Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul

A high-ranking EU advisor has drawn up recommendations for the Council and the Commission on how to deal with evacuees and refugees from Afghanistan. The focus is on more cooperation with secret services and NATO.

The European Union’s anti-terrorism coordinator proposes 22 measures for dealing with Afghan refugees. An action plan, published by the British organisation Statewatch, addresses the four areas of security controls, strategic intelligence, countering propaganda as well as terrorist financing.

The recommendations by the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove are based on a declaration by the EU interior ministers on 31 August. There, flight and migration from Afghanistan are seen primarily as a security problem. „Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul“ weiterlesen

Billions for Europe’s biometrics giants

All travellers will soon have to submit fingerprints and facial images at the EU’s external borders. For this, large sums of money await companies offering such technologies in each member state. In an „Interoperability Package“, the European Union is spending more money on the systems.

It is estimated that the global market for biometric systems will grow from 28 billion in 2019 to 56 billion Euros in 2024. A large part of this relates to border control technology, including stationary and mobile scanners, sensors, databases, servers and infrastructure for networks. In Europe, this market is dominated by groups such as Idemia, Atos, Sopra Steria (all from France) as well as Accenture (Ireland) and Hewlett Packard (USA). This is how Danish researchers have reconstructed it in a study financed by the EU Commission.

The European Union is paying almost one billion Euros for the expansion of its large migration databases. Some of these information systems are decades old. Some of them have already been renewed, but now they are getting new functions again. In future, the fingerprints and facial images contained in them will be with a „Shared Biometric Matching Service“. „Billions for Europe’s biometrics giants“ weiterlesen

Restrictive in cyberspace

New German cybersecurity guidelines harbour even more surveillance and centralised powers

The Federal Cabinet today approved the new „Cybersecurity Strategy for Germany“. The draft, prepared by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, is to be in place for five years and replaces the previous version from 2016. The document describes four different guidelines. Cybersecurity is to be understood as a joint task of the state, business, science and society. Associations as well as citizens themselves should also find „common answers“ to cyber threats. Under the heading „Digital Sovereignty“, the Federal Government wants to invest more in research and develop cyber security into a quality feature „Made in Germany“. „Restrictive in cyberspace“ weiterlesen

Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance

The border agency spends one-sixth of its budget on flights at the EU’s external borders. With the service, the Frontex director makes himself independent of the governments of the member states. A contract for helicopter operations does not materialise for the time being. In the meantime, however, Libya has ordered helicopters from Airbus.

Frontex has awarded two new contracts for aerial maritime surveillance. These are two of the original four tenders for medium-range and long-range flights. According to the European procurement portal, the contracts worth €53.6 million and €30.9 million were awarded to five charter companies from the Netherlands, the UK and Austria. All beneficiaries had previously provided flight services for Frontex. Several companies also fly for coastguards in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK.

Frontex currently spends one-sixth of its budget this year on its „Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS). The EU border agency began setting it up in 2013. Initially, it was a pilot project with the British company Diamond Executive Aviation (DEA), which was followed by service contracts with a total of nine companies from 2017. It was based on the renewed Frontex Regulation of 2016, according to which the agency can procure, lease or rent its own equipment. This makes Frontex independent of the Member States, from which the agency usually has to request personnel and equipment for “ Joint Operations“. „Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance“ weiterlesen

Germany: Further step towards the introduction of „Cell Broadcast“

So far, German authorities can only notify mobile phones of an impending disaster if their owners have registered beforehand. Soon it will be possible to warn all phones within a certain radius. It is questionable who will decide whether to send such a message.

The German government is another step closer to introducing the „Cell Broadcast“ warning system. Yesterday, the Federal Cabinet agreed on a „formulation aid“ to amend the Telecommunications Act (TKG). If it is passed by the Bundestag, all mobile phones that are logged into a certain mobile phone cell can be warned of an impending event with a text message. The system is not tied to specific phone numbers, but the reception of „cell broadcast“ messages must be activated manually on some mobile phones.

The standard of „Cell Broadcast“ is defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), in which worldwide standardisation bodies have joined forces. Accordingly, the service, which was initially only available in GSM networks, can now also be used with LTE and 5G. „Cell Broadcast“ messages can only comprise a maximum of 93 characters. The latest specification extends this to 1,395 characters by sending a total of 15 continuous messages of 93 characters. In addition, the mobile phone emits an alarm tone and vibrates even if it is muted. „Germany: Further step towards the introduction of „Cell Broadcast““ weiterlesen

Germany: Bavaria upgrades police aerial surveillance

The Bavarian government is stepping up police video surveillance. In addition to aerial observation and mobile camera vans, the interior minister announces research into facial, behavioural and pattern recognition.

As probably the first German authority with security tasks, the Bavarian police creates a balloon for video surveillance. Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) showed the device at a press conference yesterday. It is launched from a trailer and attached to a 300-metre long line. The police calls it a „tethered helium balloon with video technology“.

The presentation took place on the occasion of the establishment of a new „Coordination Office Video“ (KOST), which Herrmann also presented to the public for the first time yesterday. The KOST is located at the Munich Airport Police Station and is to bundle the „Bavaria-wide competences in the areas of deployment, law and technology“ and support all police headquarters accordingly. In this way, it „makes a significant contribution to Bavaria being by far the safest federal state“. „Germany: Bavaria upgrades police aerial surveillance“ weiterlesen

Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space

High-flying drones are to reconnoitre the EU’s external borders from the stratosphere, a static zeppelin is already observing close to the ground. With interception systems in space, the EU border agency wants to locate and possibly tap satellite telephones in the Mediterranean. So far, the technology has only been installed in aircraft.

The European Union‘s border agency Frontex is expanding its „surveillance capability“ with high-flying platforms. In a call for tenders, systems are being sought for use in the stratosphere. At an altitude of 20 kilometres, they are to close the gap between the aircraft, drones and satellites already in use.

The systems sought include so-called high-altitude platforms (HAPS) or lighter-than-air (LTA) solutions, such as those currently being developed to series maturity by the European armament company Airbus with the glider „Zephyr“ or its French competitor Thales with the zeppelin-like „Stratobus“, which can last for months or even years. Suppliers of microsatellites, which can be launched into space extremely cheaply these days, can also apply.

The launch of HAPS has been driven by the EU Space Agency since 2017, and its market share at the time was estimated to be over €7 billion by 2024. Frontex could therefore be one of the first users of the new technology, as with the „Space Data Highway“. „Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space“ weiterlesen

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