Friday, July 30, 2010

How Does Business Espionage Work?

By Remy Melina, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer,
Companies hire corporate spies, also known as industrial spies, to get valuable information from their competitors. Industrial espionage can also include former employees who go on to work for competitors and reveal their previous employer's secrets.

Company secrets can include information regarding flavor formulas (for example, the recipe for Coca-Cola), the kinds of equipment used, the amount of product being made, projected profit estimates and plans for future advertising campaigns.

For example, in 1965, Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago, Ill., filed a lawsuit against two of its former employees, claiming they memorized the formula for its highly successful artificial sweetener, Sucaryl, and duplicated it for a product belonging to Abbott's competition.

While corporate subterfuge is immoral, it's not exactly illegal. The Economic Espionage Act, which passed in 1996 and provides a way to deal with foreign agents stealing trade secrets from American companies, requires that companies prove that the stolen information was, in fact, a secret. For example, the source code for Microsoft Windows is a trade secret, but public filings, patents and annual reports technically are not.

This loophole allows employees to quietly collect information while working for a company and then secretly offer their business rivals corporate secrets for a hefty price. Others may flat out quit and take a better-paying job for the competition, using their prior knowledge as leverage when negotiating a salary.

Some companies even have special "competitive intelligence" (or C.I.) employees on staff. These workers' sole focus is on attaining information about their competitors' projects so that their company can always stay one step ahead of the competition. While not quite conducting C.I.A.-level espionage, these spies still do their fair share of snooping. (more)

Key phrase: "... requires that companies prove that the stolen information was, in fact, a secret."

The courts are tough. Companies must prove they took extra steps to protect their trade secrets before legal protection will be afforded to them.   

"So, how do I prove it?" I hear you say.

By segregating the really important stuff and giving it extra security protection. 

This extra protection comes in many forms. One primary protection are regularly scheduled TSCM inspections, with counterespionage security surveys. 

A well documented history of this elevated security is key evidence of due diligence. Continuity is also very important. Periodic inspection schedules (quarterly is most widely recognized) carry considerable weight in court; occasional sweeps do not. 

Whatever you do, don't start a TSCM program and then cut it for economic reasons. This false economy is viewed by the court that the information you were protecting is no longer a valuable business secret... by your own admission!

Last on the list, is the non-inspection. If you don't think your business secrets are valuable enough to afford some counterespionage security measures, why should the court?

"So, uh, what does TSCM cost?" 

It is the cheapest insurance you can buy. The company programs I run cost them less than $7.50 per hour when amortized annually, usually much less. ~Kevin

This Week in Business Espionage

Plano, TX - There are plenty of questions involving the Plano woman accused of trying to smuggle military grade equipment to Russia...

What was the west Plano "girl next door", who happens to be a Latvian expatriate, doing with the high-tech scopes? Immigration and customs agents seized Fermanova's luggage, and found at least one Raptor Night Vision 4x Scope. The scopes, which are on the federal no-export munitions list, cost about $13,000 each.

Catherine Smit is a security expert with 20 years experience and she agrees that Fermanova's story doesn't add up. "Anyone who has been asked to carry something with removed serial numbers you know that you're not supposed to have them in your possession," she explained. "She [Fermanova] was more likely a patsy for someone who's involved in industrial espionage." (more)


MI - Former General Motors (GM) employee Shanshan Du and her husband Yu Qin have been indicted in Michigan for allegedly stealing hybrid car technology information from GM. They have both been charged with conspiracy to possess trade secrets without authorization, unauthorized possession of trade secrets and wire fraud; one of them has also been charged with obstruction of justice. (more)


Huawei has denied being involved in a plan by former Motorola staff to steal confidential information and use it to set up their own company in competition with Motorola. Last week, a modified lawsuit by Motorola alleged that former employee Shaowei Pan secretly reported to Ren Zhengfei, Huawei's founder and chairman, while he was working at the US company. Motorola claims that the defendants were developing a microcell base station, and later passed technical details over to Huawei. (more)


