Tag Archives: contraband cell phone

Contraband Prison Cell Phones Using Encrypted VoIP

An imprisoned terrorist in India is using a contraband cell phone and a custom built encrypted VoIP network to secure his communications with his organization. The VoIP network runs on GPRS (mobile data service on 2G or 3G cellular communication system), and was created by the terrorist’s own tech team. The technical significance of this approach is the use of the data transmission capabilities of the cell phone to transmit encrypted voice conversations that cannot be monitored.

The increasing use by terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for communication, and its impenetrability, is proving frustrating for Indian intelligence. In fact, Lashkar supreme commander of operations, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, who is in a Rawalpindi jail, has been networking using a private VoIP on his smart phone with Lashkar cadres.

“Lakhvi’s compound serves as Lashkar’s alternative headquarters,” a top intelligence source told TOI. It was his imprisonment, sources said, that stopped Lashkar cadres from using emails and phones and restrict communication to VoIP.

VoIP is a technology that delivers audio and video messages over the internet. It’s distinct from phone as it converts audio signals into binary data. VoIP also allows encryption of data, which makes it difficult to decode messages.

Senior intelligence sources in Kashmir told TOI that Muridke (Lahore) based Lashkar known for using technology more than any other terror group in Kashmir, has its own private VoIP, Ibotel, to communicate with its cadres in Pakistan and Kashmir.

Ibotel, Lashkar’s exclusive VoIP that runs on GPRS (mobile data service on 2G or 3G cellular communication system), was created by Lashkar’s own tech team. The group began recruiting technicians, engineers and information technology executives almost a decade ago to intensify its operations across India.

Lashkar, which is headed by Hafiz Saeed against whom the US recently announced a $10 million bounty for his alleged role in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, started using VoIP as soon as the technology became common in early 2000s. Lashkar’s handlers used VoIP during the Mumbai attacks, intelligence sources said.

“Earlier, we could intercept conversations on phone or locate Lashkar cadres based on their IP addresses through their emails. But now we’re finding it tough to gather intelligence because Lashkar men hold audio or video conferences using private VoIP,” said intelligence sources.

“It’s difficult to track their locations. And even if we know their IP addresses and the time and date of their audio or video calls, we remain technologically handicapped because we can’t intercept what transpired between them,” said a senior government official.

“There may not be more than 50-odd Lashkar men. Yet, they are a threat because they have the ability to strike in the Valley or other parts of the country. We need to catch up with the technology to hunt them down,” said a senior J&K police officer.

An intelligence officer in New Delhi said the problem was not India specific. “Other countries are also unable to intercept the contents of VoIP messages. The only way to do it is to gather basic intelligence, zero-in on suspected email addresses used for VoIP conversations, and get to the mother servers for a search under Mutual Legal Assistant Treaty (MLAT),” he said.


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Officers Smuggling Mobile Phones Into Prisons

This news report discusses the problem of contraband cell phones smuggled into a Ghana prison. According to the article, “the most precious commodity inside the Nsawam prison today is the mobile phone.” It also states, “The use of mobile phones in our facilities has become a serious business raking in money for both inmates and prison officers.” As discussed in an earlier blog post, contraband cell phones are now seen to be the prison system’s greatest threat here in the United States as well. Any solution to this problem, whether here or abroad, should include a strategy to address the demand for as well as the supply of contraband cell phones.

Hardened criminals in Ghanaian jail houses may be coordinating armed robbery attacks and running narcotic drug businesses from behind bars, investigations by The Globe newspaper have revealed.

The Globe has established growing use of illegal cellular phones in Ghana’s jail houses, especially at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison. There is a long lasting ban on the use of mobile phones behind bars. Our investigations established that ever smaller handsets allow phones to be smuggled in by prisoners, visitors or corrupt staff.

On January 9, 2012, the total number of inmates in the nation’s jail houses stood at 13,588. At the Nsawam Prison, official figures put the population of inmates at 3,512. But, it is unknown the unknown the number of inmates at Nsawam who have access to the smuggled mobile phones. “Indeed, the most precious commodity inside the Nsawam prison today is the mobile phone”, said a worried junior officer with the Ghana Prisons Service, who wished not to be named. There are fears illegal phones could fuel prison drug trading, bullying and gang problems.

