German police use drone to combat social benefit fraud

Along with Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the pioneers in the use of police drones. Now an unmanned aircraft is being used to track organised fraudulent benefits to the disfavor of the job centre

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has procured a drone in order to convict „groups of offenders with a gang structure“ in the case of fraudulent social benefits. This was announced by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in its answer to a parlamentarian question. The device, which was financed by the EU Internal Security Fund, is intended for the prosecution of „social benefit fraud by EU citizens“ in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Federal Ministry does not want to disclose which device it is and which company received the order for reasons of „public weal“. Otherwise, the addressees of the measure could protect themselves against it, writes Hans-Georg Engelke, the state secretary in charge. „German police use drone to combat social benefit fraud“ weiterlesen

Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex

Since 2009, the EU Border Agency Frontex has been hosting training events on drones and inviting manufacturers to regular demonstrations. There, border police from Schengen member states were presented market-available unmanned systems for the surveillance of land and maritime borders. The basis for this is the first Frontex Regulation, adopted in 2004, which contains the mandate to „follow up on the development of research relevant for the control and surveillance of external borders“. The agency’s remit therefore includes continuous exchange with „cross-sectorial partners“ in order to „transform operational requirements into innovative operational solutions“.

In the case of the introduction of these technologies, Frontex is to coordinate with European standardisation institutes as appropriate. In 2010, small drones were the initial focus in Finland. A year later, high-flying MALE-class aircraft were unveiled in the Greek port city of Aktio. Prior to this, Frontex had issued a call for the event to explore the integration of drones into the EU border surveillance system EUROSUR. Subsequently, aircraft such as the Israeli „Heron 1“, the American „Predator“, the French „Patroller“ as well as the „Euro Hawk“ (which at the time was in the procurement phase for the German Armed Forces as a spy drone) were presented in lectures. Some drones were demonstrated live; in the case of the Spanish offshoot of the French arms company Thales, the latter touted the suitability of its „Fulmar“ against irregular migration.

In its 2012 work programme, Frontex announced its intention to „identify more cost-efficient and operational effective solutions for aerial border surveillance in particular Unmanned Aircraft Systems“. Under the name „All Eyes“, the agency then wanted to identify cheap and effective solutions, including also so-called Optional Piloted Aerial Vehicles (OPV). Within nine months, an initial study on this was to be carried out, followed by „practical field tests and an evaluation“. The budget was 450,000 euros. „Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex“ weiterlesen

Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers

The government in Athens is targeting organisations and individuals who observe and document human rights violations. An „information management“ agency set up with EU funding is involved in the investigation.

Once again, Greek authorities are striking a blow against European human rights organisations. A total of ten people from different countries are alleged to have facilitated the „illegal entry of foreigners“ in the Aegean Sea since June 2020. This was announced by the police at a press conference last Monday. Those involved are also accused of espionage as well as „impeding investigations“. Some of them are also said to have violated immigration law. However, no arrests or searches have been made so far.

The investigations are targeting members of four different organisations working on the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos to monitor human rights, as well as six other persons. According to the pro-government newspaper „Kathimerini“, the Norwegian organisation Aegean Boat Report is among those affected. „Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers“ weiterlesen

Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat

A handful of property damages in Italy could lead to left-wing activism being pursued more closely by police and secret services across the European Union. The initiative bears the hallmarks of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Meanwhile, a package of measures against „violent right-wing extremism and terrorism“ has petered out.

In the Terrorism Annual Report for 2020 (TESAT), Europol recently counted 24 left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks. According to the report, the incidents all took place in Italy, with none of them resulting in human casualties. Most of the attacks were on mobile phone masts and other telecommunications infrastructure, such as relays or cables. Meanwhile, the same report counts only one right-wing terrorist attack, Hanau (Germany), which left nine dead, and six jihadist attacks that killed 12 people.

Each country can determine for itself whether the incidents mentioned in the TESAT are classified as „extremist“ or „terrorist“. It is obvious that the high figures for „left-wing terrorism“ are due to the special counting method of Italian authorities. Nevertheless, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has now presented a paper proposing initiatives against a „left-wing terrorism“. „Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat“ weiterlesen

New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service

The EU police agency processes billions of personalised „big data“, much of it from governmental hacks or intelligence sources. The new Europol vice-director, who was trained in the French military, plays a special role. Now it’s up to the EU Parliament to decide.

The day before yesterday, the EU interior ministers agreed on a mandate for negotiations on the amendment of the Europol Regulation. The final draft has already been published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. This means that negotiations on the planned law with the EU Parliament can begin. The proposal is controversial, as Europol would be allowed to process data from private entities on a large scale, even if they include innocent people or contact persons of suspects.