 Toyota is said to be planning a U.S. production date for the fourth-generation Prius, but it won't arrive here until 2016. And would you be curious to know that the first Prius lost $28,000 per copy? That's what you learn through industrial espionage, says Kinder Essington over on PoliticsAndCars. (more)

Mission Impossible Data Destruction for Computers

from the press release...
UK - From 1st August, Stone, the UK's largest privately-owned computer hardware manufacturer, will only provide its public sector customers with PCs and laptops that include the famous "Mission: Impossible" option to self-destruct the data on the system prior to disposal...  These products will include - at no extra cost - a pre-configured executable programme which will allow the customer to perform a data erasure process in-house, without the presence of an engineer or the need to remove hardware to an off-site facility.

James Bird, CEO at Stone, explains, "It sounds like that great opening sequence in Mission: Impossible when the data self-destructs after 30 seconds! It is, of course, very carefully controlled and managed and there isn't the excitement of flames and smoke, just a simple electronic signal! But with the penalty for data protection breaches now reaching up to 500,000 pounds for organisations which do not properly manage the deletion of their records... (more)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Time Has Come for a Transition

The Jetsons predicted that we'd have flying cars by at least 2062, and Back to the Future promised them to us by 2015. It turns out that reality may, for once, outpace fiction.

A small, privately held company called Terrafugia has recently gained FAA approval for its roadable aircraft (i.e., flying car), and new improvements to the vehicle's design bring it only about a year away from being available to customers, according to MSNBC

A company called Terrafugia is expected to start selling ''The Transition'' late next year. Price: $194,000. (more)

iStole iPhone iTracked iCaught iDumb

CA - In perhaps what was one of the unluckiest moves of his career as a petty thief, Horatio Toure stole an iPhone on Monday afternoon. The irony? The iPhone Toure stole was being used to demonstrate a program that tracks GPS location in real-time--it took the police all of ten minutes to pin down his exact location and arrest him. (more)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is your Blackberry a National Security Threat?

Perhaps, if you live in these countries...
According to the BBC, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has described RIM’s device as a threat posing “serious social, judicial and national security repercussions” due to the country’s inability to successfully eavesdrop on users, and the fact that transmitted data is stored offshore.
The same concerns have also been expressed by India, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, with market analysts contributing the timing of these comments to yesterday’s decline in RIMM shares...

When discussing UAE’s obsession with RIM’s device, it’s worth emphasizing on the fact that the country unsuccessfully attempted to install spyware application on the devices of Etisalat users in 2009, pitching it as a “performance-enhancement patch. Instead, the SS8 Interceptor drained the batteries of the users who installed to the point where they became suspicious about its true nature...

The bottom line - are BlackBerries a threat to the national security of any country? They are, but only to the country that’s attempting to decrypt the data itself, instead of targeting the weakest link - in this case the user who now more than ever has to be aware that he’s become the primary target, not the encryption protocol itself. (more

"The bottom line" is worth noting. The more you protect one info-conduit, the more your adversary will be forced into attacking your lesser protected conduits. Hence, businesses need a counterespionage consultant on-board who has a holistic view of the espionage possibilities. The days of "they swept, they left" TSCM teams are long gone. 

If you have read this far, you the foresight to see why this story is a valuable cautionary tale. Good consultants are only as far away as the websites which bring you Kevin's Security Scrapbook.

GSM Cell Phone Eavesdropping Alert

US - A security expert said he has devised a simple and relatively inexpensive way to snoop on cellphone conversations, claiming that most wireless networks are incapable of guaranteeing calls won't be intercepted.

Law enforcement has long had access to expensive cell-phone tapping equipment known as IMSI catchers that each cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Chris Paget, who does technology security consulting work, says he has figured out how to build an IMSI catcher using a US$1,500 piece of hardware and free, open-source software. 'It's really not hard to build these things,' he said.

Paget will teach other hackers how to make their own IMSI catchers on Saturday during in a presentation at the annual Defcon security conference in Las Vegas. (more)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Got a stick? You can spy!

According to Mugil all you need is a USB stick and a FREE program called “USBThief_Modified_by_NEO”. 

USB Thief is a simple program which makes your standard USB stick into a spying USB stick, if you plug it into someone’s PC, it will extract all the passwords from it.