Behind bars, phones can cost 300 Ghana cedis (~$174 US), the phones are usually paid for by relations and friends of phone-seeking inmates. Smuggled into the prisons by relations of inmates and in many cases prison officers, the phones are used to organise narcotic drug deals, intimidate victims, and plan armed robbery attacks from prison with criminal gangs outside the prison walls. “The use of mobile phones in our facilities has become a serious business raking in money for both inmates and prison officers,” the officer said.

“It is an issue that has been with us for some time now,” the young Prison Officer told the Globe newspaper, adding: “Top management of the Prison Service is aware, but has virtually refused to deal with the problem.” “Visitors to the facilities and some corrupt senior officers are the ones fueling the illegal practice,” said the officer.

The revelations come at the time some European countries and some states in the United States have stepped up crack-down on illegal mobile phone use in their jail houses, after a series of bloody prison violence blamed on phones smuggled into prison cells.


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State-wide Network Smuggles Prison Cell Phones

A state-wide network of Georgia ex-cons smuggled contraband cell phones into prisons on demand and at $300 per cell phone. Drugs were also smuggled into the Georgia DOC facilities.

State, area and local investigators have uncovered a trail of cell phones, marijuana and tobacco that led straight to state prisons.

Several people were arrested here and in Colquitt County in connection with the operation. At least one other arrest is expected in Thomas County.

The statewide investigation showed a prisoner would request the contraband and tell the suspects where to leave the items.

The activity involved a vast network of co-conspirators outside the prisons.

The contraband would be left away from the prisons, said Kevin Lee, commander of the Thomas County/Thomasville Narcotics/Vice Division.

“The location could be on a work detail,” Lee explained. “It could be anywhere.”

The Georgia Department of Corrections Investigation Unit participated in the probe. The state agency did not respond Thursday to a request for information.

In Thomas County, Henry Curtis Ansley III, also known as Bubba, 38, 708 Hunters Chase, is charged with criminal conspiracy and unlawful possession of Hydrocodone.

Ansley is a former state prison inmate, who served time with another person charged in the investigation.

Lee said investigators found various addresses in Ansley’s text messages that told where he was to leave prison contraband.

“An ounce of marijuana will go for $400 to $500 in prison,” the commander said. A cell phone costs an inmate about $300.

When he was arrested, Ansley had hydrocodone pills in a pocket, and officers found more of the narcotic pain killer at his residence.

A corrections officer at Colquitt County Correctional Institute is charged in the case.

Richard Dale Roberts, 43, 10 Wiregrass Circle, Moultrie, is charged with violation of oath of office, felony possession of marijuana, illegal use of a communications device and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Steve Exum, commander of the Colquitt County Drug Enforcement Team, said charges on Roberts stemmed from information received from the correctional institute warden about contraband being brought into the facility.

Exum said Roberts was attempting to deliver marijuana to the correctional institute.

“It was marijuana he has just purchased from an FBI task force officer,” Exum explained.

Also charged in the case are Billy Joe Bowling, 35, 161 Dogwood Lane, Thomasville; Marcos Lewis Brewer, 22, 775 Flintside Drive, Cobb; and Jason Curry Icard, 39, 310 Highway 240 South, Buena Vista.

Bowling and Brewer are on parole, said Cpl. Kim Young of the Colquitt County drug agency.

Ansley and Brewer were in the same prison at the same time, Young explained.

Bowling, Brewer and Icard, who are charged with felony marijuana possession, were traveling in a red Honda Civic that did not stop at a stop sign in Colquitt County. A deputy made a traffic stop.

The marijuana was thrown from the car’s sunroof, Young said, adding that the contraband being tossed from the vehicle was recorded on video by a camera in the deputy’s car.

Seized in the Colquitt County arrests were a large quantity of cell phones and chargers and 90 bags of loose-leaf tobacco.

“They admitted to the intent of dropping the contraband at several state prisons, and they had several times prior,” Young said.


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Facebook Profile For Prisoner Under Investigation

Yet another instance of a prisoner using a contraband cell phone with internet access to post on Facebook. The meshDETECT secure prison cell phones do not allow internet access.

The sister of a murder victim is calling for Indiana prison officials to remove a Facebook profile for an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle.

Quintez Deloney, 20, of New Albany, is serving a 38-year sentence for a burglary that led to the death of 26-year-old Lewis James of Charlestown. James’ sister, Lisa Cunningham, said she learned Saturday that Deloney has a Facebook page on which he appears to be posting from prison.

