Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote of the Day - Corporate Espionage

"...the episode serves as a reminder of just how extensive, sophisticated and sometimes ruthless corporate 'snooping' operations can become." ~Mike Hamilton, talking about the Dell - HP incident. (more)

Snooping on a Spouse's Emails - Crime or Tort?

via Martha L. Arias, Director, Internet Business Law Services...
We may not need scientific data to prove that with the increasing use of the Internet, men and women have eavesdropped, or considered eavesdropping, their spouse's e-mails.

Eavesdropping spouses' e-mails may constitute a crime under both federal and state law but careful factual analysis is required. For instance, the United States Code (U.S.C.), title 18- crimes related to interception of wire and electronic communications, may apply to e-mail eavesdropping but there must be an actual "interception" within the meaning of the statute. Also, most U.S. states have criminal statutes penalizing the interception or eavesdropping of electronic or telephonic communications; analysis of technical terms is also required in these cases.

Lastly, some state tort claims may apply to these snoopy conducts; it seems that these claims are easier to win.

18 U.S.C § 2512 makes it a crime to possess, manufacture, distribute, and advertise wire, oral, or electronic communication intercepting devices... A Michigan case illustrates how this federal statute and these state tort claims have been used in spouse cases involving e-mail eavesdropping. In Bailey v. Bailey (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8565), husband eavesdropped his wife's yahoo e-mail and found compromising information.

As the Bailey's case shows, typifying eavesdropping of e-mails within title 18 of the U.S.C. is not an easy task. Factual analysis and careful review of the term "interception" as interpreted by state law is required. If the spouse's conduct does not qualify as actual "interception," a claim under title 18 may not be successful. Torts claims of invasion of privacy may prove to be more victorious in e-mail eavesdropping cases. (
more) (background) (18 U.S.C.)

Three Basics of Successful Security Policies

1. Unambiguous Rules – Put the policy in writing. Send out reminders. Make compliance easy.
Block off-limit web sites.
Place shredders where they are needed.
Configure Wi-Fi systems automatically force compliance.

2. Consequences – Educate employees about the consequences of poor security practice. Explain how it affects the company's stability, and consequently, their jobs. Establish consequences for not following the policy.

3. Unobtrusiveness – Do not establish a security policy which either hinders productivity, or is ultimately unenforceable. Find a better way to achieve the security goal. Work with employees and they will work with you. ~Kevin

When Private Conference Calls Go Public

The New York Times – and others – will listen to your private conference calls... if you let them.

Published in The New York Times this week...
"In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry is that it has no intention of using the money to make new loans. But this executive was the first insider who’s been indiscreet enough to say it within earshot of a journalist.
(He didn’t mean to, of course, but I obtained the call-in number and listened to a recording.)" ~Joe Nocera, The New York Times (more)

When a corporate eavesdropping detection specialist tells you...
• Give each participant their own – one-time – passcode.
• Distribute conference call numbers and passcodes discretely.
• Do not send them via mass emails.
• Do not let admins post passcodes on their cubicle walls.
• Do advise all participants to keep the codes secret.
• Change the passcodes for reoccurring calls.
• Assign passcode distribution responsibility to one person.
Please listen.
...or, skip the call and buy The Times.

Next steps:
• Consider encryption for the call itself.
• Have the rooms/offices checked for bugs. (Sources: 1, 2)

Need a holiday present for a young one?

"50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education"

A sneak peek at Sykes’ sage advice:
1. Life is not fair. Get used to it.
7. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you FEEL about it.
15. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it “opportunity.”
42. Change the oil.
43. Don’t let the success of others depress you.

48. Tell yourself the story of your life. Have a point.
9. Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t.
14. Looking like a slut does not empower you.

29. Learn to deal with hypocrisy.

32. Television is not real life.
38. Look people in the eye when you meet them.

47. You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be.

50. Enjoy this while you can.

Sykes says the rules are a "blunt contrast to the thumb sucking, feel good infantilism that has become so common in American education and culture." (more) (more books by Sykes)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Enterprise Trade Secret Theft - Fight Back

Enterprises are stepping up efforts to counter spying operations that aim to steal their trade secrets, according to a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who now works for Xerox.

Companies such as Wal-Mart, DirecTV and Motorola have in recent years been victimized by employees or others who stole sensitive data, said David Drab, a principal in Xerox's information and content security services section. Drab spent 27 years in the FBI fighting organized crime and economic espionage.