This improved version also steals ALL of the following:
• Visited Links List
• Internet Explorer Cache List
• Internet Explorer Passwords List
• Instant Messengers Accounts List
• Installed Windows Updates List
• Mozilla Cache List
• Cookies List
• Mozilla History List
• Instant Messengers Accounts List
• Search Queries List
• Adapters Report
• Network Passwords List
• TCP/UDP Ports List
• Product Key List
• Protected Storage Passwords List
• PST Passwords List
• Startup Programs List
• Video Cache List

The question is, "Do you trust him?"
Feeling lucky?
His program is here.

As always... 
Why do I mention it?
So you will know what you are up against.
• Never let someone else stick you with their stick.
• Never stick yourself with a dirty stick.

Satellite Spy Photos Reveal History

Spying on the Past: Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology,’’ runs at Harvard’s Peabody Museum through Jan. 2.

Using declassified U.S. government spy satellite and aerial images, Harvard student archaeologists explore sites in Northern Mesopotamia and South America. These images are both visually arresting and potent archaeological tools. Four case studies in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Peru reveal complex early cities, extensive trackways, intricate irrigation canals and even traces of nomadic journeys. (more)

History's Spy Mysteries - The Profumo Keeler Affair

The KGB planted bugs to eavesdrop on John Profumo’s pillow talk with Christine Keeler, according to newly released top-secret files.

The topless showgirl and model’s KGB lover also persuaded her to question Profumo, Britain’s Minister of War, about Britain’s nuclear arsenal, the files reveal.

The reports claim that the Russians obtained ‘a lot of information’ which threatened to undermine Western security, contradicting the long-term view that the affair did not damage UK security and that no secrets were leaked to Russia. ... The papers also reveal how Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (a former US Naval Intelligence officer) knew many of those involved and gave regular reports to Washington about the scandal.

The affair’s exposure in 1963 led to Profumo’s resignation and rocked Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Government. (more)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ireland - Louis Walsh has had his phone hacked by an employee of his service provider.

The X Factor judge was shocked to discover that much of his personal information had been accessed and speaking to The Irish Star newspaper he confirmed that gardai have been informed.

“I knew nothing about it at all until the boss of the company contacted me.” Walsh said. 

Revealing that Irish TV presenter and model Glenda Gilson had also been the victim of the same person Louis added: “It just makes me wonder how much of this is going on all the time.” 

“I don’t know how much personal information he managed to gather or how long it was going on. It makes me wary of exchanging confidential information by phone and yet its hard to avoid given the nature of this business.” (more)

NSA Insights

Thursday, 5 August; 12 noon – 1 pm
Washington, DC

Book signing! 
In The Secret Sentry, Matthew M. Aid traces the growth of the National Security Agency from 1945 through critical moments in its history, including the Cold War and its ongoing involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Aid, a visiting fellow at the National Security Archives, explores the agency’s connection to the intelligence failure that occurred when evidence that NSA officials called “ambiguous” was used as proof of Iraqi WMD capability. He also details the intense debate within the NSA over its growing role under the Bush administration to spy on U.S. citizens. Don’t miss this overview of the dramatic evolution of this far-reaching spy agency.

Free! No registration required!
Join the author for an informal chat and book signing.
Can't make it? Buy the book here!

CIA applicant's arrest tops wave of China spy cases

A young Michigan man was quietly arrested last month and charged with lying on a CIA job application about his connection with Chinese intelligence, a case that drew virtually no attention outside his home state.

Glenn Duffie Shriver, 28, of Georgetown Township, Mich., tried to conceal $70,000 in payments from the Beijing government and denied his “numerous” meetings with Chinese intelligence officials, according to the government’s indictment.

Shriver’s arrest on June 22 is just the latest in a virtual tsunami of prosecutions against suspected Chinese agents in the past two years. Many cases are hidden and ongoing... more than 40 Chinese and American citizens have been quietly prosecuted -- most of them successfully -- on espionage-related charges in just a little over two years... a compendium of successful federal prosecutions involving espionage and espionage-related charges against Chinese agents... The list revealed that the Justice Department had convicted 44 individuals in 26 cases since March 2008, almost all of whom are now serving time in federal prisons. (more) (music to applaud by)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bail for Bug Killer Spy?

