How tech caught a killer: The technology behind the capture of the Austin serial bomber



The mayor of Austin on the ‘sense of relief’ after the bomber’s death

Mayor Steve Adler talks about his gratitude to law enforcement.

The presumption of a serial bomber that killed two people and terrorized Austin, Texas, for three harrowing weeks was killed in a dramatic confrontation with the police overnight Wednesday, authorities said.

The operation was helped by several applications of the technology, including surveillance cameras and cell phone triangulation.

The suspect, who was identified as 24-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt, was killed in the neighbourhood of the motel he was traced thanks to the surveillance footage from a Federal Express drop-off store, The Austin American-Stateman reported.

The authorities were able to collect information after the police noticed the subject sent an explosive device of a Sunset Valley FedEx store, a suburb about a 25-minute drive from Austin. The evidence included that the security footage from the store, but also to save revenue obtained showing suspicious transactions.


(Officials working at the place where the suspect in a wave of bombing attacks that terrorized Austin last month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, police said early Wednesday, March 21, 2018. AP photo/Eric Gay)

Google search history

The government should also be able to look at the individual’s Google search history, the Statesman noted, that them still more insight into his actions.

Google only accepts subpoenas for the search of data and “will evaluate the request to ensure that it complies with legal requirements and with the policies of Google, the company notes in its transparency report.

In order for Google to deliver information, the request must be submitted in writing, signed by an official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law. Google may also look to reduce the size of the application if it is of the opinion that it is “too broad.”

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mobile phone triangulation

The government should also be able to use mobile phone triangulation technology, which provides a mobile phone the location of data through information collected from cell towers.

According to a primer from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, mobile phone triangulation makes use of multiple mobile phone towers to track the phone with greater precision than to say that a single cell tower.

The GPS capabilities can phone within 5 to 10 metres and can also be the “historical” or “prospective” location information. It can also be the “ping” of the phone, making the reveal of the exact location.

Thanks to the prevalence of 4G connectivity, mobile phone triangulation is more effective than it was before, Fox News has previously reported.

If the cell phone companies to store this kind of data, the law enforcement authorities must request it through the court processes.

Authorities in Austin were able to use this technology to track the suspect to a hotel in Williamson County.

The incident seems to have brought to an end a terrifying series that began on 2 March, when Anthony Steven House, 39, was killed when a package he found on his porch in the north-east of Austin exploded.

Ten days later, a second “porch bomb” exploded in the vicinity, the killing of the 17-year-old Draylen Masonand injuring his mother. A third bomb went off on March 12, injuring Esperanza Herrera, 75, and the police quickly determined that all three were connected.

If the Texan capital of the residents sought answers, and developments took a terrifying turn of March 18, when two men were injured by a bomb that was disabled by a sophisticated “trip wire” made of fishing string. That bomb, along with the accelerated pattern of the attacks, under the fear that authorities were hunting a highly skilled maniac.

Fox News’ James Rogers, Bradford Betz and Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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