"The payoffs are high and the risks of getting caught are low," Drab said.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that economic espionage costs the world's top 1,000 companies £22.4 billion (US$34.7 billion) annually, Drab said. Another study by the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals found companies spent $2 billion on spying activities in 2004. (more) (fight back)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Charlie Can Now "Get Off Of That Train"

"Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA"

© Jacqueline Steiner, and B. Lomax-Hawes
The MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston subways and street trains) - made famous in this song for their fare increase - is on the hot seat again.

From our Esoteric Files...
Back in early August, the Massachussetts Bay Transit Authority successfully prevented a small group of students from giving a presentation at DEFCON that would have highlighted failures in the CharlieCard RFID system that the MBTA currently uses. Although eventually overturned, the injunction and corresponding gag order that the MBTA was temporarily granted did prevent the students from giving their original presentation.

Now, ironically, it turns out that all the MBTA's effort was for nothing, as researchers based in the Netherlands have successfully cracked the MIFARE Classic crypotographic cipher that's currently used in multiple mass transit systems across the globe. (more) (

Eavesdropping History - Mickey, Jack, Jim & Con

Modern bugging and wiretapping sprouted in the late 1940's and was really blooming big-time by the 1960's. Miniature electron tubes and the newly invented transistor were the seeds. The seediest places were New York City and Los Angeles.

Here are two short LA stories...

Mickey Cohen, high-tech gangster
This episode began (1949) when vice officers arrested another of Mickey's men for illegal
possession of a weapon. Enraged, Mickey arrived at his underling's trial with his personal bugging expert, 300-pound J. Arthur Vaus, and announced that they were going to blow the lid off the LAPD.

It seems that a vice detective working out of Hollywood had hired Vaus to eavesdrop on the Strip's leading madam, hoping to document her unholy relationship with a rival vice cop from downtown. But the madam insisted that she was paying off both cops,and Mickey's rotund bugger said he had the damning evidence on magnetic wire. They brought a recorder to court and plopped it on a table, daring anyone to call their bluff.

A grand jury did. It had the wire recordings seized and discovered they'd been erased. In one of the more bizarre chapters of a bizarre time, Vaus attended a Billy Graham crusade, found the Lord and confessed his sin -- he'd lied about the tapes. (more)


The mobster who died in pink pajamas
, or how The Gangster Squad got to Jack Dragna by bugging his mistress' bed.

His nighttime attire notwithstanding, Jack Dragna was everything Mickey Cohen was not: cautious to a fault and allergic to limelight. With Dragna, icy distance was the rule when the squad members camped outside his banana warehouse or the Victory Market, where he held meetings in a concrete-walled back room.

The squad's bugging expert, Con Keeler, did once get in
between the rounds of a night watchman, but he didn't have time to fully conceal his bug. Dragna's men found it, carried it outside and smashed it on a curb...

The younger Dragna's (law) suit was pending in 1951 when
the squad bugged the bed of his father's mistress. She was a secretary for the dry cleaners union, in which the mob had its hooks. If a dry cleaning shop didn't sign up, Dragna's men would send over suits with dye sewn inside so all the clothes in its vats turned purple or red.

The secretary had a wooden headboard with a sunburst pattern. While she was out,
Keeler picked the lock to her apartment and hid a mike in the center of the sun. Amid the pillow talk, the bug picked up occasional mentions of mob business, including plans for a new casino in Las Vegas...

lawyers could argue that the police didn't have a warrant to eavesdrop, but to no avail -- back then authorities could use illegally obtained evidence.

The misdemeanor case earned Dragna a mere 30-day sentence, but how and where he was bugged stood to cost him respect in the mob... he died in 1956.
(more) (background about these two stories) (one more really great bugging story - 2/3rds down the page)

30+ more great
electronic-eavesdropping history stories await you at Murray's Eavesdropping History Emporium.

FREE Encryption Programs is offering the following for free...
is a very simple to use program that lets you securely encrypt and decrypt files. (more)
Free registration at ZDnet is required.
No Macintosh version :P

Better deal here... - Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux

Main Features:
• Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.
• Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.
• Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).
• Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.
Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:
1) Hidden volume (steganography) and hidden operating system.
2) No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data).
• Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Most Bizarre Spy Story of the Year

UK - A schoolboy posed as a female British secret service spy in an internet chatroom to persuade a friend to try to murder him, a court heard yesterday.

The boy, John, now 15, groomed a 16-year-old boy, Mark (both pseudonyms to protect the children), with an "elaborate matrix of deceit" involving six fictional characters in the MSN chatroom and correspondence totalling 56,000 lines of text.

The fictions created by John, then 14, convinced Mark that he was murdering someone who had a terminal brain tumour.

