "can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists."
In 2007 the company said that it analyses each aspect of a security incident and "compares it to all previously-collected reporting across the entire TrapWire network. Any patterns detected - links among individuals, vehicles, or activities - will be reported back to each affected facility."
In addition to analysing surveillance footage TrapWire also operates "see something say something" citizen reporting campaigns in Las Vegas, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles and all reports received are collated in the TrapWire database, analysed by the company and forwarded to law enforcement.
While it appears that TrapWire does not operate in Australia, its parent company Cubic holds several large Commonwealth, NSW and Queensland government contracts. It operates in Australia as Cubic Transportation with offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In 2008 it also opened a defence subsidiary based in Queensland, Cubic Defence Australia, run by Mark Horn.
Cubic Defence Australia has won about $32 million in contracts with the Australian defence force, mainly providing combat simulation and training systems.
Comment is being sought from Cubic about the links between their work in Australia and TrapWire.
Ms Wolf, 32, whose father survived a Siberian gulag during World War II and grandmother at 15 had her thumb cut off by Soviet Union secret police, said she had personal motivations behind her campaigning for civil liberties.
"All Australians should be concerned about the outsourcing of Australian government (or military operations) to foreign-owned, private contractors with links to spy agencies," she said.
She said there were inherent conflicts of interest with profit-driven private contractors working in national security. Ms Wolf is also concerned about Australian law enforcement demands for telco data retention and a lack of adequate time for public consultations during the inquiry into national security legislation reforms.
"They're drowning in data and I don't believe it's helping national security, I believe it's making us more insecure because we don't know where to look at real threats," she said.
Ms Wolf, who has a three-year-old son, said "it was definitely more interesting to be scrolling through tweets on info-warfare than watching 3am infomercials while breastfeeding".
The online hacking collective Anonymous has also bought into the issue. They are trying to organise an event called "smash a cam Saturday", where they provide the internet addresses of US security cameras attached to the TrapWire network, and then provide instructions to supporters about how to hack them.
According to Cubic's 2011 annual report, its revenues in Australia have ballooned to $115 million in 2011, up from $39.9 million in 2009.
"The primary reasons for the increase in gross margins from services in 2011 were the improvement in margin and increase in service revenue related to our transportation business in the U.K and Australia as well as the gross margin from 2011 Abraxas sales since the acquisition in December 2010," the annual report reads.
A search on Cubic's websites reveals no information about Abraxas or TrapWire. The page on TrapWire's website outlining its executives and their links to the CIA has recently been removed.
On its website TrapWire says it was founded in 2004 to build and deploy counter-terrorism technologies "in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks". It seeks to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future and boasts on its website that its technology can "detect patterns of behavior indicative of pre-operational planning".
US authorities were criticised after the al Qaeda attacks of 2001 over failings in information sharing, and part of TrapWire's appeals appears to be that it is designed to make it easier to share information across a global surveillance network. Despite the pervasiveness of its monitoring, it states one of its advantages is that it does not share "sensitive of personally identifiable information".
The internal TrapWire emails were obtained by hackers when they broke into Stratfor Global Intelligence, which had a partnership deal with TrapWire which saw Stratfor earning an eight per cent finder's fee for any clients it referred to the Cubic company.
Separately, a Microsoft-powered police surveillance system is being installed in New York City that connects thousands of New York Police Department and private security cameras in the city, recording and archiving up to 30 days worth of footage at a time. Police can backtrack through the footage when investigating crimes. Microsoft plans to offer it up to other cities around the world.'
WikiLeaks still under MASSIVE sustained DDoS attack.
posted by Keito
2012-08-13 19:14:16I find it mighty suspect that the same week WikiLeaks releases information pertaining to the US Government-led project 'TrapWire', it also suffers a sustained Distributed Denial of Service attack.
"The secret-busting organization WikiLeaks says it's been the victim of a sustained denial-of-service attack which has left its website sluggish or inaccessible for more than a week.
In a statement released late Saturday the group said the assault intensified around the beginning of August and has since expanded to include attacks against affiliated sites.
