NewsPentagon's $600k program could put Putin's circle under U.S. surveillance

Pentagon's $600k program could put Putin's circle under U.S. surveillance

Americans tracking Putin? The Pentagon has a tool
Americans tracking Putin? The Pentagon has a tool
Images source: © Getty Images | Contributor

4:11 AM EST, February 29, 2024

Vladimir Putin's aversion to modern technology is no secret. The Kremlin has often made it clear that the Russian president avoids using devices like smartphones. However, this stance might not hinder foreign intelligence efforts, thanks to the tech-savvy nature of Putin's closest associates.

Byron Thau, a former "The Wall Street Journal" journalist, explains how tracking these individuals is possible. In his recent book, he details how the Pentagon developed a sophisticated program that tracks smartphone users' locations via targeted advertising at a cost of $600,000. This program is extensively covered by the American online platform Wired.

In his book, Thau shares the discovery of Mike Yeagley, a tech expert. In 2019, Yeagley found a loophole that allowed him to gather location data on thousands of users of a popular dating app through an online advertising exchange. This breach enabled him to identify the residences of numerous employees at the Pentagon, FBI, and CIA. He promptly alerted these agencies about this security gap.

The implications of Yeagley's work extend to a project in 2016. At that time, Yeagley was part of a team developing a phone tracking software for the Pentagon, priced at $600,000. This software, whimsically nicknamed "Locomotive" by Yeagley, facilitated the monitoring of smartphone locations in nearly real-time through ad data. The tool was field-tested in Syria, notably for tracking ISIS militants.

According to Byron Thau, if the Pentagon procured ad data from Russia, "Locomotive" could monitor the phones of individuals within Putin's inner circle, such as drivers, bodyguards, and aides. These individuals might unknowingly compromise the Russian president's whereabouts.

The Kremlin asserts Putin's safety: "Special services have it covered"

The Kremlin has responded to these assertions assertively. "Our special services are undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the state head's security," stated Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Interestingly, Peskov continues to use an iPhone, despite Russian claims from June last year about uncovering a US intelligence scheme operating through Apple mobile devices.

Source: Wired

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