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Introduction to States of Transaction in DBMS

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In this article, we will learn about different states of the transaction in DBMS and also see what rules are followed by each of the state and how each state defines the behavior of the transaction at that particular moment.

Different States of the Transaction in DBMS

Let us discuss different states of the transaction in DBMS.

1. States of Transaction

What happens on the DBMS transaction is that number of small read and write operations are performed on the database and together small tasks of read and write tasks performing similar work are collectively called as transaction. A transaction consisting of group of small tasks can either commit or fail. In between the initialization and completion of the transaction, there are different states involved in the process. The different states of the transaction are described below in detail –

2. Active State

Whenever any database operation is performed on the database like updation, deletion, or insertion which involves the change in the database or even the select operation which involves the retrieval of the data from the database the transaction is started and the beginning state of every transaction is the active state in which whatever instructions are involved in the transaction are and if all the operations are executed successfully then the transaction goes into the partially committed state. In case if any problem occurs while executing any of the instruction in the transaction then the transaction goes into the failed state.

3. Partially Completed State

The main purpose for having this state is that whenever we perform database operations the transactions may involve huge amount of changes to be made to the database and in case of power failure or any other technical issue if the system fails then the transaction will lead to inconsistent changes made to the database. To avoid this, we firstly make all the changes to the local repository or reader buffer or main memory for temporary basis so that in case of failure the changes can be reverted and transaction can be rollbacked. This will lead to the implementation of consistency property of the ACID properties of transaction which is the expected behavior for any transaction.

4. Failed State

In case if any of the instruction fails to perform correctly or the changes are being saved to the memory properly then the transaction comes into the failed state.

5. Aborted State

In case if any failure occurs while executing instructions or while making the changes to the memory the state of the transaction changes to aborted after failed where all the changes made to the local memory and the buffer reader are reversed that is deleted or rollbacked.

6. Committed State 7. Terminated State

If there is any problem while executing the transaction, instruction of change reflection and the transaction is in the failed state then the transaction the changes are rollbacked and the transaction comes into terminated state after aborted state. Also, in case if all the operations are performed properly and changes are reflected the database appropriately then the transaction comes into the terminated state after committed state. In the terminated state the transaction is finally completed and the system is ready and consistent for the upcoming transaction to be taken and the old transaction to be stopped.

In case if the transaction fails and goes to aborted state then the database recovery system of DBMS has two options. The first one being the uncompleted, inconsistently or partial the system can restart the same transaction from beginning or the system will kill the ongoing transaction and will make itself free for any further tasks or transaction that the user will begin.


Consider a small example where the businessman wants to save the total sale of whole day in the database. In this case, the transaction will involve the retrieval of all the bill records for the day and then the transaction will enter into the active state where the calculation of the total sale amount of the day will be made. After that if calculation is done successfully then the transaction will move to partially committed state else will go to the failed state. In partially committed state the system will save the total calculated amount to the local main memory and if this is done successfully then the transaction will move on to commit state or will go to a failed state. In committed state the total amount will be saved permanently to the database and the transaction will move onto the terminated state. In case of the failed state transaction the changes are rollbacked and transaction goes to the aborted state where system becomes free.


A transaction in DBMS involves multiple states which define the condition and situation of the transaction at a particular moment. A single transaction can be only in a single state at a given time.

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Understanding Transaction Management In Sql

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

A transaction is a set of operations carried out as a logical unit of work. It is a logical work unit that includes one or more SQL statements. A database system must ensure that transactions are properly executed even if they fail completely or partially. A transaction is most commonly used in banking or the transaction industry.

The below pictorial representation explains the transaction process:

3. Debiting from the Cust A account is successful, but crediting from the Cust B account is not.

The first condition indicates a successful transaction, while the second is less important. We are not required to retransmit, but the third condition will cause a problem if the first operation is successful but the second one fails due to a technical issue. As a result, the Cust A account will be debited but the Cust B account will not be credited. This implies that we will lose the data. We can use transaction management to solve all of these issues. A transaction guarantees that either a debit or a credit will be performed, or that nothing will be performed.

