An Israeli company has announced plans to launch new “autonomous” surveillance products which are specifically designed to monitor large metropolitan areas.
On Thursday, Israeli surveillance technology company Jenovice announced a slew of new surveillance products aimed at monitoring Wi-Fi enabled devices in order to gain intelligence on targets. The announcement was part of a presentation – “Tactical Wi-Fi Interception – Identify, Acquire, Intercept” – given at the Intelligence Support Systems for Electronic Surveillance, Social Media/DarkNet Monitoring and Cyber Crime Investigations, or ISS World Europe Conference, in Prague. Jenovice stated the presentation would “go over the challenges, limitations and operational solutions in tactical WiFi interception missions. We will cover the following: identifying targets, acquiring them and manipulating Wi-Fi enabled devices to extract intelligence.”
Jenovice’s announcement was first reported by CyberScoop in late May. CyberScoop elaborated on the new surveillance products being sold by Jenovice.
Jenovice’s Metropolink, which is only available for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, is sold as an “autonomous” surveillance system meant to monitor entire metropolitan areas. The capabilities list reads like hacker tech from a Jason Bourne movie: It’s advertised as being able to locate, list, map, track, analyze and visualize all Wi-Fi networks and identities across whatever environment a customer chooses.
CyberScoop explains that Metropolink works due to a network of sensors which are to be strategically placed around a large populated area. These sensors track various electronic devices via the MAC address and geolocation. This includes phones which are broadcasting and collecting Wi-Fi information. These sensors have a range of about 500 meters. Jenovice advertises that Metropolink can detect and track suspects even while moving at high speeds in vehicles. CyberScoop notes that Jenovice sells Metropolink as a “passive” technology which allows for less regulations and does not require a warrant in many countries. However, the term passive is a bit of a misnomer.
“Categorizing the product as ‘passive,’ however, doesn’t tell the whole story. Like the company’s long-distance Wi-Fi interception device Piranha, Metropolink can easily be used to inject malicious payloads into targets, according to a Jenovice employee,” CyberScoop reported. “That capability can be added with a license upgrade.”
CyberScoop notes that Jenovice is also launching two additional tools, namely Prisonlink and Achilles Cloud Interception. Prisonlink is so named because it is a surveillance kit designed for prisons. Prison officers from several countries reportedly tasked Jenovice with designing a tool that allowed them to track and disconnect unauthorized phone and Wi-Fi networks prisoners use to communicate with the outside world. Achilles Cloud Interception claims to “use and connect keys to extract cloud account information” from iCloud and Google accounts remotely “in a fully automated and silent process.” This can be used to steal basic sign-in and password information from unwitting users.
Brendan O’Connor, a security researcher and lawyer, told CyberScoop he has “very recently been contacted by multiple government organizations in the U.S. in efforts to build and deploy similar large-scale surveillance systems.” O’Connor himself demonstrated similar surveillance capabilities five years ago at DEFCON. CyberScoop reports that “prominent private sector cybersecurity executives” have seen an increase in demand from government organizations.
Unfortunately, surveillance technology is one of the leading industries in Israel. In October 2016, The Intercept reported,
When drafted into the army, Israel’s smartest youth are steered toward the intelligence unit and taught how to spy, hack, and create offensive cyberweapons. Unit 8200 and the National Security Agency reportedly developed the cyberweapon that attacked Iranian computers running the country’s nuclear program, and Unit 8200 engages in mass surveillance in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to veterans of the military intelligence branch.
As The Intercept noted, Privacy International, a watchdog group that investigates government surveillance, found that Israel has the highest number of surveillance companies per capita of any country in the world with 27 surveillance tech firms. The United States leads the world in sheer number of surveillance companies with 122.
The growth of the surveillance industry is due in part to the continuing militarization of police in the United States and abroad. With regards to Israel, these companies have learned by actually testing the surveillance tools (and lethal weapons) on Palestinians. Every year hundreds of American police officers fly to Israel to train with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to learn about crowd control and surveillance tactics.
“All of the Israeli companies would immediately answer the question: We have actual experience, and we have tested these weapons on human beings,” Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher and author of the book The Political Economy of the Occupation, told Alternet in 2017.
The violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been perfected to the point that the tools of the trade are now being exported around the world for a hefty profit.