Posted by: Allen Hoffmann, JD
February 12, 2015
Crime is a highly adaptive creature – its probably the best example of the path of least resistance. Forgive me waxing lyrical and hitting up the criminological considerations from time to time, but in some ways, criminals and LE aren’t all that different. The metrics are different, the outcomes are different, but the deployment of effort follows a relatively similar approach.
Why buy a TV if you can just steal it? Forget the cost benefit analysis, risk consideration, and social contract issues that weigh on most people – why the fuck spend 40+ hours a week and having a normal life if you can just take what you want? Because making every cent in your life out of crime has been made very hard to do by a variety of barriers beyond stigmatizing people with a rap sheet and being publicly known as a criminal, what’s really stopping you? Barriers. Those barriers I am referring to are the target hardening measures – the bars on your windows, the locks on your doors, setting aside for a moment the threat of catching a beating or a bullet from a homeowner or a cop. Not many people have the skills to perform non destructive entry to houses or cars, and those that do are seldom in the break and enter game.
If you install bars on your windows, for example, you have upped the ante for a would-be burglar – if your neighbour’s place looks easier, he’ll break in there. What if, however, you have those bars, and your house contains unusual and expensive shit that Mr. Burglar has got to get from you, because no one else in your hood has (like a Zebra skin rug), or for other reasons, HAVE to steal from you (like negatives of naked pictures of their sister), options are try picking that shit anyway, give up or find another way in. If I need to make it look like a normal break and enter or I wasn’t skilled enough to pick a lock in the first place, I can pick the lock, or bring an angle grinder and cut the bars off fast, or climb up the side of your house on a ladder, lift ceiling tiles and drop in after kicking a hole through the roof.
Maybe if you live in an apartment complex and have a solid steel door with three deadbolts, and I have a snap gun or a pick set, I go to your neighbour’s easily pickable front door, let myself in, and then break through the wall with a sledgehammer to get at what I want without being seen. Or maybe, if you have alarm systems, I remove the bricks under your sink or behind your closet, then put them back before I leave after installing who knows what, whilst evading your passive infrared sensors, and you never know how I got in. That last one is an LE favorite on hard targets – you can harden your front doors, you can put bars on your windows, but have you ever checked behind the medicine cabinet for loose/recently replaced bricks?
Why investigate a hard target as a means to attack an enterprise when you can just go after the easiest way, in terms of effort, time and expenditure? LE and other adversaries are the same when it comes to attacking your OPSEC. If I, the hypothetical cop, know three out of four guys don’t use cellphones at all, do I give up, go to their houses and try selling them cellphones, or attack the guy who does have a cellphone? Word to the fucking wise – they’re unlikely to give up or pretend to be selling cellphones door to door, so that means they’re gonna work on a way in to your operation once they’ve decided you’re worth the time, efforts and resources, at least for a preliminary look.
If you need to communicate with a ‘talk group’ of people for matters relating to ‘work’ on the go, while you’re out doing things, and doing it instantaneously, chances are, you’re using cellphones like everyone else. However, unless you and your team are keeping those talk group’s phones COMPLETELY sealed from inbound or outbound calls or texts, and are ditching your phones and the SIM services at the same time, without overlapping between old and new sets, here’s why you’re wasting your time.
IMEIs and SIMs are a big fucking deal
The old days, which I have a habit of referencing pretty regularly, are over. Cases are not often made by some lucky break, and rarely were to begin with, its just that investigators prefer not to let their tricks become publicly known, because it allows their adversaries to learn from their mistakes and evolve. Hard work is the mortal enemy of LE, who would be much more comfortable using a tried and true technique than being compelled to develop a new one. These days, proverbial investigative shoe leather has given way to electronic methodologies, and some or all of these tactics, just as in the old days, LE wants to keep to itself. Here is something which has brought down the lowliest dope pusher to the most bad ass armed robber – changing the SIM does NOT DO SHIT on its own. The SIM is only one identity – the phone itself is another, and this overlooked issue is something that can fuck you up, big time. Changing your SIM card only changes the phone number PRESENTLY ASSOCIATED with the cell phone you’re using, thus preventing you from receiving every god damn call on the network. It does nothing for the fact that once you have paired a SIM and IMEI onto the network, its pairing is forevermore known and recorded – that present association, as soon as it happens, gets logged in the telecommunications company’s computer, along with the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) number of that handset – and into the intelligence machine goes every number which has ever been called by, or called to, that SIM’s phone number.
That’s just the start, and remember, the IMEI is a whole distinct identity. The SIM and IMEI are two different entity search parameters which, if not both completely fresh for everyone you call or who calls you, gives LE the capacity to start getting in on your operation. Do I sound like I’m repeating that point too much? Keep reading next time and you’ll see why. For now, read this.