He was told that his reward would be money, a job as a British secret service agent and sex with the spy, whom he believed was a middle-aged woman.

In fact, John was determined to get himself killed, which is why he never used the abort code - 6969 - he provided. (more... much more)

"Just checkin' my eyelids for holes, your Honor."

AL - A former city landscaping department superintendent who was fired for allegedly sleeping on the job, among other things, is suing the City of Huntsville, claiming the city violated his privacy by spying on him at work.

Jeff Rich, an attorney with the Huntsville office of the law firm Sirote & Permutt, filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for Larry M. Bevil, a city employee for 32 years. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Bevil's lawsuit alleges the city intruded on his privacy and violated his rights through constant audio and video surveillance of activities in his office. He also said the city breached the employment contract with him by firing him, and not allowing him to resign. (more) (filing)

FutureWatch - "You snooze, you loose. Case dismissed."

On Craig's List - "Wiretapping for Dummies"

...via Craigslist
Wiretapping for Dummies
Privacy Invasion?

Wire tap concerns?
Compromised computer?
General harassment issues?
Free Services I provide for you:
- Visit and teach you how to find evidence of illegal surveillance
- Produce a video for you only (optional)
- Show you equipment you may want for your own continued protection
- Charges are for expenses only including equipment rental
- Privacy is number one - complete confidentiality - no taping of telephone calls or other conversations are authorized or approved
Business or Personal Services
Call for more information or reply through e-mail
Not affiliated with any organization - Not a PI or TSCM Specialist
440-479-XXXX (cell phone in the Willoughby, OH area)

Caution: "Free" advice can be hazardous to your wallet, and you.

Modern Spy Seppuku

Columbia - The head of Colombia's intelligence agency resigned Thursday amid allegations she had the agency spy on political opponents of President Alvaro Uribe. Maria del Pilar Hurtado presented her resignation to Uribe, to whose office the Administrative Security Agency (DAS) reports, as an "act of dignity," she said. (more)

The eavesdropping climate in Turkey these days...

Turkey - Deputies made unexpected remarks at the Parliamentary Search Commission that was formed after claims were raised that the CHP's Önder Sav was being wiretapped.

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, Gaziantep deputy Hasan Özdemir is a former police chief. "Including me, every part of society is experiencing eavesdropping paranoia. People, today, cannot talk freely with their friends, spouses or lovers. Something must be done."

"Technically, it is possible to eavesdrop on what we are talking about here from one kilometer away. Most of the official experts are my friends. And despite I am an ex-security director and a new Parliamentary deputy I am trying to be careful while I am on the phone," he said.

Another member, CHP Adana Representative Tacidar Sayın, is a software expert. "It doesn't take 10 minutes of my time to convert a broken radio or television into eavesdropping equipment," said Seyhan, pointing out how easy it is.

The former police director is having fears of being tapped; the former software expert is drawing attention to how simple it is to eavesdrop. Politicians, journalists, authors, intellectuals, academics … everyone is saying that they are being tapped. The Commision's job is not easy. (more)

SpyCam Story #486 - Phonecam'ing Down Under

Australia - A 29-year-old man has been charged with three counts of recording in breach of privacy, after he was allegedly caught using his mobile phone inappropriately at a shopping centre... Police were called ... after a woman approached the centre's security guards. It is alleged she caught an Albany Creek man taking unauthorised photos of her while she was in a change room in a store... the man's phone allegedly contained video images of three women. (more)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alleged Wiretapper Sues Oprah for $180 Million!

First things first -- Keifer Bonvillain was arrested two years ago after allegedly recording conversations he had with an O employee and then shopping the tapes around to publishers and tabloids.

The Feds ended up dismissing the case against Mr. Villain (sic) on the grounds he perform 50 hours community service, undergo drug testing and pay back $3,000 he took from a company looking to meet with him over the tapes.

Fast forward to the present, when Keifer filed the $180 million lawsuit claiming Oprah and an attorney made false statements that led to his arrest. (more) (background)

The Tape Recording Caper, or...

...Mystic X-Ray Vision
It may sound bizarre—or like some kind of high school science fair project
, but it's not: Researchers have discovered that peeling adhesive tape ejects enough radiation to take an x-ray image.

If they stick, the findings could set the stage for a less expensive x-ray machine that does not require electricity.

Lead researcher Carlos Camara, a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports in Nature today that his team captured x-rays of a finger on film (positioned behind it) by using a simple tape-peeling device (placed in front of it).

