Last week, Wikileaks released internal documents and emails obtained by hackers regarding TrapWire, a privately-owned surveillance technology utilized by various private and public agencies. It appears TrapWire works by collecting surveillance data from participating private and public sources (CCTV cameras, in particular). Once this data is funneled into the system, TrapWire is then able to analyze this input, detecting changes in patterns -- like discovering a particular vehicle is not on its usual morning commute to work -- which in turn can be used to identify suspicious behavior.
The technology used to be owned by Abraxas, but that company was eventually purchased by Cubic. In this 2005 interview, Abraxas Corp. CEO Richard Hollis had this to say about TrapWire:
TrapWire can help do that without infringing anyone’s civil liberties. It can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists. The application can do things like “type” individuals so if people say “medium build,” you know exactly what that means from that observer.
Source: nvtc.org interview
Not much time passed before WikiLeaks was hit by a crippling DDoS attack afterward, making the site inaccessible for 10 days and counting. WikiLeaks directly attributes the DDoS to its TrapWire leak while AntiLeaks, an organization anathema to WikiLeaks, has claimed responsibility. WikiLeaks is certainly no stranger to DDoS and hacking attempts. Following major leaks, the whistle-blowing organization has often been the target of such nefarious efforts.
TrapWire, according to previous information and leaked documents, is currently being utilized by -- but probably not limited to -- the Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington D.C. police departments. It has also found a home at the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and dozens of Vegas casinos.
Out of TrapWire's four founders, three of them are ex-CIA operatives. Company head Dan Botsch was a CIA officer for 11 years while Business Development lead Michael Maness was employed by the iconic agency for 20 years. Curiously, since the debacle began to unfold last week, the "Management" section of TrapWire's website throws up a 404 error -- "File or directory not found". It seems likely the is the result of unfavorable scrutiny brought upon the service by WikiLeaks.
There has been a ton of buzz regarding TrapWire's Big Brother-like features, such as its purported use of facial recognition. Readers are encouraged to check out this detailed article which attempts to extract what is actually known about TrapWire, versus what may be conspiratorial hype.
It is unknown when WikiLeaks will return. Meanwhile, Public Intelligence shares some of the information it learned while the site was still in operation.