Military Device Containing Thousands of Peoples’ Biometric Data Reportedly Sold on eBay

Photo of U.S. soldiers taking biometric data from people

More than decade in the past, close to Kandahar, Afghanistan, the U.S. navy employed one among its Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit (SEEK II) units for the final time. The piece of tech, a chunky black rectangle used to scan fingerprints and irises, was turned off and stowed away.

That is, till August 2022 when Matthias Marx, a German safety researcher, purchased the system for $68 off of eBay (a steal, at about half the the listed worth). But that’s not all. For the low, low worth of lower than $70, Marx had inadvertently additionally bought delicate, figuring out information on 1000’s of individuals. Names, nationalities, images, and detailed descriptions accompanied the biometric fingerprint and iris scans of two,632 people, in keeping with a report from The New York Times.

From struggle zone, to authorities gear public sale, to eBay supply—apparently not one Pentagon official thought to take away the reminiscence card contained throughout the explicit SEEK II that Marx ended up with. “The irresponsible handling of this high-risk technology is unbelievable,” the researcher instructed the Times. “It is incomprehensible to us that the manufacturer and former military users do not care that used devices with sensitive data are being hawked online,” he added.

Most of the data contained throughout the SEEK II was information collected on individuals the U.S. navy had recognized as terrorists or needed people, in keeping with the Times. However, others had been merely civilians who had been stopped at checkpoints within the Middle East and even those that had assisted the U.S. authorities. And all that information might simply be used to trace somebody down—making the system and accompanying information notably harmful if it had been to finish up within the unsuitable arms. For occasion, with the Taliban who might need a vested curiosity find and punishing individuals who labored with U.S. forces within the area.

Department of Defense press secretary, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder instructed the NYT that the division couldn’t verify the authenticity of the info nor touch upon it. The system must be returned to the navy, Ryder additional stated, and offered the Times with an tackle at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. The DOD didn’t instantly return Gizmodo’s request for remark.

Marx and his co-researchers on the Chaos Computer Club, which self-describes as Europe’s largest hacker affiliation, bought the SEEK II together with 5 different biometric seize units—all purchased from eBay. The group deliberate to investigate the machines for potential vulnerabilities following a 2021 report from The Intercept on the Taliban seizing such navy tech.

But regardless that Marx had set out from the start to evaluate the danger related to the biometric units, he was nonetheless alarmed by the scope of what he discovered. In addition to the 1000’s recognized on the one SEEK II system final utilized in Afghanistan, a second SEEK II bought by CCC and final utilized in Jordan in 2013 held information on U.S. troops—doubtless collected throughout coaching, in keeping with the Times. 

Military {hardware} was by no means meant to finish up on the market on “the world’s online marketplace.” Instead, the Defense Logistics Agency instructed NYT that these SEEK II units ought to’ve been destroyed on web site as quickly as they fell out of use. Gizmodo reached out to the DLA with questions on how Marx’s machines might’ve fallen via the cracks, however didn’t instantly obtain a response.

Though the precise path of the units CCC obtained is unclear, one of many sellers instructed the Times that the corporate acquired the SEEK II at an public sale of presidency gear.

Screenshot of eBay listing

The itemizing of electronics containing private or identifiable info violates eBay’s firm coverage, a spokesperson instructed NYT. Users itemizing such objects are liable to face actions together with everlasting suspension, the corporate reportedly stated.

Currently although, a number of an identical or similar military biotech devices are still for sale on eBay. You can purchase a SEEK II your self (apparently Border Patrol surplus) for just some hundred bucks. But act fast as a result of curiosity seems to be heating up. eBay didn’t instantly reply to Gizmodo’s questions or request for remark.

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