Using Transaction in SQL

The transaction control mechanism uses the following commands:

BEGIN: To start a transaction.

COMMIT: To save changes. After the commit command, the transaction can’t rollback.

SAVEPOINT: Provides points where the transaction can rollback to.

ROLLBACK: To rollback to a previously saved state.

1. Begin transaction

It denotes the beginning of a local or explicit transaction.

Begin transaction T1

2. Commit Transaction

The database modifications are permanently reflected through commits. “COMMIT” is the statement that initiates the transaction.


3. Rollback

Rollback is used to undo modifications, meaning that the record will remain in its original state and not be modified. “ROLLBACK” is the statement that initiates the transaction.


4. savepoint

savepoint s1;

Let’s see one example of a transaction in SQLPlus :

First, create a table:

           id int,            name varchar(15),            last_name varchar(15),            address varchar(20));

Table created.

Insert Records in table student:

insert into student values(2,’uday’,’patel’,’valsad’) insert into student values(3,’om’,’parekh’,’bardoli’) insert into student values(4,’anjali’,’soni’,’ahmedabad’) insert into student values(5,’aarav’,’soni’,’baroda’);

Now we are going to check whether records are inserted or not by using following command

Now let’s try to understand the concept of commit, rollback and savepoint on the above table student.

Now, I am going to update the address of the student whose id is 5.

1 row is updated.

Commit Complete.

So here we have changed the data of students and saved changes successfully by using the commit command.

Now, we are going to create savepoint by following :

 Savepoint created.

To understand this concept better,  we are going to delete the record which I have updated in the last statement.

1 row was deleted.

Let’s check the updated table after the deletion of one record.

So I have deleted the last row which I have updated but now I want to undo the deletion operation. So we have already created savepoint before the delete operation. So we will roll back to that savepoint and will get records back. So let’s see.

Rollback complete.

Above code undo changes upto savepoint s1 and we will get the original table before the creation of savepoint.

So this is how the transaction works in SQL.

Now we’ll see the basics of  “Transaction Management”

A transaction is made up of four properties, which are also known as ACID rules.

ACID Properties

4. Durability

1. Atomicity

In this transaction, if Rs. 100 is deducted from account A then it must be added to account B.

Let’s assume the following transaction T which has two transactions T1 and T2:

If the transaction fails after completing T1 but before completing T2, the amount is deducted from P but not added to Q. consequently, the database is in an inconsistent condition. As a result, the transaction must be completed in its entirety to ensure that the database state is correct.

2. Consistency

After any transaction, the database must maintain consistency. If the database was consistent before a transaction, it must be consistent once the transaction is finished. In our example, the total of P and Q must remain the same before and after the execution of the transaction.

3. Isolation

Changes made in one transaction are not visible in other transactions until that transaction is committed. The results of intermediate transactions must be hidden from continuously running transactions. For any pair of transactions, one should begin execution only after the other has been completed.

• So transaction results should not be accessible to another transaction until the first transaction is completed.

4. Durability

• Our transaction must be saved permanently once we’ve completed the last step (step 6). If the system fails, it should not be eliminated.

If the database is lost, however, the recovery manager is in charge of ensuring the database’s long-term viability. We must use the COMMIT command to commit the values every time we make a change.


A schedule is a method of combining transactions into a single batch and executing them in a specific order. It is the order in which instructions in a system are performed in a chronological (sequential) order. In a database, a schedule is essential because when multiple transactions run in parallel, the outcome of the transaction may be influenced. This means that if one transaction updates the values that the other transaction accesses, the sequence in which these two transactions execute will affect the outcome of another transaction. As a result, a schedule is made to carry out the transactions.

Kindly see the below example of the schedule:

Serial Schedule

A serial schedule is one in which no transaction begins until the previous one has been completed, and transactions are carried out one after the other. Because transactions are processed in sequential order, this type of schedule is known as a serial schedule. The above schedule is an example of a serial schedule.