How is that possible? It turns out that radiation is released when tape is ripped from a surface. The reason, says Camara: electrons (negatively charged atomic particles) leap from a surface (peeling off of glass or aluminum works, too) to the adhesive side of a freshly yanked strip of tape, traveling so fast that they give off radiation, or energy, when they slam into it.

The result of this process when recorded by radiographic film is a fuzzy x-ray of the finger bone of physicist Seth Putterman, who runs the lab in which it was made. (more)


Wiretap coincidence or vendetta? You decide.

Italy - Gucci is the latest fashion label to be drawn into Italy's on-going "Spy Story" scandal - of which its former head of womenswear, Alessandra Facchinetti (and recently fired from Valentino), has previously been revealed as a target.

A Gucci spokesman yesterday confirmed in a statement that the Prosecutor's Office in Florence had ordered a search of the house's various Italy-based offices in relation to its investigation into the long-running scam, which saw the phones of various politicians, bankers, entrepreneurs, journalists and celebrities being wiretapped over a matter of years.

"The search is a result of the investigation on suspicion of the crime of revelation and use of official secrets," Gucci's spokesperson said, adding that the company was cooperating fully with the authorities. (more)

Just sayin'...
Silvio Berlusconi, an Italian politician, entrepreneur, real estate and insurance tycoon, bank and media proprietor, and sports team owner, and now the third longest-serving Prime Minister of the Italian Republic (President of the Council of Ministers of Italy), a position he has held on three separate occasions: from 1994 to 1995, from 2001 to 2006, currently since 2008. (background 1 2 3 )

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vault Doors Blown Off World Bank Computers

Satyam Computer Services has denied a report alleging its contractors installed spy software on World Bank computers but has refused to assure Australian clients that it does not engage in such activity.

On October 10 Fox News reported, citing sources, that after a forensic analysis of a security breach at the World Bank, investigators discovered spy software installed on computers at its Washington headquarters "allegedly by one or more contractors from Satyam Computer Services".

"It is still not known how much information was stolen, but sources in the bank confirm that servers in the highly restricted treasury unit were deeply penetrated with spy software in April. Invaders also had full access to the rest of the bank's network for nearly a month in June and July. "The software, which operates through a method known as keystroke logging, enabled every character typed on a keyboard to be transmitted to a still-unknown location via the internet."

Satyam declined to guarantee that it (or its contractors) had not installed spying software on computers in any Australian or global customer site. (

"We listened to them sweep." (unnamed source)

via Intelligence Online...
According to our sources, the Chinese embassies in Paris, London and Berlin as well as in other European capitals have just received the visit of a team of technicians from the 3rd department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who specialize in detecting eavesdropping devices on government premises. (
Time to schedule your next TSCM eavesdropping detection audit.

"Wimpy. Hammurabi took ears and eyes."

SC - Felony suspects will now have DNA samples taken when they’re arrested, after the South Carolina House on Tuesday joined the Senate in overriding Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of a bill requiring the procedure.

The samples would be taken when people are arrested for felonies, as well as for eavesdropping or peeping, which are misdemeanors on first offense and felonies thereafter. (more)

SpyCam Story #485 - Video Lasertag SpyCam Car

from the website...
"Radio controlled sports car with video camera function. A unique toy that combines all the coolest features of a RC car with an added video transmitter for extra fun.

Fun and easy to use RC car kit has everything you need to have a fun day in the park or play some games with your neighbors. The car has a remote control with an extra long range (up to 30 meters) and can control the cars movement by eyesight or via the LCD monitor.

Tired of ripping this baby around the park or neighborhood? Then how about using your new RC sports car to play laser games with your friends? Yes, you got that right! This sports car has a laser function and can be used to play lasertag with your friends. And the fun isn't even over yet! You can also use the cars video transmission function to view what the neighbors are doing ;-)
" (more)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Radio Waves Are Up, Dude. Toss Your Board."

Computer keyboards are often used to transmit sensitive information such as username/password (e.g. to log into computers, to do e-banking money transfer, etc.). A vulnerability on these devices will definitely kill the security of any computer or ATM.

Wired keyboards emit electromagnetic waves, because they contain electronic components. These electromagnetic radiation could reveal sensitive information such as keystrokes...

We conclude that wired computer keyboards sold in the stores generate compromising emanations
(mainly because of the cost pressures in the design). Hence they are not safe to transmit sensitive information. No doubt that our attacks can be significantly improved, since we used relatively inexpensive equipment.

More information on these attacks will be published soon, the paper is currently in a peer review process for a conference. (more with two videos)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Electronic Surveillance Detection Audits

Not having an Electronic Surveillance Detection Audit program can cripple your company.