MA - A federal judge in Worcester is pondering whether to grant bail to a 45-year-old Westborough man who, in a highly unusual case, is accused of economic espionage for allegedly sending trade secrets about insecticides to China.

Kexue Huang faces a dozen counts of economic espionage to benefit a foreign government or instrumentality, as well as five counts of interstate or foreign transport of stolen property.

Assistant US Attorney Scott Garland said only six or seven people had ever been charged with the crime. He said the value of the information that Huang allegedly passed on exceeded $100 million. (more)

Sounds outrageous, but in fairness, bail is only meant to assure the accused shows up for trial. In the article his lawyer mentions, "...his client had a wife and two children in Marlborough and they would all be willing to give up their passports as well as use the $275,000 to $300,000 equity in their home to secure his bail. "It's hard to picture the whole family moving without passports to Canada or any other foreign country," he said. "It's unlikely they would be on the lam for more than 10 minutes. ... This is a responsible person, a well-educated person [with] a good job, assets."

Really? Accused spies have a habit of evaporating recently. (more)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Your Very Own "Ex" Files

What do you do when your 'ex' pops up in your Web browser like a nightmare jack-in-the-box?

Create an "Ex" file!
Ah, privacy and sanity restored.
Stalkers are disposed, one "Ex" at a time.
Reduced chance of post-break-up remorse.
It's easy. It's free. It's a no-brainer that zaps your old no-brainers to the bit bin of your Internet world window.

Monday, July 19, 2010

When correctly viewed, Everything is lewd. (I could tell you things about Peter Pan, And the Wizard of Oz, there's a dirty old man!)

CA - An Orange County man is expected to enter pleas in federal court to charges he hacked into hundreds of computers to extort sexually explicit videos from women and teenage girls. 

Prosecutors say 31-year-old Luis Mijangos of Santa Ana is due in a Los Angeles courtroom today. A 16-count indictment charges him with conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, extortion, wiretapping and other charges.

Mijangos allegedly tricked about 230 people into downloading a virus that allowed him to take over their personal computers.

Prosecutors say Mijangos looked into computers for sexually explicit pictures, then threatened to e-mail the files to victims' mailing lists to coerce them into sending him videos of them engaged in sex acts. (more) (Smut)

Spies Escaping (shocking)

A Lebanese man suspected of spying for Israel successfully escaped from Lebanon to Israel on Friday by crossing the border near Bint Jbeil, the Lebanese newspaper A-Nahar reported on Sunday. (more)

The alleged paymaster of a Russian spy ring in the United States spoke no more than necessary. He stayed in modest hotels and dressed for the Mediterranean heat: shorts and untucked shirts. He wore spectacles and a clipped mustache. Just another foreign tourist on a budget, it seemed, in a waterfront city in Cyprus where foreign tourists on budgets are a summertime fixture.

To American officials, the man identified as Christopher Robert Metsos is the spy who got away, a footloose operative who funneled money to U.S.-based accomplices, 10 of whom are in custody. Metsos, the FBI says, was a key player in an underworld of coded instructions, false identities, buried banknotes and surreptitious bag swaps.

“If you saw him on the road, you would say, ‘Good morning’ and you would keep walking,” said Michael Papathanasiou, a lawyer who represented Metsos until he jumped bail in Larnaca last week. “There was really nothing strange about him. He was a very normal, usual guy.” (more)


The FCC has been moving to treat broadband Internet the same as phone services and with those moves, the FBI's wiretapping authority might be becoming more nebulous.

The agency is lobbying the communications commission to make sure its changes in regulation do not hinder the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act which demands that telecom companies allow law enforcement to use wiretaps on phone lines and VoIP calls.

