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German computer enthusiasts allegedly bought gadgets containing information on 2,600 people from Iraq and Afghanistan

A German computer club bought several biometric capture devices on eBay and found they still contained fingerprints, iris scans, photographs and descriptions of thousands of people who interacted with the US military in Iraq and in Afghanistan, according to the New York Times.

Inspired by a 2021 article about the Taliban seizing similar biometric devices after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Matthias Marx and members of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin purchased six such devices on eBay, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

One such machine – a Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit (SEEK II) that cost Marx $68 – contained scans taken at detention centers, on patrols, following a bombing roadside and on local staff. The device was last used near the Afghan city of Kandahar in 2012, and most of the people whose data it contained were from Iraq and Afghanistan. Several were considered terrorists by the United States.

The SEEK II is a shoebox-sized device capable of recording fingerprints, iris scans and photographs. It stores this data on a memory card, allowing soldiers to compile biometric information while on the move and later upload it to a military database.

If the US military had simply removed the memory card from the device, Marx and his team would not have been able to see the personal information of 2,632 people.

“It was disturbing that they didn’t even try to protect the data,” Marx told The Times. “They didn’t care about the risk, or they ignored it.”

After the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan last August, the Taliban reportedly carried out a wave of retaliatory assassinations. According to Human Rights Watch, the militants targeted, among others, residents who worked for the US-backed Afghan army. Taliban leaders have dismissed Human Rights Watch’s claims, describing them as “libel against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

A second SEEK II, last used in Jordan in 2013, contained the fingerprints and scans of “a small group of American soldiers”, specifies the Times, noting that according to the American army, this information would have been stored during a training session.

The Pentagon said it is “not able to confirm the authenticity of the alleged data”, and called on the Chaos Computer Club to return the devices to the United States. Marx told The Times he planned to delete the data after presenting his findings at a hacker event in Berlin this week.

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Sensitive US military data found on eBay – NYT – RT World News

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