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In The Weeds:  Learning the Tech from TV’s “HUNTED”

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Editor’s Note:  Let this be your spoiler alert. Discussion doesn’t give details exactly, but some may see it as a spoiler. If you’re worried about it, go watch the episodes first.

Hubby and I are hooked on the new show on CBS called Hunted. It premiered Sunday after that head-shaking football game between the Patriots and the Steelers. A second episode aired last night (Wednesday), which will be its normal weekly slot. It’s been a real eye opener in things I didn’t know about police investigations, and that I likely do know more even this little bit into my infosec education than most Americans, which is both exciting and frightening all in one, because I still am very much a noob at this.

With full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of one of the “hunters” on the show, Myke Cole. Myke is fellow veteran, whiskey drinker, and writer. I love his fiction work, but his nonfiction stuff is what brought me to learn about his other work, including his appearance on Hunted.

CBS Command Center Group (CBS Photo)

The premise of Hunted is that teams of fugitives go up against this world-class team of “hunters” with specific skill sets. It features folks with former U.S. Marshall time, FBI time, White House Communication, military experience, cyber security, all manner of bells-and-whistles operators to create this super cell of hunters. They all have very interesting personalities and amazing individual skill sets, of which I may blog more about later. Today’s post is about the show itself and how you and me can benefit from watching it. In my last In The Weeds post I talked about our Surveillance State. It’s bigger than we thought, mostly, but also given today’s current political climate, understanding what tech may be abused by an authoritarian-type government, allows its citizens to stand against it, when the time comes. Yes, I said it. I’m not the first to say it. Thomas Jefferson said it, too:  “the whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

To keep our government honest, you need to be educated. It’s hard, I get it. But every citizen has a responsibility to know what’s going on, even in the broadest sense. This post is about the fact that there’s tech out there that I had no idea investigators under law enforcement have access to in today’s world. My guess is many who are reading this, or watching Hunted, didn’t realize it as well.

