Orange County has many claims to fame: Richard Nixon, the S&L scandal, subprime boiler-rooms, Disneyland, an airport honoring a cowboy named Marion, and now, the revelation that its police force secretly uses low-flying surveillance aircraft to break the encryption of thousands of cellphone users, track their movements, and intercept their communications.
The ACLU made the discovery after winning a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Anaheim police, forcing the force to disclose its use of "Dirtboxes" — DRTs, or Digital Receiver Technologies, are Boeing's aircraft-mounted "Stingrays on steroids," used to break the weak crypto on cellphones to listen in on their traffic and track their owners.
It's not clear how or when or if the Anaheim PD uses the Dirtboxes. A 2014 memo complained that the equipment hadn't been updated by Boeing. The department has a Cessna it uses for surveillance.
Presumably, the Cessna can't fly over Disneyland itself, because the park is a no-fly zone.
As Reveal reported in August 2015, a DRTBox can "simultaneously break the encryption of communications from hundreds of cellphones at once. A 2011 purchase order for this equipment by the Washington Headquarters Services, a branch of the Pentagon, states the devices can retrieve the encryption session keys for a cellphone 'in less than a second with success rates of 50 to 75% (in real world conditions).'"
City cops in Disneyland's backyard have had "stingray on steroids" for years
[Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]
(Image: Aerial view of Anaheim and Disneyland in 1965
, EditorASC, CC-BY-SA)