Six months ago, the Commission had presented the draft for the new Europol Regulation. According to the proposal, Europol should have an additional 178 million euros and 160 new posts by 2027. Because the police agency would then also be allowed to use the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a proposed amendment of the SIS Regulation is also being discussed. With the new legal and financial powers, Europol would be on its way to becoming a „European FBI“, as some German interior politicians have demanded in recent months. „New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service“ weiterlesen

Germany: The state hacks along

With the temporary exception of the Federal Police, all German police agencies and secret services are now allowed to hack into computers and telephones. This is an extremely deep invasion of privacy

On 10 June, the Bundestag massively expanded the use of state trojan horse programmes. A bill on the „adaptation of the law on the protection of the constitution“ was put to the vote, which the MPs adopted with 355 votes of the ruling coalition factions CDU/CSU and SPD. According to the bill, the domestic intelligence service will now also be allowed to penetrate foreign computer systems with the help of spy software. The parliamentary groups DIE LINKE, FDP, Bündnis90/Die Grünen and AfD voted against; the SPD voted five against and three abstained.

The bill „to modernise the legal basis of the Federal Police“ was also passed by the CDU/CSU and SPD against the votes of the opposition. This would have allowed the Federal Police to infiltrate computers and mobile phones, just like the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, without the persons concerned having to have committed a crime. A week ago, the upper house (Bundesrat) overturned this new law for various reasons, so the next federal government will have to deal with it again. The renewed Constitutional Protection Act, on the other hand, remains valid. „Germany: The state hacks along“ weiterlesen

„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military

Authorities in the European Union use biometric data and crime scene evidence from Iraq and Syria to process war crimes, secretly track suspects and control migration. Now the procedure is to be extended to African countries.

After a meeting of EU interior and defence ministers in 2017, authorities in member states have been using so-called „battlefield information“ to fight terrorism. In this way, the authorities want to identify and detect „foreign fighters“ when they cross an external EU border. The procedure is to be expanded, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is therefore calling on governments to engage in a „regular dialogue with their military forces and relevant intelligence and security services“. This is according to two documents posted online by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch.

„Battlefield information“ comes from countries such as Syria or Iraq, where the „Global Coalition against Daesh“ has been operating militarily since 2014. The intelligence is usually collected there by military secret services. Their dissemination and use goes back to „Operation Gallant Phoenix“, an initiative of the US government. It has a secretariat in Jordan and involves military and intelligence services from 27 Western and Arab states as well as their police authorities. „„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military“ weiterlesen

Spotlight on: State Trojans

In Greek mythology, the horse outside the city of Troy was a wooden gift in whose hull some of the hostile Achaeans had hidden. Unsuspecting inhabitants, certain of victory over the invaders, pulled it in, the Achaeans climbed out at night and opened the gates for trailing troops, who then captured and destroyed Troy.

Today’s so called state trojan does not disguise itself as a gift and is active even when the enemy is awake. Nevertheless, the reference to the myth fits, because the wooden horses used by criminal investigation agencies may be installed „by means of criminalistic cunning“. First, the investigators find out how the software can best be installed: As a clandestine installation via websites that appear unsuspecting, in downloaded files or an attachment sent by e-mail. It is also possible to introduce the tool by breaking into the device, for example during a secret search of a flat or a police check. „Spotlight on: State Trojans“ weiterlesen

Data protection does not kill

Digitalcourage presented again the BigBrotherAward for „data sinners“ in business and politics

Eavesdropping, data retention, EU copyright reform: Germany can be considered one of the countries where people still take to the streets for data protection and civil rights. The Bielefeld-based association Digitalcourage has had a firm place there since 1987, and quite a few protests and campaigns can be traced back to co-founders Rena Tangens and padeluun.

In 2000, Digitalcourage began presenting the so-called BigBrotherAwards. This annual „Oscar for data octopuses“ marks people, companies or organisations that are responsible for data protection offences, surveillance technologies and corresponding laws. Last year, for example, Tesla was awarded for the all-round monitoring of its e-cars with hidden cameras, another prize went to an American-Chinese company that uses headbands to register the attention of students in class. „Data protection does not kill“ weiterlesen

Germany: Trojans for all

The German Bundestag passed new wiretapping laws for secret services and the Federal Police

In future, German secret services will be able to remotely access private computers or telephones with spy software. They will be allowed to intercept not only ongoing but also „inactive“ communications, i.e. to read out data stored on the devices. This was decided in the Bundestag today with the votes of the ruling coalition of Conservatives (CDU/ CSU) and Socialdemocrats (SPD). The vote was on a „Law on the Adaptation of Legislation on the Protection of the Constitution“, which is intended to facilitate the „reconnaissance of serious threats to our democratic constitutional state“. „Germany: Trojans for all“ weiterlesen