Denial-of-service attacks work by overwhelming websites with requests for information. WikiLeaks has said it's been flooded with 10 gigabits per second of bogus traffic from thousands of different Internet addresses.
Josh Corman, with online content delivery company Akamai, characterized that as "a bit larger" than attacks commonly seen in the past few years.
WikiLeaks, which has angered officials in Washington with its spectacular releases of classified U.S. documents, remained inaccessible Sunday."
You read that right, 10 gigabits per second! That's a serious attack right there.
"The DDoS traffic, has effectively crippled the site, and raised all sorts of questions as to who might be behind it. While Wikileaks has no shortage of enemies, it recently published a number of classified U.S. documents detailing what may be a huge, secret surveillance project.
Conveniently enough, the DDoS attack has rendered the documents in question largely unavailable, a fact you can attribute to either coincidence or conspiracy depending on the way your mind works. Wikileaks is no stranger to being attacked, but reports that in this case, they're facing a bit more firepower than they have before. The site is down at the moment, but has proven to be quite resilient in the past. It'd take a whole hell of a lot to take Wikileaks down for good, but that might just be what someone is trying to do."
Beamed Power For Dragonfly Spies
posted by Keito
2012-08-13 15:10:26'DANGER ROOM reader Justin posted this comment on yesterday’s piece about the British Police’s New Spy Drone :
"During the Republican National Convention in 2004, I swear I saw a jet-black dragonfy hovering about 10 feet off the ground, precisely in the middle of 7th avenue. About six blocks later, marching toward Madison Sq. Garden, I saw another. Hovering. Motionless but for the wings beating. Dead center of the street, ten feet off the ground. Watching us.
In other words, I’m pretty sure smaller and stealthier gadgets are already in use for surveillance. Call me crazy."
Not that crazy. As far back as the 1970′s the CIA were experimenting with a micro air vehicle which looked like a dragonfly. Flight International reported last year:
Developed during the 1970s, the CIA has displayed a mock-up of the micro UAV in its museum at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia since 2003. However until now no media organisation has been given access to the material that proved that the artificial dragonfly had been flight tested.
…. In the 1970s the CIA was interested in the dragonfly concept as a small unmanned surveillance device. Flight cannot reveal exactly what materials have been seen, but can confirm the four-winged robotic insect achieved sustained flight…. The CIA’s entomopter dragonfly’s power supply and actuation system for its wings are still highly classified subjects.
The CIA drone really does look like a real dragonfly – see the photo to the left. The problem was apparently with the flight control system, as the craft could not cope with crosswinds. This type of problem can be solved much more easily with modern electronics. The big issue with a craft so small is the power supply. Until we can get something as compact and efficient as the biological version (and there already ecobots that power themslves by digesting insects), the answer for robotic insects is likely to be beamed power.
There has been a lot of serious work on this already (and let’s not talk about Tesla). As long ago as 1964, pioneer Bill Brown demonstrated a mini-helicopter powered by microwaves on the CBS News with Walter Cronkite. The craft was developed under a contract with the Air Force. NASA seem to believe that miocrowaves will be inherently inefficient because of how they spread out with range, and have been working on micro air vehicles remotely powered by laser.
But there has been more recent work on microwaves to power UAVs, using the body of the craft as an antenna to pick up power:
"We’ve already demonstrated we can transfer power with microwaves. We’ve performed tests on the safety issues of microwaves, and we’ve shown that having multiple ground stations [sending microwaves] is the best possible method, said Jenn. "Now we plan to show how we can power these UAVs using radar systems — systems the Navy already has."
That was almost ten years ago. Beamed power micro UAVs would have obvious limitations – they’re not going to be flying hundreds of miles away over enemy territory. But for covert surveillance in the domestic arena, they might be just the thing. I have no idea whether there are any dragonfly spies out there yet; but if there aren’t now, there soon will be.'
posted by Keito
2012-08-13 15:02:48'Harvesting energy from insects in quest to create tiny cyborg first responders:
Insects have served as the inspiration for a number of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) that could be deployed to monitor hazardous situations without putting humans in harm's way. Now researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering are proposing using actual live insects enhanced with electronic sensors to achieve the same result. The insect cyborgs would use biological energy harvested from their body heat or movements to potentially power small sensors implanted on their bodies in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.