To tackle this difficulty, we allow a transaction scheduled to be executed in parallel if its transactions are serializable or have some equivalence connection.

Equivalent Schedule

As a result, this equivalence isn’t widely thought to be noteworthy. Following is the example of an Equivalent schedule where both the schedules are producing the same result after Execution.

Using transactions enhances performance; for example, inserting 100 entries using transactions takes less time than standard insertion. In a typical transaction, COMMIT would be executed after each query execution, increasing the execution time each time; however, in a transaction, there is no need to run the COMMIT statement after each SQL query. In the end, COMMIT would permanently reflect all of the modifications to the database. Also, if you use a transaction, reversing the modifications is a lot easier than it is with a regular transaction. ROLLBACK will undo all of the modifications at the same time, restoring the system to its former state.


This article will provide a fundamental understanding of SQL transactions along with the ACID Properties. In relational database systems, transactions using SQL  are beneficial because they ensure database integrity. We have also seen the basics of scheduling which can able to manage multiple transactions which are running concurrently. so we can see that by using scheduling,  operations are performed based on the sequence and only one operation can be performed at a time.

Are you preparing for a job interview? Read this article on 20 SQL Coding Interview Questions and strengthen your concepts more than ever!

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Learn The Overview Of Using Mariadb Dbms

Introduction to MariaDB phpMyAdmin

MariaDB is the Database Management System used for storing, manipulating, handling, and managing the data which is to be stored in the relational format while phpMyAdmin is the tool used for Web-based applications that helps in the administration of the database management systems such as MySQL and MariaDB. The basic requirement for using the phpMyAdmin tool is to have a web browser, PHP, and a web server installed on your device. This article will cover the overview of using MariaDB DBMS in the PhpMyAdmin tool, a brief overview of both the technologies and the process of configuring and installing PhpMyAdmin, and an example showing the creation of a new database in MariaDB inside the PhpMyAdmin platform.

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Mariadb phpmyadmin Overview How to Install phpMyAdmin?

Before you go for installing PhpMyAdmin, make sure that you have desired database in our case MariaDB should be installed on your machine. The database server which will be connected with PhpMyAdmin should be enabled. The installation of PhpMyAdmin can be carried out by using either of the two ways available. In both ways, there are different prerequisites that need to be followed.

Using Apache Server – MariaDB or MySQL database, PHP and Apache server should be installed before the installation of PhpMyAdmin.

Using WAMP – We can access the PhpMyAdmin tool via the sever available and installed in our machine which makes up the way to administer and manage the database processes.

Installation steps when using Apache Server

On your web browser go to this link as shown in the below figure and make use of the first link or simply make a google search of “phpMyAdmin download”. Download the latest version available at your time.

This page contains any other details about the donation for a free application, features and capability and usage of the tool, and also about the previous versions of the tools and their related details which can be seen here –

As the next step open the htdocs folder present inside the C drive containing Apache files and then copy all the contents from the phpMyAdmin extracted folder to htdocs. Further, you can also go for renaming this folder to phpMyAdmin to make it easy for the database to find out the files.

Search for PHP. ini-production file and rename it to chúng tôi located in the C drive. Refer to the below figure –

Open the above file and change the line containing and remove the semicolon given at the end of the line which allows calling the php functions.

Installation phpMyAdmin using WAMP servers –

The steps in the installation are listed below –

Go to the link on the browser as shown below –

You will have to download the WAMPServer application which is available free of cost and its page looks as shown below –

After, installation. You can see the list of packages and applications that come along with it. We have a functional material package that includes the localhost and Apache applications and also the database MariaDB or MySQL whichever you want to manage and administer. The WAMPServer option can also be set to the taskbar on windows which displays the pink icon.

Creating databases using phpMyAdmin

Features –

There are many features of PhpMyAdmin MariaDB that are listed below –

Data can be imported from SQL or CSV.

Provision of global search or even the subset of the database is there.

Multiple servers can be administered simultaneously.