VoIP wiretapping has been challenged in court a few times unsuccessfully, but changes in regulations could hinder wiretap efforts. It seems like at this moment, however, the FCC has no plans to interfere with the wiretapping rules. (more)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bizarre Tale of Cop v. Cop

NY - A retired police officer claims that his next-door neighbor, also a cop, stalked and threatened him, falsely accused him of being a pedophile, and illegally wiretapped his computer. He claims that the intrusive cop, Monroe County's first deputy trained in computer forensics at Quantico, Va., was convicted of felony eavesdropping and misdemeanor official misconduct. (long but interesting)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Now Hear This!" by Winston Arrington - Available again!

Now Hear This! Electronic Eavesdropping Equipment Designs by Winston Arrington - Sheffield Electronics - 1997 (NOS)
(Click pictures to enlarge.) 
Winston Arrington's electronic eavesdropping and countersurveillance design book is available again. 

Technically excellent, with some very unusual designs, it contains about 125 schematics; all may be built with a moderate level of experience. There is also a (now dated) countermeasures section which was contributed by me.

This book was never easy to purchase. The first printing had to be ordered directly from Winston, himself. This revised and expanded second edition was only sold briefly via the now shuttered Sheffield Electronics website. And, once in a looong while, a used dog-eared copy would show up on eBay to quickly sell in the $50.-$75. range. None have appeared there recently, however.

The picture of Winston's signature is from my copy of the book. Sadly, Winston is no longer with us to sign more of them.

"Now Hear This!" is a collector's item with historical significance, and a lucky find. 

Long out-of-print, and thought to be no longer available, some "new, old stock" copies are available at, for the very first time.

It is not known how many copies are available.

Now Hear This! Electronic Eavesdropping Equipment Designs

Thursday, July 15, 2010

10 Years, gone in a flash.

Wales - A reward is being offered for the safe return of a stolen laptop containing 10 years of a company's work.

Thieves broke into DB Liquid Ltd in Ruthin and made off with two laptops. One contained specialised software in which the firm had invested over £250,000. Company director Geoffrey Williams said the programs would be no use to anyone else, but means systems of work spanning 10 years could be lost to the database constructing firm...

“We’d developed a lot of our system software on the laptop which was backed up on a flash drive,” he said. “But unfortunately that was stolen too which means 10 years of work has gone down the drain.

10 years of work and only a flash drive back-up?!?!
The flash drive was stolen, too!?!?
An investment of over £250,000?!?!
"...would be no use to anyone else..." ?!?!
I'm not buying it. 
Are you? 

I wonder who did, and for how much?
Yours truly, Johnny Dollar.

Lady Gaga meets Mr. Data

The soldier accused of downloading a huge trove of secret data from military computers in Iraq appears to have exploited a loophole in Defense Department security to copy thousands of files onto compact discs over a six-month period. In at least one instance, according to those familiar with the inquiry, the soldier smuggled highly classified data out of his intelligence unit on a disc disguised as a music CD by Lady Gaga. (more)

Spyware on Infected USB Sticks

Researchers have discovered a sophisticated new strain of malicious software that piggybacks on USB storage devices and leverages what appears to be a previously unknown security vulnerability in the way Microsoft Windows processes shortcut files...

Independent security researcher Frank Boldewin said he had an opportunity to dissect the malware samples, and observed that they appeared to be looking for Siemens WinCC SCADA systems, or machines responsible for controlling the operations of large, distributed systems, such as manufacturing and power plants.

Looks like this malware was made for espionage,” Boldewin said. (more)

The under surveillance comics...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Special-Ops vs. Special-Ops

FL - The thieves hit on a weekend when no one was around. The target: a military contractor for the super secret Special Operations Command, the elite commandos who help coordinate the war on terror. The intruders entered through the roof, gaining access to iGov Technologies, which occupies suite 110 in the beige corporate center at 9211 Palm River Road. For the next nine hours, they loaded up more than 3,000 laptop computers and other equipment into two waiting semitrailer trucks. (more

Think your company could withstand an info-theft like this? If not, contact the counterespionage consultant who hosts this Security Scrapbook on their Web site.

Two Polls

This poll reflects the opinions of our Security Scrapbook readers.  

Which privacy invasions concern you the most? 
(Pick three.)

