Axial Systems has announced trials with two UK mobile service providers (MSPs) for its IP Address Correlation Engine. This is a real-time solution that enables an IP address to be tracked and located. This will allow MSPs to deal with requests from the police and intelligence services for data under the forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill.
Mike Simmonds, Managing Director, Axial Systems explained: “One of the biggest obstacles is the need to identify in real-time who used a particular Internet Protocol (IP) Address, and where and when they used it. It is a capability that Communication Services Providers (CSPs) and MSPs, in particular, will need to be ready to provide as the Investigatory Power Bill moves through Parliament.”
What data is being captured?
This is a sensitive area for all communication providers. Simmonds says: “We don’t record the high-level communication as a whole. Instead we record it at the lowest possible level, closely monitoring the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/IP session and correlation each connected based on the content of the session.” He went on to add: “We can produce a record that says, for example: – this IP address was used by this device at this time and sent and received this much data – exactly what is required by the Investigatory Powers Bill.”
What would it be used for?
One of the likely uses will be anti-terrorist units and intelligence services dealing with a threat. They may have intelligence that an attack is likely to take place and will want to track the movements and Internet usage of one or more mobile devices. This allows them to know not just what websites a device has accessed and where it accessed them from.
It is not just Internet usage and location tracking that this solution delivers. Devices could be tracked from the moment they were purchased and activated via the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). Criminals use burner phones, phones that are not registered to a particular person in order to communicate. This makes them hard to link to a particular individual. The device activity and usage data can be compared to the movement of an individual. Where they match up it would provide the police with evidence that they could present to the court.
The real-time element would enable the police to track criminals immediately after a crime. This means that a list of active devices at a crime scene could enable tracking of suspects. This can be combined with other data such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) so that the police would know where criminals were headed. This would reduce the risk of losing a vehicle and in the case of a dangerous high-speed chase they could back off but still track suspects.
The system can also be used to create alerts. This could be to track all devices visiting a web site or using certain Internet services. It could also be used to protect locations as an additional level of security. Simmonds says that such a move would reduce the amount of traffic that has to be analysed in order to locate the key data.
Anything that smacks of tracking individuals will raise flags with civil liberties groups. There is already significant concern over how the potential use of new powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill. Simmonds has made it clear that Axial is not gathering any new data nor is it gathering content. All it is doing is using the data that communication providers already have.
Police and intelligence services will welcome this announcement. Communications providers should also see it as useful, as it will enable them to respond to requests more quickly.