MySQL and MariaDB features are supported which include drop, create, rename or alter the tables, views, databases, columns, indexes, restrictions, constraints, and fields.

The interface provided for the web is very intuitive.

We can manage the privileges and accounts of multiple users.

The graphical visual format of the database can be created as per requirement which includes many layouts options.

Query By Example also referred to as QBE can be used for creating various complex queries.

The transformation of stored data to any other predefined data format can be done with the help of predefined functions.

Triggers, events, functions, and stored procedures can be managed at a very easy pace.

Conclusion – MariaDB phpMyAdmin

PhpMyAdmin is a tool based on the web where you can administer and manage your database by using easy graphics than that typing in the query statements. Note that phpMyAdmin also allows you to execute the SQL queries.

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This is a guide to MariaDB phpMyAdmin. Here we discuss the overview of using MariaDB DBMS in the PhpMyAdmin tool, a brief overview of both the technologies. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –

How To Download Your Transaction History On

This includes your buys, sells, bonuses, and more.

On chúng tôi you’ll be able able to export your transaction history to CSV and download it.

In addition, you can choose the transaction type to export.

This includes your crypto wallet, fiat wallet, and chúng tôi Visa Card.

However, you can only export one transaction at a time.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to find and download your transaction history on the chúng tôi app.

To download your transaction history on chúng tôi you need to navigate to “Accounts” and tap on the clock icon.

Next, tap on the export icon, select the transaction type, select the date range, and download your transaction history.

The transaction types include your crypto wallet, fiat wallet, and chúng tôi Visa Card.

However, you can only select one transaction type at a time.

The maximum date range you can set is 3 years.

You can set the date range by adjusting the “From” and “To” dates.

Then, tap on “Export to CSV” to export your transaction history to CSV.

Lastly, tap on “Export History” and tap on “Download” to download your transaction history.

1. Open the chúng tôi app

Firstly, you need to open the chúng tôi app.

Once you’ve opened the app, log in to your account if you haven’t already and enter your passcode.

You can also use the desktop version of chúng tôi for this.

However, in this guide, we’ll use the chúng tôi app instead because it’s more popular among users.

2. Navigate to “Accounts” and tap on the clock icon

After you’ve opened the chúng tôi app, you need to navigate to your transaction history.

To do so, tap on “Accounts” on the bottom navigation bar.

After you’ve tapped on “Accounts”, you’ll land on the “Accounts” page.

On the “Accounts” page, you’ll see your crypto wallet, crypto earn, and fiat wallet balances.

On the top navigation bar, you’ll see a couple of icons.

This includes the convert icon and the clock icon.

Tap on the clock icon to see your transaction history.

3. Tap on the export icon

After you’ve tapped on the clock icon, you’ll land on the “Transaction History” page.

This includes your buys, sells, bonuses, and more.

You can also export your transaction history.

To do so, tap on the export icon on the top navigation bar.

4. Select the transaction type and date range

After you’ve tapped on the export icon, you’ll land on the “Export” tab.

On the tab, you’ll see a dropdown box and a couple of fields.

Firstly, you need to select a transaction type.

For example, if you want to download your transaction history from your crypto wallet, select “Crypto Wallet”.

You can only select one transaction type at a time.

Secondly, you need to select a starting date.

To do so, tap on the “From” field and select the starting date (e.g. 1 Jan 2023).

Thirdly, you need to select an ending date.

To do so, tap on the “To” field and select the ending date (e.g. 9 Nov 2023).

Lastly, tap on “Export to CSV” to export your transaction history to CSV.

5. Download your transaction history

After you’ve tapped on “Export to CSV”, your transaction history will be exported to CSV.

To find it, tap on the “Export History” tab.

After you’ve tapped on the “Export History” tab, you’ll see a list of your exports.

Tap on “Download” next to the export to download your transaction history.

You’ve successfully learned how to find and download your chúng tôi transaction history!


The purpose of an account transaction history is to keep track of your trading activities.

You can then download those transactions for tax filing.