Just ask...
Société Générale, who last January, revealed that unauthorised dealing by Jérôme Kerviel, a futures trader in Paris, resulted in losses of €4.9 billion ($6.6 billion) for the French bank. This is the biggest rogue trading scandal in history. (

Tool of choice: A tiny cell phone, using text messaging!

Preventable? Yes.

How? We would have pointed out this vulnerability during a regular Electronic Surveillance Detection Audit (TSCM sweep). The solution... a special 24/7 radio-monitoring system. The system would have nailed the very first unauthorized text message from the trading floor. Via computerized triangulation mapping, a big red dot would have popped up, right over Mr. Kerviel's desk – indicating he was the culprit!

Total Solution Cost? Less than .000016 % of this loss (or about $100,000.00).
Status: Until a solution is put into place, this type of loss can happen again! Smart money protects... before the problem occurs. They use Electronic Surveillance Detection Audits to uncover hidden vulnerabilities.

Other cases, this year, where Electronic Surveillance Detection Audits could have prevented the loss...
• Jim Damman thought somebody was looking over his shoulder for months. Little did he know that his office was routinely broken into and more than 150-million dollars worth of trade secrets were stolen without a visible trace according to a federal lawsuit. The President of Exel Transportation Services says his suspicion grew so strong that he took the unusual step of sweeping the company's Addison offices for electronic bugs. (Had the "step" not been "unusual" the problem would not have turned into a 150-million dollar loss.)
Preventable? Yes.

• The BexarMet Board of Directors voted Thursday evening to terminate the contract of its embattled general manager, Gil Olivares. Olivares was suspended in August days after a Bexar County jury indicted him on charges of official oppression and illegal wiretapping, among other charges. (The cost: of attorney's fees, lost productivity and employee moral easily makes periodic inspections a no-brainer.)
Preventable? Yes.

• A federal judge denied a motion by a group of ex-securities brokers and former A.B. Watley Inc. executives to dismiss a criminal case against them in an alleged scheme to misuse brokerage firm "squawk" boxes. Prosecutors have alleged that three ex-brokers placed open telephone lines next to the internal speaker systems at their companies so that Watley day traders could secretly eavesdrop on block orders by institutional clients. (The costs here include: stockholder suits, public relations, company attorney fees, lost productivity and employee.)
Preventable? Yes.

• A state lawmaker said Thursday night he attached a digital recorder under an aide’s desk as “just a prank,”... (he) recalled setting the device up on Tuesday, said he forgot about putting the recorder there until Thursday. (Just having an
Electronic Surveillance Detection Audit program would have been a deterrent in this case.)
Preventable? Yes.

• Bechtel National has taken disciplinary action against four managers at the Hanford vitrification plant for reportedly eavesdropping on a meeting between safety representatives and the Department of Energy.
Preventable? Yes.

• 15 new GSM bugs - eavesdropping devices which can be listened to from anywhere in the world by simply dialing their cell phone number - are featured here, and on ebay here.
(Letting you know about new problems like this is the job of your
Electronic Surveillance Detection Audit consultant. This person should also have solutions, too.)
Preventable? Yes.

The list goes on, but the point remains the same.
Electronic Surveillance Detection Audits are cheap insurance, only better!
Insurance can't prevent the disaster.

Homeowner's Insurance Doesn't Cover Spycam'ing

courtesy of Serrano & Serrano, LLC...
Synopsis: As homeowner’s insurance policy excluded covering injuries caused by criminal acts, the insurance company was not required to cover the damages the homeowner caused his neighbor by spying on her. The homeowner, who was charged with trespass, disorderly conduct, voyeurism and stalking, pled guilty to disorderly conduct and admitted during a deposition that his actions were crimes. (case)

"Iran a spy ring of squirrels and pigeons."

July 2007 - ...the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported this week, that police had, ahem, "arrested" 14 squirrels on charges of espionage.

The rodents were found near the Iranian border, allegedly equipped with eavesdropping devices, according to IRNA.
(more) (background)

Security forces in Natanz have arrested two suspected "spy pigeons" near Iran's controversial uranium enrichment facility, the reformist Etemad Melli newspaper reported on Monday.
One of the pigeons was caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan in Isfahan province, the report cited an unnamed informed source as saying, adding that some metal rings and invisible strings were attached to the bird.