26% - Mobile Phone Spyware
18% - Computer Spyware
14% - Bugging
12% - GPS Tracking
11% - Covert Video (SpyCams)
6% - Wiretapping
6% - Covert Voice Recording
5% - Physical Eavesdropping
1% - Other (unspecified)

The following poll asked about smartphone security concerns. It was independently conducted by one of our Security Scrapbook readers. 

They placed their poll on two very different Web sites; one sports oriented, one more military oriented.

What's your approach to smartphone security? 
(Poll allowed users to check more than one.)
29.3% - I just don't do financial stuff with it.
15.5% - Whatever came with it is good enough. I hope.
13.7% - I added a special security program.
13.7% - OK, but who'd want to hack/eavesdrop on me?
12% - Haven't even thought about it.
10.3% - I double-check all apps before downloading.
5.0% - Not worried - Apple's got my back.

Granted, neither poll is scientifically sound or statistically significant, but the answers are interesting on an informal level. 

Thanks to all who participated. 

If you have any ideas for future Security Scrapbook polls please let me know. ~Kevin

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inception - An Industrial Espionage Dream Job

Inception opens July 16th in theaters and IMAX
Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage... (more) (more)

As we've been saying all along, the final frontier of eavesdropping is mind reading. Think of the movie Inception the same way you think of _this one_ ...just with a shorter flash to bang.

Bluetooth Bites Again

UK - A British woman's lawsuit against her ex-husband claims he bugged her car to record her private conversations during the final months of their marriage.

Baksho Devi Gora of Walsall, England, filed a High Court lawsuit seeking "substantial damages" from ex-husband Harvinder Singh Gora for allegedly violating her privacy by recording private telephone conversations from her car and playing them for family and friends, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
They were probably made via a small device secretly attached to the Bluetooth system in Mrs Gora's car in May 2008, said her barrister, Mr Eardley. (more) (how they do it)

Spies Demise

Moscow - The 14 alleged spies deported from Russia and the U.S. remained out of public view over the weekend amid uncertainty over where they had been taken and how they would restart their lives...

Nuclear scientist Igor Sutyagin phoned his family from an unidentified hotel near London, where he is apparently confined by British authorities until a decision is made about whether he will remain in the U.K., his mother said.

The whereabouts of the others, including the 10 Russian agents expelled from the U.S. to Moscow, were unknown. (more)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

We’re not sure what’s more humorous: That California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, maintains two unencrypted Wi-Fi networks at her residence, or that a consumer group sniffed her unsecured traffic in a bid to convince lawmakers to hold hearings about Google.

A representative for Consumer Watchdog — a group largely funded by legal fees, the Rose Foundation, Streisand Foundation, Tides Foundation and others — parked outside Harman’s and other lawmakers’ Washington-area residences to determine whether they had unsecured Wi-Fi networks that might have been sniffed by Google as part of the internet giant’s Street View and Google Maps program.

The group wants the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Harman is also a member, to haul Google executives before it, so they can publicly explain why, for three years, Google was downloading data packets from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in neighborhoods in dozens of countries.(more)

Bad Guys Bug Back

Pakistan - The Farozabad Police have arrested three suspected persons and recovered bugging devices and cameras, which could have been used for terrorism. (more)

Friday, July 9, 2010

"What to do?" The First Responder Blues

The Cell Phone
dum-di-dum-dum (makes a great ringtone)
...he’s looking at a homicide. For one thing, there’s that bullet in her head. He immediately realizes that another sort of witness to this crime might be on the other end of that phone connection. He reaches through the open car window to grab the phone and thumb through its recent call history. Then he stops himself...

...He knows better than to disturb a crime scene. And he’s never seen that particular model of phone—he could potentially push the wrong buttons and destroy evidence. He needs to get that device to a forensic lab, where the information can be extracted properly, in a way that preserves not only the contacts, call histories, text messages, e-mail, images, and videos but also their admissibility in court. (more)
"What would you do?" (click here)

The Bug in the Boardroom
It's a hot summer Monday morning. In the offices of Mongo Industries a secretary readies the Boardroom for the weekly strategy meeting. The air conditioning has been off all weekend, and just kicked in. Then...THUNK! 