This is developed to adhere to the Canadian, North American, and Australian tax requirements.

For more information, you can reach out to chúng tôi support via the in-app chat.

Further reading

How to Download Your Coinbase Transaction History

How to Find Your Transaction History on Binance (For Taxes)

Best Binance Referral ID Code in 2023

Dbms Keys: Candidate, Super, Primary, Foreign Key Types With Example

What are Keys in DBMS?

KEYS in DBMS is an attribute or set of attributes which helps you to identify a row(tuple) in a relation(table). They allow you to find the relation between two tables. Keys help you uniquely identify a row in a table by a combination of one or more columns in that table. Key is also helpful for finding unique record or row from the table. Database key is also helpful for finding unique record or row from the table.


Employee ID FirstName LastName

11 Andrew Johnson

22 Tom Wood

33 Alex Hale

In the above-given example, employee ID is a primary key because it uniquely identifies an employee record. In this table, no other employee can have the same employee ID.

Why we need a Key?

Here are some reasons for using sql key in the DBMS system.

Keys help you to identify any row of data in a table. In a real-world application, a table could contain thousands of records. Moreover, the records could be duplicated. Keys in RDBMS ensure that you can uniquely identify a table record despite these challenges.

Allows you to establish a relationship between and identify the relation between tables

Help you to enforce identity and integrity in the relationship.

Types of Keys in DBMS (Database Management System)

There are mainly Eight different types of Keys in DBMS and each key has it’s different functionality:

Super Key

Primary Key

Candidate Key

Alternate Key

Foreign Key

Compound Key

Composite Key

Surrogate Key

Let’s look at each of the keys in DBMS with example:

Super Key – A super key is a group of single or multiple keys which identifies rows in a table.

Primary Key – is a column or group of columns in a table that uniquely identify every row in that table.

Candidate Key – is a set of attributes that uniquely identify tuples in a table. Candidate Key is a super key with no repeated attributes.

Alternate Key – is a column or group of columns in a table that uniquely identify every row in that table.

Foreign Key – is a column that creates a relationship between two tables. The purpose of Foreign keys is to maintain data integrity and allow navigation between two different instances of an entity.

Compound Key – has two or more attributes that allow you to uniquely recognize a specific record. It is possible that each column may not be unique by itself within the database.

Composite Key – is a combination of two or more columns that uniquely identify rows in a table. The combination of columns guarantees uniqueness, though individual uniqueness is not guaranteed.

Surrogate Key – An artificial key which aims to uniquely identify each record is called a surrogate key. These kind of key are unique because they are created when you don’t have any natural primary key.

What is the Super key?

A superkey is a group of single or multiple keys which identifies rows in a table. A Super key may have additional attributes that are not needed for unique identification.


EmpSSN EmpNum Empname

9812345098 AB05 Shown

9876512345 AB06 Roslyn

199937890 AB07 James

In the above-given example, EmpSSN and EmpNum name are superkeys.

What is a Primary Key?

PRIMARY KEY in DBMS is a column or group of columns in a table that uniquely identify every row in that table. The Primary Key can’t be a duplicate meaning the same value can’t appear more than once in the table. A table cannot have more than one primary key.

Rules for defining Primary key:

Two rows can’t have the same primary key value

It must for every row to have a primary key value.

The primary key field cannot be null.

The value in a primary key column can never be modified or updated if any foreign key refers to that primary key.


StudID Roll No First Name LastName Email

1 11 Tom Price

2 12 Nick Wright

3 13 Dana Natan

What is the Alternate key?

ALTERNATE KEYS is a column or group of columns in a table that uniquely identify every row in that table. A table can have multiple choices for a primary key but only one can be set as the primary key. All the keys which are not primary key are called an Alternate Key.


In this table, StudID, Roll No, Email are qualified to become a primary key. But since StudID is the primary key, Roll No, Email becomes the alternative key.

StudID Roll No First Name LastName Email

1 11 Tom Price

2 12 Nick Wright

3 13 Dana Natan

What is a Candidate Key?

