Thursday, April 26, 2007
The incident has apparently warranted enough concern that the council Wednesday voted 6-1 to notify the attorney general’s office of "a possible/potential compromise" of the executive session in question...
Said Town Manager Michael C. Wood:
"The listening device has a fairly long range and if someone had the device in their possession they could have listened to the meeting outside of the meeting room and within a reasonable distance of Town Hall."...
"Anyone who had the device in their possession could have been listening to the regular meeting and/or executive session outside of the meeting room. It’s very possible that the integrity of future executive sessions is compromised going forward." ...
"As I had indicated during the April 4 meeting, the wireless device used could compromise the integrity of executive session by virtue of its design and operating frequency," said Blais, adding (finally the most important comment) that anyone with a scanner could potentially pickup the frequency. (more)
...in other words, all their meeting are bugged!
Funny he should that and allow the broadcast system to remain installed.
Quick jump to the Idiot Award part...
Thomas Richards is charged with 20 counts of forgery and 19 counts each of theft by deception and theft... He also is charged with one count of disclosure of intercepted communications involving a police wiretap for allegedly bragging about "how the state police had wired him up to get his brother in trouble." (more)
The next time you splurge on a double latte and sip it while browsing the Internet via the cafe's Wi-Fi, beware of the "evil twin."
That's the term for a Wi-Fi access point that appears to be a legitimate one offered on the premises, but actually has been set up by a hacker to eavesdrop on wireless communications among Internet surfers. Unfortunately, experts say there is little consumers can do to protect themselves, but enterprises may be in better shape. (more)
Enterprises are in better shape because they hire counterespionage specialists. As part of the overall eavesdropping / wiretapping detection effort - usually conducted quarterly - they also test for 'evil twins'.
Wal-Mart's interest in intelligence operatives comes at a time when the retailer is defending itself against allegations by a fired security employee that it ran surveillance operations against targets including critics, dissident shareholders, employees and suppliers. Wal-Mart has denied any wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart posted ads in March on its own web site and sites for security professionals, including the bulletin of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, for "global threat analysts" with a background in government or military intelligence work.
The jobs were listed with the Analytical Research Center, part of Wal-Mart's Global Security division, which is headed by former senior CIA and FBI senior officer Kenneth Senser. The analytical unit was created over the past year and half, according to published comments by its head, Army Special Operations veteran David Harrison. (more)
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Sirkin found Investigator Michael Hildreth guilty of planting spyware on a neighbor's computer. The prosecution alleged that Hildreth conducted an unsanctioned investigation of his neighbor, whom he believed posed a threat to young girls in their Rochester-area neighborhood. (more)
The alleged incidents were discovered April 16 by school officials acting on a tip. Police said investigators found three pictures of two female students. Police are investigating the matter as eavesdropping, a misdemeanor offense. No charges have been filed. (more)
Jacqie Spradling alleged that District Attorney Phill Kline or one of his assistants planted a recording device in her office to tape her conversations before the firing. She said the alleged bugging came after she sent a memo to Kline saying she thought women in the office were being mistreated.
Kline denies the gender-bias allegations and the claims of electronic eavesdropping. "The comments about listening devices are bizarre, irresponsible and false," Kline said. (more)
Her termination is the latest in a string of dismissals that have come under Kline. Eighteen employees have either been fired or resigned since Kline took office in January. (more)
These included using "Trojan" viruses to enter computers and hi-tech devices to bug phones, the prosecution claimed. ... Documents found by police during their investigation showed how the firm charged up to £7,000 a month for phone bugging or hacking into a computer, and £2,000 to obtain details about a bank account.
Hi-tech devices used to bug phones were installed by interception specialist Michael Hall, the court was told. Prosecutors said a number of them were fitted to BT's telegraph poles and inside junction boxes, but BT eventually hid a camera in one of the boxes and caught him at work.
Five men associated with the agency deny a total of 15 charges.