“It feels like five years ago all over again. It’s like everything just happened again,” Cunningham said. “[Deloney] shouldn’t have any freedom. Once you’re in prison, you lose all your rights.”

In January 2007, James was shot seven times — four times in the back — at an apartment on William O. Vance Court in New Albany where he went to buy drugs. Floyd County prosecutors alleged Deloney and Lance Douglas, 24, kicked down the door to the apartment and attempted to rob James. When James resisted, he was shot.

Although prosecutors argued Deloney was the shooter, the jury convicted Douglas of murder but found Deloney guilty of only robbery and burglary. Deloney was sentenced in May 2009 to 80 years in prison, but that was reduced after the Indiana Court of Appeals found he should not have been sentenced for both the robbery and burglary charges because of the double jeopardy provision.

Deloney, through his attorney Bruce Brightwell, has filed a motion to correct error with the court seeking to have his conviction overturned or sentence reduced. That matter is set for hearing March 9.

Deloney has been serving his time at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility since he was sentenced. A Facebook profile for “Quintez Q-Ball Deloney” has 184 friends. The first update on the page was July 17, 2011.

A post on the page includes Deloney’s prison mailing address. There are several posts about the case. On Oct. 11, he wrote that he was starting another appeal. On Oct. 15, he wrote, “beat anther case i feel like gotti did … BRR!”

In another message, he indicated he would be released in 2014 even though the Indiana Department of Correction lists his earliest possible release date as 2026. Most of the posts contain profanity and are not fit for publication in the News and Tribune.

At one point, someone asked how he had Facebook access in prison. He responded, “thats somethang thats kept secret!”

Susan Harrington, spokeswoman for Wabash Valley, said Cunningham’s complaint has been filed with internal affairs investigators. Harrington said Deloney will be disciplined if it is true that he has somehow been posting messages from prison.

Wabash Valley does not allow inmates to have cell phones, and Harrington said they have no Internet access through legal means inside the prison. Most of Deloney’s posts indicate they were made using a mobile device.

“Usually, if we find them with any kind of cell phone or communication device, it’s confiscated and we go through disciplinary procedures,” Harrington said.

Cunningham said she contacted Wabash Valley and Congressman Todd Young, R-Ind., asking for help to remove Deloney’s Facebook profile. Cunningham said she is speaking out because she does not want family members of other murder victims to have to see pictures of their loved ones’ killers or accomplices on Facebook.

Other states have also had to deal with inmates using Facebook. The California Department of Corrections announced in August that it had started reporting inmate pages to Facebook and that the company had agreed to delete pages that had been updated since the inmate was incarcerated. Facebook has a policy against anyone using a fake name or updating a profile for another person.

That move came after a convicted child molester accessed Facebook photos of his victim and sent current drawings of her to her home even though he had not seen her in seven years.

More than 1,760 contraband cell phones were confiscated from Indiana state prisons in 2010, according to Department of Correction records.


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Jailed Terrorist Not Allowed To Skype

This news item is interesting in that it highlights not only the potential risk of unfettered technology access for high-security prisoners, but also the impact of the high cost of prison telecommunications services.

Evidently, other prisons within the UK do allow the use of Skype by prisoners, however. Increasingly, prisoners are getting access to various consumer technologies, such as email, MP3 players, etc., albeit in a customized and controlled versions. We believe that a secure prison cell phone solution will be part of that offering over time as prisons and jails seek to reduce the demand for contraband cell phones.

London: In what could be regarded as the height of whining, a Bangladeshi terrorist, who plotted to blow up a passenger jet, has complained that that he is not allowed to use Skype to make low-cost phone calls from a high-security UK jail.

Rajib Karim, 32, wants to use the system, which offers cheap international calls from phones as well as free video link-ups, to contact friends and family in Bangladesh. But officials at maximum security HMP Frankland in Durham barred the move saying it would pose a serious security risk.

“This guy planned on killing hundreds of people. He is a former British Airways software engineer who knows a lot about computers and telecommunications.

“The last thing he should be given access to is a computer or method of free communication,” The Daily Mail quoted an unnamed source as saying.

Karim was jailed for 30 years last year after being found guilty of planning a 9/11-style terror attack with former al- Qaeda warlord Anwar al-Awlaki.