CANDIDATE KEY in SQL is a set of attributes that uniquely identify tuples in a table. Candidate Key is a super key with no repeated attributes. The Primary key should be selected from the candidate keys. Every table must have at least a single candidate key. A table can have multiple candidate keys but only a single primary key.

Properties of Candidate key:

It must contain unique values

Candidate key in SQL may have multiple attributes

Must not contain null values

It should contain minimum fields to ensure uniqueness

Uniquely identify each record in a table

Candidate key Example: In the given table Stud ID, Roll No, and email are candidate keys which help us to uniquely identify the student record in the table.

StudID Roll No First Name LastName Email

1 11 Tom Price

2 12 Nick Wright

3 13 Dana Natan

Candidate Key in DBMS

What is the Foreign key?

FOREIGN KEY is a column that creates a relationship between two tables. The purpose of Foreign keys is to maintain data integrity and allow navigation between two different instances of an entity. It acts as a cross-reference between two tables as it references the primary key of another table.


DeptCode DeptName

001 Science

002 English

005 Computer

Teacher ID Fname Lname

B002 David Warner

B017 Sara Joseph

B009 Mike Brunton

In this key in dbms example, we have two table, teach and department in a school. However, there is no way to see which search work in which department.

In this table, adding the foreign key in Deptcode to the Teacher name, we can create a relationship between the two tables.

Teacher ID DeptCode Fname Lname

B002 002 David Warner

B017 002 Sara Joseph

B009 001 Mike Brunton

What is the Compound key?

COMPOUND KEY has two or more attributes that allow you to uniquely recognize a specific record. It is possible that each column may not be unique by itself within the database. However, when combined with the other column or columns the combination of composite keys become unique. The purpose of the compound key in database is to uniquely identify each record in the table.


OrderNo PorductID Product Name Quantity

B005 JAP102459 Mouse 5

B005 DKT321573 USB 10

B005 OMG446789 LCD Monitor 20

B004 DKT321573 USB 15

B002 OMG446789 Laser Printer 3

In this example, OrderNo and ProductID can’t be a primary key as it does not uniquely identify a record. However, a compound key of Order ID and Product ID could be used as it uniquely identified each record.

What is the Composite key?

COMPOSITE KEY is a combination of two or more columns that uniquely identify rows in a table. The combination of columns guarantees uniqueness, though individually uniqueness is not guaranteed. Hence, they are combined to uniquely identify records in a table.

The difference between compound and the composite key is that any part of the compound key can be a foreign key, but the composite key may or maybe not a part of the foreign key.

What is a Surrogate key?

SURROGATE KEYS is An artificial key which aims to uniquely identify each record is called a surrogate key. This kind of partial key in dbms is unique because it is created when you don’t have any natural primary key. They do not lend any meaning to the data in the table. Surrogate key in DBMS is usually an integer. A surrogate key is a value generated right before the record is inserted into a table.

Fname Lastname Start Time End Time

Anne Smith 09:00 18:00

Jack Francis 08:00 17:00

Anna McLean 11:00 20:00

Shown Willam 14:00 23:00

Above, given example, shown shift timings of the different employee. In this example, a surrogate key is needed to uniquely identify each employee.

Surrogate keys in sql are allowed when

No property has the parameter of the primary key.

In the table when the primary key is too big or complicated.

Difference Between Primary key & Foreign key

Following is the main difference between primary key and foreign key:

Primary Key Foreign Key

Helps you to uniquely identify a record in the table. It is a field in the table that is the primary key of another table.

Primary Key never accept null values. A foreign key may accept multiple null values.

Primary key is a clustered index and data in the DBMS table are physically organized in the sequence of the clustered index. A foreign key cannot automatically create an index, clustered or non-clustered. However, you can manually create an index on the foreign key.

You can have the single Primary key in a table. You can have multiple foreign keys in a table.


