AP Exclusive: Colombia 'panic buttons' expose activists

It is supposed to help protect human-rights activists, labor organizers and journalists working in risky environments, but a GPS-enabled "panic button" that Colombia's government has issued to about 400 people could be exposing them to more peril.

The pocket-sized devices are designed to notify authorities in the event of an attack or attempted kidnapping. But the Associated Press, with an independent security audit , uncovered technical flaws that could let hostile parties disable them, eavesdrop on conversations and track users' movements.

There is no evidence the vulnerabilities have been exploited, but security experts are alarmed.

"This is negligent in the extreme," said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, calling the finding "a tremendous security failure."

Over the past four years, other "distress alarms" and smartphone apps have been deployed or tested around the world, with mixed results. When effective, they can be crucial lifelines against criminal gangs, paramilitary groups or the hostile security forces of repressive regimes.



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Ant and Decís Ant McPartlin moves mum in following rehab stint as he admits marriage to wife Lisa Armstrong is 'under strain'

Ant and Decís Ant McPartlin moves mum in following rehab stint as he admits marriage to wife..

19-Aug, 09:20

The Saturday Night Takeaway host recently left rehab after receiving...

Russia knife attacker wounds seven in Surgut

Russia knife attacker wounds seven in Surgut..

19-Aug, 06:51

Seven people have been wounded in a knife attack in the Russian city of...

Buying a home? Strategies for lowering your closing costs

Buying a home? Strategies for lowering your closing costs..

19-Aug, 15:36

Image source: Getty Images. Buying a home is likely to be the biggest...

Binky Felstead's baby India is the cutest playing with daddy Ė see the snap!

Binky Felstead's baby India is the cutest playing with daddy Ė see the snap!..

19-Aug, 12:00

by Sophie Hamilton Born in Chelsea Star Binky Felstead has shared the...

Tesla provides first look at cheaper Model 3 sedan

Tesla provides first look at cheaper Model 3 sedan..

09-Jul, 14:13

Electric automaker Tesla has produced its first Model 3 sedan, a highly...

Sports Bra Science: Can You Go Jiggle-Free?

Sports Bra Science: Can You Go Jiggle-Free?..

01-Mar, 01:38

In search of the perfect sports bra? You're not alone. And the bustiest...

New ads target House Republicans for supporting GOP health plan

New ads target House Republicans for supporting GOP health plan..

11-Apr, 10:32

A liberal organization is targeting a group of centrist House Republicans...

Immigration judge frees Mexican activist US trying to deport

Immigration judge frees Mexican activist US trying to deport..

09-Jun, 20:21

A Mexican woman was released from custody Friday while the U.S....