"Early this month, a black pigeon was caught bearing a blue-coated metal ring, with invisible strings," the source was quoted as saying of the second pigeon. (
more) (background) (clue) (history)

FutureWatch - Spying spiders and dragonflys. (video) (video)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spycam Story #484 - ID Card Cam

from the manufacturer's website (corrected)...
"The world's first ID card type micro-recorder / camera / recorder. Only 5.3 mm thickness; the size of a credit card.

• Users can create their own permits and licenses with different styles.

• ID cards have built-in high sensitivity sensor chips. User can used it on device like attendance, access control, car parks, and other equipment.

• The appearance can be customized – different colors according to the customer needs.

• CMOS built-in 1.3 million high-definition digital camera.

• Audio and video can be synchronous. It can work about three hours. The time watermark is embed into video files automatically.

• Can be used as a digital tape recorder alone, recording about four hours.

• Can be used alone as digital camera – more than 100 photos.

• Built-in high-performance rechargeable lithium and standby time is up to 10 hours or more.

• Video resolution: 352x288, video frames: 15fps/s, AVI format
, WAV audio format, photo resolution: 1280x1024, played via a computer.

• Built-in memory: 4GB.
" (more)
Homer not included. Card comes blank.

France to toughen laws on private spying firms

France - Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday she wanted to clean up the private surveillance sector after the case, which saw 10 people taken into custody last week.

"I want private commercial intelligence companies to be subject to a system of authorisation and approvals comparable to those which already exist for private research firms," she said.

The government was aware of about 100 such companies operating in France, she added. (more) (background)

SpyCam Story #483 - Eyeball Cam with Brain

from the seller's website...
"The worlds smallest spy camera and digital video recorder (DVR). This all in one package is the world’s first DVR and camera complete in the shape of a ball. Inside this Ping Pong size ball is a motion activated camera and DVR. It captures images at 30 FPS at 320x240 resolution. Comes with 128mb internal memory and supports up to a 2gig micro sd card. It can be used in various applications such as vehicle security, sports, personal security or whatever the user can dream up. This camera is an excellent tool for the private investigator. Now you can literally carry a portable video recorder where ever your subject goes, now you will be able to obtain video in places where your camcorder or you body worn video are useless. Just hold it in your hand; it's that small!" (more)

If that doesn't keep you safe,
try wearing a Nazar Boncuk;

the original "Evil Eye."

“I am not a number, I am a free man”

via The New York Times...
On June 1 (1968) audiences accustomed to the corny vaudeville of “The Jackie Gleason Show” on CBS (a US television network) stumbled upon an utterly baffling summer replacement: "The Prisoner" recently released on DVD in a 10-disc (40th) anniversary set.

The premise seemed simple enough. An unnamed man (Patrick McGoohan) resigns from some sort of top-secret intelligence job, whereupon he is kidnapped to a sprawling, secretive complex known only as the Village. There he is surrounded by other captured spy types, and his ever-present captors try to trick, drug and otherwise manipulate him into revealing why he quit. The man, rechristened No. 6 by his captors, spends 17 episodes resisting their efforts and plotting his getaway.

This conventional cat-and-mouse game, of course, was merely the starting point from which “The Prisoner” plumbed issues of freedom, conformity, privacy and control. The Village (in real life, the Hotel Portmeirion resort in North Wales) was a microcosm of civilization, and within its confines — which, if the captives decided to cooperate, could be comfortable enough — the eternal drama of an individual’s relationship to society was played out. (more)

Portmeirion is a visually beautiful place. It will automatically join your vacation wish-list after you watch The Prisoner. Tip: Stay at the hotel – Room 2 is a good one. Dine one evening at Castell Deudraeth.

You won't be lucky enough to see the filming of "
The Prisoner - Series 2" (due to be released in 2009) while you are there. It is being filmed in Swakopmund. On the other hand, Portmeirion and the rest of Northern Wales are areas very few people are ever lucky enough to see. ~Kevin

Guyana's Cell-Phone-Surveillance Loophole Buster

Guyana's parliament has passed two controversial bills that would authorize wiretapping and force cell-phone providers to register clients to fight crime. (more) (background) (GSM Bugs)

Why is this important?
The wiretap part is commonplace. The know your customer part, however, is new and innovative.

This legislation was created to
eliminate anonymity. It closes a crater-sized government surveillance loophole created by promotional SIM-card giveaways and pre-paid cell phones.

This is also the very same loophole which allows GSM bugs and trackers to operate with impunity. Even if discovered, you don't know to whom they belong.

• Guyana's new law will kick-start legislation rewrites worldwide.
• GSM bugs and real-time trackers will become riskier to use.
• Criminals will use fake ID's or alternate communications.
• Expect a run on current pre-paid phones and SIM cards.