One of those accused is American banking heir Matthew Mellon, 43, who the prosecution claim paid AIS to hack into the e-mails of his estranged wife prior to their divorce.
The court was told that Mr. Mellon, a multi-millionaire from Belgravia, central London, asked Hackers Are Us to snoop on spouse Tamara, head of the Jimmy Choo shoe empire. (more)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Until recently, few but the U.S. military and certain SWAT teams had radar equipment that could locate people through walls. Now an Israeli startup called Camero is marketing a version of the technology to police, fire, and rescue teams.
The saver... Camero's device, the Xaver (pronounced "saver") 800, emits an ultra-wideband signal that travels through plaster, brick, and even reinforced concrete. It then calculates the distance and orientation of everything on the other side--people, furniture, weapons--in real time.
"A rescue worker can locate trapped people in a matter of seconds," says Camero CEO Aharon Aharon. Dense walls reduce Xaver's maximum viewing distance of 26 feet, but Aharon predicts that within five years, new technology will enable the device to see as far as 300 feet into a building.
Camero isn't the only company trying to commercialize X-ray vision. Alabama-based Time Domain sells a $33,000 gadget called RadarVision2 that displays moving objects as radarlike blips. But the Xaver pieces together a full three-dimensional image of each person it locates. (more)
This, and other postcards, predicting the future in the year 2000, were produced by Hildebrands, a leading German chocolate company of the time as a give-a-way item. (more)
Mauro Iacconi and Angelo Santini were found to have spied on the Scuderia while working for Toyota - who sacked them before the case was made public.
Suspicions had been raised when Toyota's TF103 car that was used in 2003 showed similarities to Ferrari's F2002. (more)
The Texas Senate approved a broad homeland security bill on Wednesday that expands wiretapping authorities to include cellular telephones and investigations involving kidnapping, human trafficking and money laundering.
The bill also limits the sale of prepaid cell phones and says the companies that provide the phone service must store customers' names and other identifying information. Additionally, the legislation allows police to use photos and videos taken by cameras at toll booths to prosecute any crime. (more)
Baylor studies mixed signals, unscrambling them with a laser system.
Leaning over a delicate setup on a laboratory table, long braids pulled back in a practical headband, Baylor points out refractive crystals, modulators, mirrors and beam splitters.
She describes the "cocktail party problem" that she and others are trying to solve: Human ears and brains are great at picking out single voices from a group, but getting electronic devices to do the same task has proved vexing.
An easy and quick solution could improve hearing aids, cellphones, and help intelligence agents eavesdrop on enemy communications.
It also would enable scientists to sort out signals from a set of robots sent to a distant planet.
For nonphysicists, Baylor and her colleagues have developed a demonstration - she creates a mix of the Beatles' "Help," and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" on a computer.
At first, it's cacophony.
Then, within seconds, Berry's guitar fades, and only "Help" remains.
"As far as I know, we're the only people in the world who solve the problem this way," Baylor said. (more)
Tehelka (a local newspaper)
caught Sawla (a local builder)
on a spycam saying Pasricha (the Director General of Properties) was his ‘guardian’ and had been helping soft-pedal the on-going investigation against him.
Tehelka has Sawla’s cellphone records since January 1, 2007, but even this three-month record shows Sawla to have been calling up Pasricha almost every week, sometimes twice a day. ... In 2004, when Pasricha was chief of the Anti-Corruption Bureau he had booked an entire floor of a residential tower being constructed by Sawla under a slum rehabilitation project in the posh Juhu area of Mumbai. (more)
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The only way an alien civilization can be found, is if it is already sending us a beacon, hailing us across the great emptiness. A civilization that chooses to stay quiet, as we ourselves do, would never be found by current SETI projects. This, however, is about to change.
In a presentation today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Washington, Avi Loeb of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) proposed a radically new type search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Instead of looking for a beacon, he suggested, we should rather look for normal (?!?!) electromagnetic signals that are produced by a civilization such as our own.