What is key in DBMS: A key in DBMS is an attribute or set of attributes which helps you to identify a row(tuple) in a relation(table)

Keys in RDBMS allow you to establish a relationship between and identify the relation between tables

Eight types of key in DBMS are Super, Primary, Candidate, Alternate, Foreign, Compound, Composite, and Surrogate Key.

A super key is a group of single or multiple keys which identifies rows in a table.

A column or group of columns in a table which helps us to uniquely identifies every row in that table is called a primary key

All the different keys in DBMS which are not primary key are called an alternate key

A super key with no repeated attribute is called candidate key

A compound key is a key which has many fields which allow you to uniquely recognize a specific record

A key which has multiple attributes to uniquely identify rows in a table is called a composite key

An artificial key which aims to uniquely identify each record is called a surrogate key

Primary Key never accept null values while a foreign key may accept multiple null values.

Who Is Running Phony Cell Phone Towers Around The United States?

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On August 29, Popular Science published a map of interceptor towers — surveillance devices that masquerade as cell phone towers to intercept voice and data transmissions from every cell user in an area. 19 of the interceptors were found in the United States in August, and two more popped up on September 5: one in Garden City, NY, and another in downtown Las Vegas. They were spotted by owners of the CryptoPhone 500 device, a roughly $3,500 ultra-high-end phone that allows ordinary, if well-heeled, citizens to see surveillance invisible to standard phones.

Though the F.B.I. has been using a basic mobile phone interceptor that tracks phone location, known colloquially by the brand name of “Stingray” since at least 2008, federal, state, and local officials have tried to say as little as possible about use of the technology, even in court proceedings. This angers civil libertarians such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who view the use of interceptors without a warrant as an unlawful search. The government’s silence has helped generate an information vacuum filled by conspiracy theory: one fringe news site recently claimed that the interceptors are a source of “smart grid mind control” made possible by “voice to skull technology.”

Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, says that while it’s “impossible” for him to definitively determine ownership of any given interceptor, he can offer some informed speculation.

“Two in Florida,” he says, after taking a look at the 19 interceptors detected around the U.S. in August. “We know that a lot of Florida law enforcement agencies use these devices. A couple of sites right on the U.S.-Mexico border — we know that U.S. Customs and Immigration uses these devices. A couple of pings in Arizona, California, one location near Seattle — we know that law enforcement agencies in those areas have these technologies.”

August GSM Interceptor Map

Since filing an amicus brief with the EFF on the first case in the country challenging the constitutionality of “Stingray” surveillance in 2012, the ACLU has used press reporting and analysis of government records to establish that 43 different state and local law enforcement agencies in 18 states have the technology. On the federal level, at least 12 agencies have purchased interceptors, including the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and all the branches of the U.S. military. But amidst this thicket of government and police surveillance, security experts cannot rule out the possibility that foreign spies or criminal hackers are also using the cell tower simulators in the United States. The most sophisticated interceptors cost roughly $100,000, though a skilled, determined hacker could cobble together a basic interceptor for less than $2,000.

ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith says that we don’t know for sure who’s using the interceptors, but he speculates that owners might be the U.S. government, foreign spies, or possibly criminal hackers.

“We really don’t have anything to say about that,” says William Townsend, a spokesperson for the Mayport Naval Air Station.

“I haven’t seen evidence that the military is using [interceptors] inside the U.S., but it is more than plausible that they could be using them to protect bases,” says Wessler.

A shroud of secrecy surrounds the technology, with the government trying to avoid admitting usage of interceptors, even in criminal trials where cell phone surveillance has provided key pieces of evidence.

In June, an ACLU of Florida public records request in Sarasota, Florida, showed that the police there had a policy to conceal the use of “Stingray” tech used to track suspects — preventing “the criminal element,” as well as judges and defense attorneys, from knowing the source of the surveillance. In March, police officers in Tallahassee admitted to using the technology at least 200 times since 2010 without telling a judge, due to a non-disclosure agreement signed with the technology manufacturer Harris Corporation. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that the FBI has a longstanding policy to expunge any mention of “Stingray” use from official reports.