Startled, she stares under the massive table. Her eyes adjust to the dark. A small dark object with gooey strips of masking tape near the Director's chair stares back.
"What would you do?" (click here)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The employees are picking your pockets...

Thirty-five percent of companies believe that their organisation's sensitive information has been given to competitors, according to a new survey. 

Cyber-Ark Software's "Trust, Security and Passwords" global survey also found that 37 percent of IT professionals surveyed cited former employees as the mostly likely source of this loss. 

The IT security company questioned more than 400 senior IT administrators in the UK and US in the spring of 2010 for the fourth annual survey.

The survey found that the most popular sensitive information to be shared with competitors was the customer database (26 percent) and R&D plans (13 percent). (more)

"Who's your DB daddy? Say it. Say IT."

TX - A former IT senior database administrator at a Houston electricity provider was sentenced Tuesday to one year in prison for hacking into his former employer's computer network, the US Department of Justice said...

On April 30, 2008, after he was fired, Steven Jinwoo Kim, 40, of Houston, used his home computer to connect to Gexa's computer network and to a database containing information on about 150,000 Gexa customers, the DOJ said. Kim damaged the computer network and the database in the process, the DOJ said. 

Kim also copied and saved to his home computer a database file containing personal information on the Gexa customers, including their names, billing addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and drivers license numbers. Kim's actions caused a $100,000 loss to Gexa, the DOJ said. (more)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

USB coffee-cup warmer could be stealing your data

via New Scientist...
Are you sure that the keyboard or mouse you are using today is the one that was attached to your computer yesterday? It might have been swapped for a compromised device that could transmit data to a snooper.

The problem stems from a shortcoming in the way the Universal Serial Bus (USB) works. This allows almost all USB-connected devices, such as mice and printers, to be turned into tools for data theft, says a team that has exploited the flaw.

Welcome to the murky world of the "hardware trojan". Until now, hardware trojans were considered to be modified circuits. For example, if hackers manage to get hold of a microchip when it is still in the factory, they could introduce subtle changes allowing them to crash the device that the chip gets built into. (more)

Security Directors - You already know about the dangers of plugging in dirty USB memory sticks. Now, you need to consider the possibility that foreign governments are loading other "legitimate" USB devices with spyware at the chip level. (Hey, they did it with hard drives.) Alert the employees. Convince them to resist the "Oh, isn't it cute. Let's plug it in," temptation.

Indians Put Squeeze on BlackBerrys... again

India - Security concerns associated with the services of BlackBerry, the smartphone used by nearly a million customers in India, have come to the fore again, raising the possibility of a fresh standoff between the Canadian service provider and the government.

The government plans to give BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) 15 days to ensure that its email and other data services comply with ‘formats that can be read by security and intelligence agencies’ after its spooks recently raised a red flag against the popular handset, said department of telecom (DoT) officials familiar with the matter. (more)

Seoul Suckers Drain Life from Businesses

South Korean industrial spying cases have risen consistently, largely in the electronics industry, a center tied to the chief national intelligence agency said.

During the past six years, 203 cases have involved current and former employees who stole and tried to sell South Korean technologies abroad, the National Industrial Security Center said in a report. (more)

Spy High

UK - A university is offering a degree - in SPYING.

Students are studying organised crime and terror groups for an MSc in Intelligence Data at Coventry University.

The 12-month postgraduate course - the first in the UK - has been set up because so many students want to work in intelligence. Applications to join MI5 and MI6 have risen 90 per cent in 10 years.

The university said: "We don't teach students how to hide behind newspapers with holes cut out for eyes, but how to interpret data and build criminal profiles for police and anti-terror organisations." (more)

• The course is available online and can be studied either part-time or full-time. 
Colombo is the Senior Lecturer for the Criminology portion. (Just coincidence?) 
• "...and conduct your own research project"
• Those wishing to study this course can apply online by completing this online application form. "Unfortunately we cannot process online applications from international applicants at this time. Please check our website for details of how to apply.

Answer - "You lacked a counterespionage plan."

