Industry News

Spy gear for US police and oppressive regimes leaked online

Nothing is confidential anymore, not even police and military secrets, as evidenced by the online leak of a 120-page confidential 2014 catalogue selling high-level spy gear.

According to The Intercept, which gained access to the file, the document had been sent to US law enforcement by British defense company Cobham. Cobham has been exposed as a top entity also involved in selling spying tech to oppressive governments.

The high-tech equipment involves GSM manipulation from miles away, interception of calls and texts, location of people through their phones, listening in to conversations through microphones installed in clothes or lighters, and cameras hidden in trashcans.

With an estimated budget of $1bn per year, US police deny using such equipment. On various occasions, civil liberties organizations such as Amnesty International have expressed concern over the lack of international standards and regulations for this type of technology, its vulnerabilities, and over the threat of police militarization.

“As we learn time and time again, countries with bad human rights records often keep utilizing interception technology to perpetrate even more abuses and suppress dissent,” said Claudio Guarnieri, technologist at Amnesty International, for Motherboard. “British and European companies by now should very well know the risks involved in enabling and empowering some oppressive governments. Therefore it is imperative that companies as well as licensing authorities appropriately evaluate human rights implications when making business decisions.”

“As we move to a more connected world where cars, toys, fridges, and even implantable devices contain miniature cellphone technology, the capability to cause harm using one of these devices becomes ever greater,” said Richard Tynan, a technologist at Privacy International. “It is unacceptable for our modern critical infrastructure to be so vulnerable to such interception.”

About the author


From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.