Same Day.
Different country...
UK - Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance.

Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society.

A compulsory national register for the owners of all 72m mobile phones in Britain would be part of a much bigger database to combat terrorism and crime. Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies, insiders say.

The move is targeted at monitoring the owners of Britain’s estimated 40m prepaid mobile phones. They can be purchased with cash by customers who do not wish to give their names, addresses or credit card details. (more)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weird Science #342 - E-proboscis

Device can detect distress signals from plants that are harmed, under attack It turns out the best way to hear a plant scream is to smell it.

Scientists are using an electronic nose tailored to eavesdrop on plants that have been damaged or are under attack. The nose successfully discriminated among the various distress signals different plants emit, depending on the pests plaguing them — discerning, for example, a tobacco hornworm attack from assault by powdery mildew. (

Not so strange.
Our noses have always been talking.
"I smell a rat." (lying)
"The smell of fear." (fear)
"The smell of death." (sickness)
"The scent of a woman." (attraction)
...and dog's noses talk even louder.

Say "cheese" for details.

All visitors to internet cafés in Beijing are to be required to have their photographs taken in a stringent new control on the public use of cyberspace.

According to the latest rules, by mid-December all internet cafés in the main 14 city districts must install cameras to record the identities of their web surfers, who must by law be 18 or over.

All photographs and scanned identity cards will be entered into a city-wide database run by the Cultural Law Enforcement Taskforce. The details will be available in any internet café. (more)

MINOX Agent M - One-Stop SpyCam Shopping

Agent M DSC DigitalSpyCam
DSC is the name of the new mini MINOX model: Digital SpyCam. This outstanding masterpiece in minimalist design and photo technology packs remarkable features into dimensions of just 86 x 29 x 20 mm. With a resolution of five million pixels it can compete with traditional digital cameras with ease. The bright viewfinder allows spontaneous, fast shots, even in critical light conditions. In twilight the integrated flash switches on automatically. In total these features make the new DSC a very sound optical notebook.
229,00 EUR / $308.47

Agent M Digital Sunglasses Camera
This pair of sunglasses has more than just one surprise in store: a micro camera is integrated in one of the earpieces and can be controlled via a remote control without attracting attention. The other earpiece houses a MP3 player. The lenses are replaceable, making this ingenious eyewear adjustable to the diopter strength required by the person wearing them.
169,00 EUR / $227.65

Agent M Spy Sunglasses 180°
These unusual sunglasses have lenses that are mirror-coated on the inside, at their outer edges. They reflect everything going on behind the back of the person wearing them to allow perfect observation without having to turn around. The new MINOX spy sunglasses are also exactly what they look like, a perfectly normal pair of sunglasses with excellent UV protection.
99,00 EUR / $133.35

Agent M Digital Belt Camera
Camouflaged as an inconspicuous belt buckle the MINOX Belt Camera enables videos to be taken without being noticed. The micro-optics are perfectly concealed on the front of this ingenious camera, allowing undercover surveillance to be recorded inconspicuously in 3GP format. The controls are arranged on the underside of the buckle and are within easy reach.
229,00 EUR / $308.47

Agent M Digital Pen Camera
This normal-looking pen would appear to be just another ball-point. But hidden behind its clip there’s a micro video camera that records video films in AVI realtime format. The high-power microphone is additionally integrated in the chrome-plated clip. A USB port for downloading the videos is built into the front part of the pen. 189,00 EUR / $254.69
Special... The secret spy brochure.
Bonus... MINOX DSC has its own internet forum on Original and exciting “Agent M Shots“ can be placed on this site and contacts made to other “agents” all over the world.

FutureWatch - VoIP Encryption for All

by Patrick Thorel, Alcatel-Lucent
Over the last few years adoption of VoIP has grown rapidly. ...migration to an IP network also brings a host of new security challenges that are driving a trend toward voice encryption.

Voice communication ... needs be assured 24/7 and always go to all the right people and none of the wrong ones. In recent times eavesdropping has led to a number of information leaks in legal cases. Certain industries are particularly susceptible to this type of security risk and are thus driving the trend toward voice encryption.

In finance, for example, worldwide agreements which dictate data security in the banking and finance industry make data and voice protection a legal requirement. Healthcare professionals are also aware of patient confidentiality, although no government or company is excluded from the threat of industrial espionage...