To harvest energy from insects, the researchers have designed a spiral piezoelectric generator that converts the kinetic energy from the insect's wing movements into electricity. This power would be used to prolong the battery life of devices implanted on the insect, such as a small camera, a microphone or a gas sensor. The prototype piezoelectric generator was fabricated from bulk piezoelectric substrates and was designed to maximize the power output in a limited area.
Biological energy harvested from the insect could be used to power small sensors (Image: E...
"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," said Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering at the U-M College of Engineering. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go."
The U-M team examined several techniques to scavenge energy from wing motion with their results were published in a paper titled "Energy scavenging from insect flight," which was recently published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. The university is now pursuing a patent for the technology and is seeking commercialization partners to bring it to market.
Getting the insects to go where their handlers want them to is another part of the puzzle that needs to be solved before insect cyborgs can be deployed. But DARPA has been working on this, having put out a call some years back for research proposals for Hybrid-Insect-Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) interfaces to control the movement of living insects. Combining the two technologies could be just the thing to take insect cyborgs to the next level and see them used to monitor hazardous situations in the not to distant future.'
The insects are watching: the future of government surveillance technology...
posted by Keito
2012-08-13 14:57:12'In June of 2011, the US military admitted to having drone technology so sophisticated that it could be the size of a bug.
In what is referred to as the “microaviary” on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, drones are in development and design to replicate the flight patterns of moths, hawks and other air-borne creatures of the natural world.
Greg Parker, aerospace engineer, explains: “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight” for the purpose of carrying out espionage or kill missions.
Cessna-sized Predator drones, used to carry out unmanned attacks, are known around the world. The US Pentagon has an estimated 7,000 aerial drones in their arsenal.
In 2011, the Pentagon requested $5 billion for drones from Congress by the year 2030.
Their investigative technology is now moving toward “spy flies” equipped with sensors and mircocameras to detect enemies and nuclear weapons.
Parker is using helicopter technology to allow his computer-driven drone “dragonflies” to become precise intelligence gathering weapons.
To have a computer do it 100 per cent of the time, and to do it with winds, and to do it when it doesn’t really know where the vehicle is, those are the kinds of technologies that we’re trying to develop.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has unveiled hummingbird drones that can fly at speeds of 11 miles per hour.
DARPA is also inserting computer chips into moth pupae in the hopes of hatching “cyborg moths”.
Within DARPA is the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project (HIMEM), whose aim is to develop shutterbugs – insects with cameras attached to their very nervous system that can be controlled remotely. Under HIMEM, there are researchers working on cyborg beetles.
Other institutions are hard at work for the US government, developing more insect technology.
The California Institute of Technology has created a “mircobat ornithopter” that flies and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
A team at Harvard University has successfully built a housefly-like robot with synthetic wings that buzz at 120 beats per second.
Back in 2007, at the International Symposium on Flying Insects and Robots, Japanese researchers unveiled a radio-controlled hawk-moth.
While the US military would have the American public believe that these new “fly drones” are used for overseas missions, insect drones have been spotted surveilling streets right here in the US.
It is believed that these insect-like drones are high-tech surveillance tools used by the Department of Homeland Security.
The US government is experimenting with different types of micro-surveillance capabilities, such as cultivating insects with computer chips in them in the hopes of breeding software directly into their bodies to control flight patterns remotely.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been working on this technology since the 1970s. Known as the “inscetothopter”, it was developed by the Office of Research and Development for the CIA.
It appears to be a dragonfly; however, it contains a tiny gasoline engine to control its four wings. It was subsequently classified as a failure because it could not maintain flight against natural wind patterns.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has created a butterfly-shaped drone that is the smallest built thus far. It can hover in mid-flight, just as a helicopter and take pictures with its 0.15 gram camera and memory card.
The “butterfly” imitates nature so well, that birds and other insects are convinced it is real and not man-made.'