According to The New York Times, old US military equipment sold on eBay contained what appears to be biometric data from troops, known terrorists, and people who may have worked with American forces in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries. Matthias Marx, a German security researcher, bought the device for $68 off of eBay (a steal at about half the listed price). But that’s not all. For the low, low price of less than $70, Marx had inadvertently also purchased sensitive, identifying data on thousands of people.
Marx is part of a small group of researchers from the Chaos Computer Club, a European hacker organization, who purchased six biometric capture devices on eBay to look for vulnerabilities or design flaws. The project was launched in response to reports that the Taliban had seized such devices after the US evacuated Afghanistan last year. They wanted to know if the Taliban had biometric information on people who had assisted the US. Four of the previously mentioned SEEKs and two handheld interagency identity detection equipment (HIIDE) were purchased by the researchers.
The SEEK II device was sold with the memory card still inside. It contained 2,632 people’s names, nationalities, photographs, fingerprints, and iris scans, jeopardizing their privacy and identities because it is being sold with sensitive information still on it.
Amid a string of incidents involving Afghan forces attacking American troops, US military leaders believed that collecting biometric data would aid in the detection of Taliban agents within US bases in Afghanistan. The individuals are reportedly terrorists or have worked in collaboration with the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan during Washington’s occupation of the two countries. People who had been stopped at checkpoints were also included on the list.
It is not known how the SEEK devices made it onto eBay, with the Pentagon declining to comment on the obtained data as it had not reviewed it yet. The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in August following an incredibly chaotic withdrawal of US troops and the end of the US occupation of the country.