“The justification [government lawyers] put forward publicly, is if they were to disclose their use of this technology, it would allow criminals to evade detection, and hamper their ability to fight crime,” says Wessler. “To think that a savvy criminal won’t have figured out that their cell phone might get tracked is kind of silly at this point.”

Given the proximity of some of the interceptors to military bases, the portability and sub-$100,000 price tag for sophisticated devices has raised fears of foreign governments using them for espionage. (Here are a range of interceptors offered to government and defense industry clients by a company based in Soghi, India). Many are small enough to be driven in a car or even carried by hand.

“There’s nothing preventing some foreign government from rolling these out throughout the United States,” says Mathew Rowley, a mobile security expert for Matasano Security. “Who knows? I don’t want to say that ‘it is the case that it’s foreign governments’ — but I can’t say ‘it’s not the case.’”

The Federal Communications Commission has formed a task force to investigate usage of interceptors on American soil by foreign spy services or criminal organizations.

There is also the possibility that a particularly skilled hacker could build a DIY interceptor using off-the-shelf components. A rudimentary cell tower combined with a radio peripheral connected with a PC running open-source base tower software can be built for less than $2,000. Doing so might allow the theft of credit card numbers, or allow tracking of a famous person’s subscriber number as she traveled near the interceptor.

“It’s possible for someone who has enough free time on their hands” to build a DIY interceptor using off-the-shelf components, says Rowley. “You have to understand how things are configured, how GSM networks work, how to communicate with backend systems legitimately. All the data is encrypted. And to decrypt it is the hard part. That’s not to say it’s not possible.”

So should we worry about interceptors?

The most expensive interceptors are capable of sophisticated attacks that eavesdrop on calls or texts, push spyware to the phone, or even spoof calls or texts. But in court, Wessler has only seen the state introduce evidence from the simpler “Stingray” devices capable solely of geolocation tracking. In other words, the interceptor pairs with the suspect’s phone’s subscriber number and pings to see where the phone goes, so long as the device remains within the interceptor’s range.

As to the dangers to law-abiding citizens posed by police or government geo-location surveillance, Wessler points to the example of the interceptor found in downtown Las Vegas.

“You can imagine quite sensitive information that the location of someone’s phone can reveal,” says Wessler. “You can tell it was my phone that was at the casino until 2 am, drove out to the brothel at 4 am, and then back to the casino at 6 am. Or someone goes to an abortion clinic. Or an NRA meeting. Or an AA meeting.”

“It looks a whole lot like a dragnet search.”

Rowley, a security expert who studies the hacking of mobile phones, considers interceptor use more of an anomalous “edge case” than something the average person should fear.

“I don’t think this means that this means that our current model of how cell phone communication works is flawed. From what I know about GSM, it’s pretty secure, assuming everything is configured properly. I think there [are] edge cases for just about everything in technology. In my opinion, this shouldn’t bother the general public.”

Wessler also points out that it’s impossible to target just one phone — instead, the interceptor tricks all phones in the vicinity into connecting.

“When police are using it to track the location of a phone, it inherently collects information not just about that phone, but about every phone in the area. It looks a whole lot like a dragnet search,” says Wessler. “A second and related problem is they’re not just sending signals out through the open air, but in houses, offices, other private spaces. So you end up tracking people to different rooms in the house or apartment building….within a meter or two of where the phone is.”

Oliver Day, the president of Securing Change, a privacy-minded non-profit that provides technology services to other non-profits, objects to indiscriminate surveillance of all citizens — what Wessler characterizes as a “dragnet search.” Day makes a distinction between targeted surveillance of a particular suspect, and mass surveillance, in which the government gathers information about everyone, without a warrant, and then seeks usable intel after the fact.

“My dad was in the Army, I totally understand the need for intelligence. The NSA needs to exist — the CIA needs to exist. They just need to be controlled and monitored,” says Day. “But targeted surveillance is a whole different thing. Everyone is a worthwhile target when you’re doing mass surveillance.”

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