The father-of-two claims using a prison payphone costs him too much money.

In a letter written to Inside Time, a newspaper for prisoners, he said: “The international call rates cost a lot using the prison PIN system and the Skype option looked like a perfect solution.

“The best part was that it was legal and no breach of prison rules as the call was made to a direct number and was not being redirected.

“But when I recently tried making my first call I was told by staff here at HMP Frankland that I am not allowed to make any calls through Skype”.

The report said he “tried to explain” how other prisons in the UK reportedly allow inmates to use the service, but said, “The response was a firm ‘no’ as HMP Frankland is part of the high security estate”.

Karim’s complaint has been passed on to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

He was imprisoned for 30 years last year after Woolwich Crown Court heard he wanted to use his position at British Airways to plant a bomb on a plane as part of a “chilling” conspiracy with al-Awlaki, a notorious radical preacher associated with al-Qaeda.


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Law To Prohibit Contraband Cell Phone Use Advances

An update on the progress of a proposed law in Michigan to add tougher penalties to the law prohibiting contraband cell phone use by prisoners. The article states, “Roesler said the main concern with inmates possessing a cellphone has more to do with security than the inmate being able to call out of the jail. With the cell phones now, they act as cameras and computers as a way to communicate and receive information. They can receive intelligence information and take pictures of corrections officers and witnesses. It could be a major security breach.”

Contraband cell phone use can be reduced by offering an alternative such as the meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution. These phones have no cameras or internet access.

Two proposed bills — worked on by Muskegon County’s sheriff and state senator, and which would raise the penalties for possession and use of cellphones by inmates — is working its way through the Legislature.

The bills would amend current law to prohibit state prisoners and county jail inmates from possessing a cellphone and prohibit anyone from furnishing them with a cellphone.

Under the bills, violators of the ban would face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000 or both. Currently, inmates found in possession of cellphones face confiscation of the devices and losses of privileges.

The legislation currently is before the House Judiciary Committee. The state Senate passed the bills, Senate Bills No. 551 and No. 552, on votes of 34-3 in September, sending them to the House.

Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler and state Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, collaborated on the proposed legislation. Hansen is the primary sponsor of the bills.

Roesler said the main concern with inmates possessing a cellphone has more to do with security than the inmate being able to call out of the jail.

“With the cell phones now, they act as cameras and computers as a way to communicate and receive information,” Roesler said. “They can receive intelligence information and take pictures of corrections officers and witnesses. It could be a major security breach.”

Hansen called cellphone use by inmates and prisoners “a real safety concern.”

“They could call witnesses outside the jail or prison, coordinate a guard’s movements,” Hansen said. “There could be some real danger.”

The language of the proposed legislation prohibits use by inmates and prisoners of all wireless communication devices.

In addition, the proposed legislation calls for cellphones and other devices confiscated as contraband to be donated to Cell Phones For Soldiers Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing deployed and returning troops cost-free methods to communicate with family while serving in the U.S. military.

Roesler said he was pleased to learn the bills passed the Senate and anticipated the potential benefits of the proposed changes to the law.

Currently, “an inmate bringing or possessing a cellphone in the jail would only have administrative sanctions, a loss of privileges, like TV or trustee status,” he said, pointing to the criminal charges proposed with the legislation being considered.

Hansen said he will push for the bills’ consideration by the state House.

“We’ll keep working on it because it’s common sense,” Hansen said. “What do you do if you’re in the sheriff’s position, because you don’t have any punishment.”


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Prison Cell Phone Jamming Not Working

An article describing some of the technical problems with contraband cell phone jamming in a prison. Unlike the managed access systems used in the United States, this Cayman Islands implementation blocks all cellular signals. Except, it doesn’t.

According to the article, “Government officials confirmed Wednesday the cell jamming equipment had not been working in all areas of the prison or at certain times, largely due to the proximity of a telecommunications tower next to the Northward site.

“What we’ve been told is that the tower and cell phone jamming technology are essentially cancelling each other out,” said Eric Bush, portfolio of internal and external affairs deputy chief officer. “We have experienced what they call ‘signal bleeding’ – that’s when the tower signal overpowers the jamming equipment.”

Her Majesty’s Prison Service in the Cayman Islands has been using cell phone jamming equipment at Northward men’s prison since late 2009, according to the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.