In our case these would include radio and television broadcasts, as well as military radar signals that are the strongest of all.
According to Loeb it is reasonable to expect that alien civilizations also produce these types of electromagnetic signals, that spill out naturally into space. Most importantly, he argued, we will soon be in a position where we can eavesdrop on them. (more)
...as if "Over 250 Channels and Counting!" on Directv isn't enough.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Wal-Mart recently fired two employees for illegally recording conversations with a news reporter, after notifying authorities about the incident. One of the fired employees claims the company maintains an internal surveillance organization, which keeps tabs on company critics, employees and who knows what else. What really caught my attention, was an AP story I read that said the surveillance unit, called the Threat Research and Analysis Group, was a unit of Wal-Mart's Information Systems Division. Other stories from other sources say the group worked on the third floor of Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., technology offices.
The issue of corporate spying aside, I found it interesting that this group is supposedly attached to the IT department. On the one hand, given the role technology can play in monitoring employee computer activity and network access attempts, all fairly normal corporate activities - it's not surprising IT would be involved in corporate surveillance. On the other hand, keeping tabs on critics and competitors, regardless of the technology deployed, would seem to be an activity better suited for the oversight of the legal or corporate security department. (more)
The 35-year-old Paul was fired after the neighbor discovered the microphone and police investigated Sunday. ...
Police say Paul allegedly accessed his neighbor's upstairs apartment by going through his own ceiling. Authorities noted four holes in the ceiling of Paul's apartment, and authorities say Paul admitted to cutting the holes and trying to eavesdrop. The neighbor said he noticed the microphone when he walked across the carpet and felt something underneath. He made a small cut in the carpet and found a computer type microphone. (more)
N.S., Eugene, Ore.
A. You have three choices: do nothing, confront the eavesdropper immediately, or talk to the eavesdropper at a time other than when the eavesdropping is taking place.
If the eavesdropping is just a minor annoyance, you'll need to decide whether it's really an issue you want to confront the eavesdropper about or whether you can deal with it some other way -- such as suggesting to the person you're talking with, "Jane, let's move to a conference room to continue our conversation."
If you decide the situation warrants action, you could try saying something at the moment the eavesdropping occurs: "Tom, I couldn't help noticing that you're listening to our conversation. Would you mind giving us a little privacy? We'd really appreciate it."
The problem with this approach is that Tom may react badly, in which case your conversation could deteriorate.
The preferred solution is to speak to the eavesdropper later, in private: "Tom, I asked to talk with you because something's happening that's making me uncomfortable. I've noticed that sometimes you seem to be hanging around listening in on my private conversations. Could I ask you to give me some space in these situations, so I can talk without being overheard? Other times, when it's not a private conversation, I'll make every effort to include you. Is that OK with you?" (source)
But more shocking is the number of suspicious spouses out there who are keeping tabs on their other halves.
Cigarette-packet cameras, pens that double as microphones, plug-socket bugs and mobiles that receive texts bound for another phone are just some of the hi-tech gizmos snoopers can buy off the internet to spy on their loved ones. Bargain basement bugs can be bought for as little as... (more)
"The widespread use of these devices, especially handphones with camera facilities, has serious implications on security," the Star newspaper quoted Malaysia's top bureaucrat, Mohamed Sidek Hassan, as saying in a recent message to officials.
Mohamed Sidek also asked department heads to designate areas where official matters are discussed as "information security zones," the paper added.
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you're always afraid.
-- Stephen Stills
(from The New York Times) "First we learned that a Wal-Mart employee taped phone calls between Michael Barbaro, a New York Times reporter, and Wal-Mart officials. This came after The Times reported on a Wal-Mart memo that suggested such clever tactics as forcing all shop clerks to spend some time hauling shopping carts in from the parking lot -- the better to weed out unhealthy workers who might submit health insurance claims.