To limit the risk of such security breaches encryption of voice traffic is essential... In order to maintain total security everything within the network must be encrypted... One solution is to install hardware in front of the communication server in the gateways and use encryption-optimized firmware in the phones. (more)

Eventually, end-to-end
telephone/data encryption will be standard – with CALEA access. Until then, the best choice is to call us (from a safe phone) to inspect for bugs and taps. We can also advise you on current encryption solutions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What It Takes to be a Spy

Former MI6 spy Harry Ferguson has revealed the skills necessary to be a real-life James Bond.

Resourcefulness: "It might surprise people, but unfortunately in real life out gadgets often don't work when we need them and so you have to adapt."

Observation: "You have to understand what you see, like if someone has you under surveillance or if you spot a face you saw in a briefing a few months earlier."

Empathy: "People must have trust in you, and you must protect them."

Weapon skills: "In the past agents did not really have to use arms, but with the work now in Iraq and Afghanistan that has changed."

Coolness: "The ability to stay unshaken involves keeping your level of eye contact normal and retaining a relaxed body posture."

Social skills: "You have to move in playboy circles, and go to Monte Carlo and drive a flash car and be able to carry it off like a natural.

Languages: "The more easily you can slip intro a foreign country without drawing attention, the better."

"If we're going to use gadgets, a lot of the stuff you can get in shops will do. If you plant a commercially made bug and it's found, it's not tied to a government organisation. The last resort would be a gadget made by the technical sections at MI6." (more)

You might also want to review...
What does a spy look like?
Quiz - Would you make a good spy?
Why do I mention this?
So you will know who you are up against.

SpyCam Story #482 - Free SpyCam Gadget

Using Vista?
Using a Logitech Webcam?

Instant spycam.

from Logitech...
"Keep a watchful eye—even when you're not around. This Gadget acts like a motion detection sonar, triggering a recording whenever it senses movement within the field of view of your QuickCam. Recording stops when the motion stops, and an .AVI file is saved in a location you specify. The videos are even time & date stamped to help you keep track of what happened, when." (more)

The important stuff – "...
an .AVI file is saved in a location you specify."

Make sure no one loads this on your computer without your knowledge. They could be collecting movies and storing them elsewhere on your network, or the Internet. Very bad for computers located in offices and bedrooms. ~Kevin

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Review - The Shadow Factory - NSA

Once upon a time the NSA was so secret that its acronym was said to mean No Such Agency.

Today we know a great deal more about it, in part because of James Bamford, who in The Puzzle Palace (1982), a portrait of the agency, offered secrets so sensitive that the NSA attempted to block the book's publication.

Now, with The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America Mr. Bamford takes a close look at the National Security Agency's performance just before 9/11 and after. (

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bright Idea: LED WiFi Hotspots

Folks at Boston University's College of Engineering are researching a program aimed at developing the next generation of wireless communication -- based on visible light.

The aim of the initiative is to eventually develop an optical communication technology which would make an LED light, the equivalent of a Wi-Fi access point.

BU Engineering Professor Thomas Little paints the ideal scenario for these LEDs: "Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires..."

Additionally, as these networks work on the "line of sight" theory, it would be impossible to eavesdrop into a network by a person sitting across the wall. (more)
• Light reflects.
• Fiber optics channel.
• Photocells convert.
• Appearance points can be tapped.
Impossible-to-eavesdrop type "progress" often brings with it info-vulnerabilities to be discovered. I can't wait. ~Kevin

Meanwhile, from the minds at MIT... "The Talking Lights System (using fluorescent lamps) can be used to form a hybrid network that combines the advantages of optical location-finding with broadband WiFi duplex data transfer... The systems can also be used to offer information and guidance to shoppers, museum-goers and trade show attendees, improve security in office buildings and secure facilities..."

Historical Note: Both LEDs and
fluorescent lights are already being used for electronic eavesdropping bugging purposes.

Spies, Get Ready For Halloween...

Learn from the Masters of Disguise
Magicians, like spies, excel at the art of misdirection and deception. Join Jonna and Tony Mendez, both former CIA chiefs of disguise, as they explore how magic and illusion have been used through the centuries to deceive the enemy.

Spy Magic: Disguise, Deception, Illusion and Espionage

At the International Spy Museum
Tuesday, 28 October; 6:30 pm $15.00 / Members $12.00 (more)

Get Your Disguise Gear Ready
Black Bar Glasses.
Make yourself photo-proof.

$8.99 (more)

And, above all...
Don't Act Furtive
Play this CD.

It features some really disturbing noises... unforgettable tracks like Unhappy Dog, the agonizing squeal of Violin Practice, and the exquisitely excruciating din of House Party.
$7.00 (more)