  1. Old School Mail is Imaged. The U.S. Post Office is required to photograph every piece of mail that comes through their system and provide it to investigators with appropriate warrants. Say what? Did any of you know this or did I think my government was not that Orwellian? It’s not something new, as I’ve learned. It was put in place as part of the USPS’ efforts to move mail more efficiently. Yet, there are some questions I have about its oversight and if law enforcement is using it legally or abusing it. In regards to the Hunted episode where it was used, they said in the program they had a warrant, although because the show doesn’t have a running clock of the timeline they are working under, as viewers we don’t know how long it took them to get the “warrant.” It appears it’s rather quickly.
  1. Warrants On The Go. In both the first episode and the second episode, the hunters enter a fugitive’s dwelling with expedited speed. Again, I question how quickly a warrant can be obtained. My personal experience with law enforcement has lead me to believe it’s not that fast. Certainly, my LEO friends and family are frustrated with the warrant process. Also, this team is working across jurisdictions. Relationships with the court with the police and vice versa help warrants come through more timely. So now we have folks working out of New York, asking for a warrant in NoWheresVille Georgia? Total Sus, as the kids say. However, this Hunted team seems to get the warrant in less than an hour or so. Again, without a running clock featured on the show, we have no timeline as viewers to understand how much time has past. Police need to gather information, write an affidavit, and request the warrant before a judge to sign. Judges are on duty to sign search warrant mostly between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (are you happy I didn’t use military time?). So, sure in a matter of a couple of hours if the team is fast — as the Hunted team appears to be. However, the way it is presented to the viewer makes one think that it’s super fast. Again, reaching into my own experience with law enforcement — as a PAO for MPs, as the kid of a cop, and personal experience — search warrants aren’t as common as TV procedurals or reality TV (which Hunted falls under) would lead Americans to believe. Also, the type of warrant execution the Hunted team is what is called a “No Knock Warrant.” Courts reserve these warrants for situations in which a building’s owner or occupier could destroy the sought-after evidence by the time law enforcement waits for the owner or occupier to open the door. In the Hunted world, this is likely an assumption. Unfortunately, according to Cornell Law, these types of no-knock warrants have seen increasingly frequent use, particularly in drug cases, and especially in major cities. There has been a corresponding increase in the number of innocent people accidentally injured or killed by police executing no-knock warrants. The more you know…
  1. Do Not Write Down Anything. The most classic line in the first episode is “brought down by a number two pencil.” You want to leave no trace. If you’re writing something down, if you must, you have to encrypt. Use a code. Certainly do not write it on top of another piece of paper and leave the paper for the No-Knock Warrant executors to find. In episode two, one of the teams used the postal service (see above). Again, they wrote something down. That team is still at large, but the hunters are circling in. More next week, likely.
  1. Your Digital Footprint is Almost Forever. The first episode is called “The Internet Never Forgets.” ATMs, social media, phones, computers, all leave footprints and bread crumbs for law enforcement. The first episode shows one team use an ATM, which leads the investigators straight to them. In regards to social media — delete your accounts. Delete your email. Delete your blog. Is there still footprints of this? Yes, there is, but it can take the investigators much longer. In the first and second episode phone calls even from a burner phone can be tracked, if the person you’re calling doesn’t have a burner phone. You want to be safer with phone calls? It needs to be burner phone to burner phone. Or you need to use a stranger’s phone. And for goodness’ sake — do not talk on speaker phone when using a stranger’s phone. Also, if you use an iPhone, it doesn’t do any good to reset your phone and delete things if you leave your iCloud storage full. Now if you do have burner phone to burner phone, if the investigators are close enough, there is tech that can pick up the conversation. So, say they have a lead to one of your support network. They can watch them and “listen” in to their phone conversations. As Myke said, “Yeah, we can hear you.” You don’t want to leave a digital trace? You need to pulverize your electronics. Microwave it. Seriously. Then stop using it.
  1. Brief Your Support Network. In Hunted two of the fugitive teams are brought down by little kernels of information the investigators got from family members and friends. Tell your friends to admit nothing, deny everything, demand proof always. And for goodness sake, tell them to stay off social media! That’s harder for kids, for sure, especially if the investigators go for a face-to-face interview of said kids. I’ve briefed my kids about their rights with police. As it happens on Wednesday evening, my kid was driving an old car through a rich neighborhood, which gave a cop “just cause” to pull him over. Here’s a 4.0 scholar athlete coming home from select baseball practice and he’s pulled over because his car is 35 years old. My kid was released without incident; but, my point is you need to educate your support network, including minor family members. Police lie, too. That whole “police aren’t allowed to lie” is bogus. There’s no such rule in place that if you ask if they are cops they have to tell the truth (although it’s been pursued in court). In episode two, the field investigators pose as a team that is put in place to help the fugitives. They press an unsuspecting fugitive support member, which ultimately leads to their capture.
  1. Going Off Grid Is Tough. Be Prepared. Like Seal Team Six prepared, not Boy Scout prepared. This is where physical fitness and pure grit comes in handy. One of the teams in episode two I was really rooting for because they seemed super smart. But I was worried, because after day two one of the team members was showing signs of stress already. They went out into the wilderness. They lasted 18 days. Then one of the team members just was having a tough time. They went back into civilization and that’s where they were captured. Go off grid. And stay off grid. They were done in by stink and chiggers and the unending desire for a real bed, shower, and hot food. If you’re going to survive being a fugitive — whether in a game or from a rogue government, you’re not necessarily going to be comfortable.

There’s likely more lessons I can learn from the first two episodes, but if you’ve even finished reading to this point, you’re better than most at wanting to a) finish things, b) learn. So, thanks and hopefully you’ll come back for more next week. Even though the odds are stacked for the investigators — pros versus amateurs; unlimited resources versus limited resources (fugitive teams can only take out $100 at any given time from a $500 pool for the game); and likely sped up warrant timeline versus you can’t trust anyone, I’m still looking forward to the next episode, because it’s interesting and it’s chock full of information. Each of the teams I was initially rooting for have been captured (I’m a sucker for the underdog, what can I say). There’s one team that I want the Hunters to catch because the personalities annoy me, in traditional reality-TV fashion. But new teams are coming up, too.

Congrats on the show, Myke. Oh, and for those wanting to play along with the Cole on TV Drinking game, click here for the rules. It’s going to make Wine Wednesday even more interesting.

 

P.S. You can catch up on episodes online at CBS.com. I have received no compensation from any entity or person associated with this show for this blog post. 

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