It just doesn’t work properly.

Portfolio officials made comments on the issue following a recommendation by Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams that the prison service install and implement cell phone jamming equipment in response to dozens of the devices being found at Northward last year.

“Since, realistically, it is virtually impossible to stop cell phone and BlackBerry use in prisons, this is a sensible, viable and – in the long-term – cheaper alternative which would avoid regular and repeated use of strip searching as a means of retrieval,” Ms Williams said, following a review of an incident where three teenage female prisoners at Fairbanks women’s prison were strip-searched in an operation that recovered two cell phones from the prison dorm.

According to information obtained through an open records request, a cell phone jamming system was installed and has been operational at Northward men’s prison since December 2009. The technology was in use during 2010, when some 74 cell phones were found at the men’s lockup.

Government officials confirmed Wednesday the cell jamming equipment had not been working in all areas of the prison or at certain times, largely due to the proximity of a telecommunications tower next to the Northward site.

“What we’ve been told is that the tower and cell phone jamming technology are essentially cancelling each other out,” said Eric Bush, portfolio of internal and external affairs deputy chief officer. “We have experienced what they call ‘signal bleeding’ – that’s when the tower signal overpowers the jamming equipment.”

Prison officials are reluctant to discuss the specific nature of the problems caused by the dueling technologies, but Mr. Bush said it was clear the cell jamming equipment purchased in 2009 wasn’t working the way government wanted it to.

“We want to effectively nullify cell phones within the prison service,” he said. “I want to make them useless.”

The government has engaged in discussions with the cell phone jamming providers and also intends to speak with both LIME and Digicel, which use the Northward telecom tower facilities. Mr. Bush said the government was hopeful a resolution could be worked out, once all parties were in agreement.

Ms Williams said in her earlier recommendation that land line phones would remain unaffected by cell phone jamming equipment.

“The minor inconvenience it would cause to staff who wanted to use cell phones and BlackBerrys for personal use would be far outweighed by the benefits,” Ms Williams stated in her recommendations to the government. “Phone-jamming equipment is currently used in prisons in many countries including; France, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden and is currently being considered for use in prisons in Germany and the United Kingdom.”

The prisons service has a detailed policy on when and how strip searches should be used. Among those instances include when contraband is believed to be stashed in the prison, which Ms Williams said can be problematic if officers are determined to have used unreasonable force is searching for a cell phone or sim card.

To the average person who doesn’t spend a lot of time in prison, cell phones might seem a harmless device. However, Mr. Bush, whose portfolio has responsibility for law enforcement in the Cayman Islands, said prison officers work in a different world.

“In the hands of individuals [a cellphone] can be used as a method or tool to orchestrate chaos and murder,” Mr. Bush said.


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Contraband Cell Phones Prison System’s Greatest Threat?

A very interesting interview with the Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner, Brian Owens on the problem of contraband cell phones in prisons.

Provocative quotes from the interview:

“Cell phones in prison are simply a matter of power, money and gangs.”

“Illegal cell-phone use in Georgia prisons has developed to “epidemic” proportions and is now the system’s greatest safety threat.”

Interestingly, the interview did not include any discussion of deploying demand-side solutions such as a secure prison cell phone solution to reduce the contraband value of smuggled cell phones.

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Might Prison-Friendly Cell Phones Be A Wiser Response To Contraband Phones Smuggled Behind Bars?

Might prison-friendly cell phones be a wiser response to contraband phones smuggled behind bars? So writes Douglas A. Berman the Robert J. Watkins/Procter & Gamble Professor of Law at Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University on his blog Sentencing Law And Policy.

Professor Berman, who attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School and who’s principal teaching and research focus is in the area of criminal law and criminal sentencing, states in his blog post on the recent GAO report on smuggled cell phones in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Though I fully understand the problems that contraband cell phones can pose in prisons, I do not understand why anyone would be confident that this new federal criminal law would be likely to be effective at addressing these problems (or would even ever get seriously enforced by federal prosecutors).”

“As the title of my post hints, I think trying to provide inmates with controlled and closely monitored access to a prison-friendly cell phone may be a much more effective way to deal with a problem that seem likely to get even more profound if and when smart-phones and tablets and other small electronics become even cheaper and easier to pass to inmates who may just want no more than a cheap and easy way to keep up with the outside world.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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