An excerpt from Cyrus Farivar’s book is available on Politico. It begins:
On a warm summer’s day in 2008, police spotted a man walking outside his apartment in Santa Clara, California, one of the many bedroom communities spread across Silicon Valley. Undercover FBI officers saw him outside the building and began following him on foot, radioing to their colleagues nearby. The man saw the agents, and so he began to walk quickly. They followed suit.
After months of tracking him via sting bank accounts and confidential informants, the officers had their man. He had told the apartment complex’s manager that he was Steven Travis Brawner, software engineer: a profile that fit right in with many other tenants in the area. But at the time of his arrest, officers didn’t know his real name: After watching his activities at a distance, they called him simply the “Hacker.” Between 2005 and 2008, federal investigators believed that the Hacker and two other men filed over 1,900 fake tax returns online, yielding $4 million sent to over 170 bank accounts.
The Hacker was found out through the warrantless use of a secretive surveillance technology known as a stingray, which snoops on cell phones. Stingrays, or cell-site simulators, act as false cell phone towers that trick phones into giving up their location. They have become yet another tool in many agencies’ toolbox, and their use has expanded with little oversight—and no public knowledge that they were even being used until the Hacker went on an obsessive quest to find out just how law enforcement tracked him that summer day. When he tugged on that thread, he found out something else: that police might be tracking a lot more than we even know on our phones, often without the warrants that are usually needed for comparable methods of invasive surveillance.
The Hacker began breathing more heavily. He may have thought about heading toward the nearby train station, which would take him out of town, or perhaps towards the San Jose International Airport, just three miles away. The Hacker couldn’t be sure if there were cops following him, or if he was just being paranoid. But as soon as he saw the marked Santa Clara Police Department cars, he knew the truth, and he started running.
You can get Habeas Data: Privacy vs. the Rise of Surveillance Tech from Melville House Publishing, LLC or on Amazon and other booksellers.