A cautionary tale...
CA - The leaders of the California Nurses Association had barely wrapped up a news conference recently slamming GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman when they learned Whitman's campaign had been watching them the whole time.

A volunteer for the Republican had sneaked into the event held at the union's downtown Oakland headquarters and sent live streaming video back to the campaign nearly 50 miles away in Cupertino. Within hours, Whitman aides were blasting to supporters an e-mail response to the event that featured clandestine video snippets.

"I wonder who it was," union Co-President Deborah Anne Burger said after learning about the Whitman spy. "How did they get in?" (more)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tamatebako - The Hara Kiri Thumb Drive

Losing your memory?  Get this...
Fujitsu’s has a new Secure USB Memory Device, called Tamatebako. It has 2GB capacity and supports AES 256-bit encryption and will delete its stored data after 10 minutes up to one week. 

It will also commit hara-kiri if told the wrong password or forced to have intercourse with an unauthorized computer. (more)

Eavesdropping on The Auditors

IA - Four employees and the owner of a failed farm implement dealership have pleaded guilty in connection with a financial scheme.

Authorities allege Walterman Implement in Dike scammed lenders through a double financing scheme, which created both real and fake loans on single pieces of farm equipment.

Leon Walterman was the former owner. The 60-year-old pleaded guilty on Thursday to mail fraud, money laundering and illegal wiretapping. (more)

Court records allege auditors' phone lines were tapped during the investigation. (more)

Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA, and Cold War Aerial Espionage

FREE LUNCHTIME AUTHOR DEBRIEFING AND BOOK SIGNING Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA and Cold War Aerial Espionage 
Dino Brugioni, retired senior analyst with the CIA and one of the world’s premier experts on aerial reconnaissance, reveals details of the previously untold story of President Eisenhower’s secret Cold War program to develop cutting-edge spy planes and satellites to gather intelligence. Told from his insider perspective, Brugioni sheds new light on this breakthrough program and one president’s efforts toward building an effective and technologically advanced intelligence capability.

He briefed presidents from Eisenhower through Ford. As a founder of the CIA’s National Photographic Interpretation Center, during the Cuban Missile Crisis he was a key member of the team that provided President Kennedy the evidence that the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba.

Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA, and Cold War Aerial Espionage

No registration required!
Join the author for an informal chat and book signing.
International Spy Museum, 800 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20004 (more)

Is it possible that these spies were thwarted at least in part by their reliance on out-dated steganography programs?

Steganography is becoming the tool of choice for a whole cadre of criminals a lot more daunting than these putative Borises and Natashas. It’s been used to exfiltrate sensitive data in corporate espionage, state sponsored espionage, and oddly enough--by gangs. 

What’s odd here is that the SVR went with such an old-school steganography method, one that leaves traceable evidence. Because there’s a lot better stuff out there....

Instead of leaving behind an artifact of your wrong-doing for the Justice Department to download, new stego programs use ephemeral channels that disappear when the communication has been completed. It’s called network steganography. You can do it in real time, you can transmit huge amounts of data, and you can do it without leaving behind any artifacts to implicate you.

If the Russian spies had known about these new protocols, they might not have gotten caught so handily. You can bet that the non-Russian spies in the United States (insert your own xenophobia here) are using more sophisticated methods to phone home. (more)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Password Tip from Russian Spy

The FBI's case against an alleged deep cover Russian spy ring relies heavily on surveillance of their use of ad hoc Wi-Fi networks, bespoke software, encryption and the web...

The Illegals were given a steganography program by the SVR's Moscow Centre, it says. The software is not commercially available, and investigators discovered the alleged spies held copies of it by clandestine searches of their properties...

A New Jersey search uncovered a network of websites, from which the alleged spies had downloaded images.

Similarly, a search in Boston led to websites carrying steganographic messages. The texts had also been encrypted, and both the Boston and New Jersey hard drives required a 27-character password. (more)

P.S. One of the most glaring errors made by one of the spy defendants was leaving an imposing 27-character password written on a piece of paper that law enforcement officers found while searching a suspect's home. They used the password to crack open a treasure trove of more than 100 text files containing covert messages used to further the investigation. (more)