Wal-Mart fired the employee it said was responsible for taping the calls, a man named Bruce Gabbard, and said his actions were unauthorized. Then Mr. Gabbard started talking to The Wall Street Journal, saying the department he worked for had spied on critics. Wal-Mart quickly issued apologies to the critics and got a judge to order Mr. Gabbard to stop talking.
Mr. Gabbard said he told a Wal-Mart lawyer that ''I'm the guy listening to the board of directors when Lee Scott is excused from the room.''
Does that mean that Mr. Scott authorized spying on his own board when it was discussing his performance? If so, it would be a shocking breach of corporate etiquette and governance.
For a few days after that quote appeared, Wal-Mart declined to comment. But eventually a company spokeswoman, Mona Williams, did issue a denial: ''We never would have authorized'' bugging board meetings, she said, and Mr. Scott never listened to any such tapes. (more)
Sunday, April 15, 2007
People who are subjects of electronic eavesdropping
will see them as moving. (click on image to test)
A fun optical illusion.
Nothing at all to do with eavesdropping.
Police alleged the 45-year-old man sexually assaulted his wife in summer 2004 while she slept at their home, and that he installed eavesdropping devices and videotaped the assault.
The assault was not reported until 2006, police said.
The two are getting a divorce.
The man pleaded guilty to eavesdropping and installing devices to eavesdrop in exchange for prosecutors dismissing three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. (more)
This concern drove him, Jon Callas and Alan Johnston to create ZRTP, a protocol that imports some of PGP’s best features to Internet telephony. Zimmermann also saw an opportunity to create a secure voice-communications protocol that didn’t rely on the public-key infrastructure (PKI) or any external servers. As a result, ZRTP is a purely peer-to-peer setup that still allows users to thwart various kinds of attacks on their own.
“When two human beings are talking to each other, they are in a position to detect a ‘man in the middle’ by comparing whether or not they’re both using the same session key—using human conversation, verbal comparisons, hashed authentication strings,” Zimmermann says. “It completely eliminates the need for public-key infrastructure, which is quite a complex thing to drag into the VoIP world.”
Zfone, the ZRTP-based product Zimmermann sells through a company with the same name, also incorporates “key continuity,” where you hash the keys just used in the conversation, and they become part of the keys for the next conversation, thus assuring that you’re talking with the same person as the last time. (more) (Zfone beta release available for free download now.)
Zphone is available as a "plugin" for existing soft VoIP clients, effectively converting them into secure phones.
"Imagine having a bionic ear that would allow you to secretly hear from great distances. Its ultra-sensitive microphone allows for crisp, clear audio all in a discreet, tiny ear-piece. Simply put, this tiny, cutting-edge device will turn any average Joe into a secret agent." ...or, a creepy looking dork. (more)
In keeping with Cook County's reputation for bare-knuckle politics, the scandal broke after copies of the sex tape (2.5-hour DVD) were mailed anonymously to parents this week, just days before a contested school board election.
The case has also created something of a mystery: Who planted the camera that recorded the action?
...Sheriff's Department and South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force officers Thursday night searched the school to look for the camera and other items that may be related to the investigation.
Contrary to televised reports, the FBI was not part of the search at Sandridge Elementary School, Cook County Sheriff's Police Department Deputy Chief John Palcu said.
"At this point (the camera) wasn't found last night," Palcu said Friday morning. "I'm pretty sure it was removed. If it was a setup, they got what they wanted and then distributed the DVDs." (more) (photo)
The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Sarah Vasquez, 22, and her mother, Natalie Fornaciari, 46, both from City of Industry, alleges that Geek Squad technician Hao Kuo Chi, 26, placed his cellphone in Vasquez's bathroom during a computer service call March 4 and recorded her showering.
Chi was arrested the same day on suspicion of using a camera to view a person without their consent and of annoying or molesting a child under 18, both misdemeanors, said Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Skudlarski. (more with video report)
The Cave Report, a new radio show on XM (channel 124) and Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 143), featuring a couple, a bed and a conversation every Saturday in April on ABC News Talk Channel. Sally and Kelly, the hosts of the show, are Sothe "couple next-door" earnestly trying to process the world around them while avoiding, with any luck, the land mines that challenge all couples on their way to mutual understanding and respect. They invite listeners into the most intimate place imaginable: their bed. (more)
The request follows reports in The Wall Street Journal that the giant retailer had an internal security team that secretly investigated employees and critics, including shareholders expected to challenge some of the company's policies at an annual meeting.
The company did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment. (more)
Watchismo, one of the most excellent and single-minded of blogs, has a two-part walkthrough of these bizarre creations, which began with a patent filed in 1907 and later sold as the Ticka, a camera disguised as a broken watch. (more)
The Pentagon's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has sanctioned work on four 'robobugs' weighing less than 10g (0.3oz) each, and with a 7.5cm (3in) wingspan. It is hoped to have prototypes flying in 2008.
The aim is for the bugs to carry tiny spy cameras. The bugs should be far more manoeuvrable than micro-sized conventional aircraft. (more) (more)
Of course, you could try doing it yourself for millions less... (more)
The government has said the long-running probe stemmed from a threat against a Los Angeles Times reporter investigating organized crime in Hollywood. But months before the threat, agents went to the sleuth's office to search for a recording of law enforcement personnel, according to a federal subpoena.
The defense requests signal an effort to shift the focus of the case from celebrity wiretapping to claims of government misconduct. (more)
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
As part of the surveillance, the retailer last year had a long-haired employee infiltrate an anti-Wal-Mart group to determine if it planned protests at the company's annual meeting, according to Bruce Gabbard, the fired security worker, who worked in Wal-Mart's Threat Research and Analysis Group. The company also deployed cutting-edge monitoring systems made by a supplier to the Defense Department that allowed it to capture and record the actions of anyone connected to its global computer network. The systems' high-tech wizardry could detect the degree of flesh-tone on a viewed Internet image, and alerted monitors that a vendor sharing Wal-Mart networks was viewing pornography.
Wal-Mart has since disconnected some systems amid an internal investigation of the group's activities earlier this year, according to an executive in the security-information industry.
The revelations by Mr. Gabbard, many of which were confirmed by other former Wal-Mart employees and security-industry professionals, provide a rare window into the retail giant's internal operations and mindset. The company fired Mr. Gabbard, a 19-year employee, last month for unauthorized recording of calls to and from a New York Times reporter and for intercepting pager messages. Wal-Mart conducted an internal investigation of Mr. Gabbard and his group's activities, fired his supervisor and demoted a vice president over the group as well.
Mr. Gabbard says he recorded the calls on his own because he felt pressured to stop embarrassing leaks. But he says most of his spying activities were sanctioned by superiors. "I used to joke that Wal-Mart paid me to be paranoid and they got their money's worth," Mr. Gabbard says.
Wal-Mart says it permitted recording employee calls "only in compelling circumstances and with written permission from the legal department." But because pager messages were sent over a frequency that was not secure, Mr. Gabbard inadvertently intercepted pages from non-Wal-Mart employees as well. A U.S. attorney is investigating whether any laws were violated as a result of the phone and pager intercepts.
Aside from that possible infraction, Wal-Mart's surveillance activity appears to be legal. (more)
• Fired Wal-Mart Worker Speaks Out - 3/8/2007
• Wal-Mart Tapings Spark Probe - 3/6/2007
The world’s largest retailer declined to comment on specific allegations made by former security technician Bruce Gabbard, 44, to the Wall Street Journal in a report published Wednesday. Wal-Mart reiterated that it had fired Gabbard and his supervisor last month for violating company policy by recording phone calls and intercepting pager messages.
“Like most major corporations, it is our corporate responsibility to have systems in place, including software systems, to monitor threats to our network, intellectual property and our people,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said. (more)