Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Norway & Germany Call Time Out on Kiddy Smartwatches

Recently, Germany's Federal Network Agency (FNA) called foul on smartwatches that worked as listening devices — specifically those worn by children between the ages of 5 and 12, and used by parents, in particular, to eavesdrop on their kids while at school.

"Piss off."
The German regulating body said that parents would listen in on classes and teachers without consent...

These special watches, work like a baby monitor — allowing someone to tap into the device and listen in to anything happening around it. And people are being asked now to not only keep an eye out for these particular smartwatches — but destroy them, and then send proof back to the FNA....

Germany's not alone in worrying about children's smartwatches. The Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) had the same type of reaction a full month before the FNA, issuing a report about security concerns around the devices.

The NCC noted that smartwatches — besides acting as listening devices — can also transmit the location of a child — presumably to parents — but have security flaws which could open that information up easily to others. more 

Glad they didn't have these forearm ankle bracelets when I was a kid. ~Kevin

Revenge Spycam Shooting Gets Shooter Shot

GA - Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said Thursday a man was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to burglary and spying on his ex-girlfriend.

Cooke said Blake Herman, 35, of Macon broke into his ex-girlfriend's home on Jones Road and planted a camera in her bedroom as revenge for her breaking up with him.

When Herman returned to his ex-girlfriend's home to remove the camera, her brother caught him and shot him thinking Herman was about to pull a gun.

The camera fell out of Herman's pocket during the ordeal, according to Cooke. more

IT Spy Guy Hacks Computer Cameras

MI - A Charlevoix County man from the United Kingdom is in jail and facing more than 40 charges for disturbing, computer-related crimes.

Police say Wayne Tambling got access to several victims’ computers and photographed them naked using the computer’s camera, without them knowing.

“They just noticed some strange things, some coincidences that led them to believe that someone might be spying on them,” Trooper Jeff Mercer, said.

State police say three victims came forward with that eerie feeling...

Tambling works in IT at Wojan Window and Door, the company says they are fully cooperating with police. more

Double Oh Concession

The UK government is going to speed up the way it vets and hires new recruits at its spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, which is responsible for electronic surveillance, after it fell short of hiring targets at the end of the last fiscal year (pdf).

The spy agency has said that it’s losing potential top recruits to huge tech companies because of bumper salaries. GCHQ’s lengthy vetting process, which is backlogged, also doesn’t help...

GCHQ, one of Britain’s three intelligence and security agencies alongside MI5 and MI6, aims to increase headcount by 14% over the next four years to 6,639 people.

This is after it had a shortfall in recruitment of 22% in the fiscal year. The report added that in order to get more recruits through the door, it will have to assign more people to the vetting process. more

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Seoul Trained Trackers, or Party Police Bugged

South Korea - One maintenance office of a Seoul apartment complex is in hot water after it took its investigation into noise complaints one step too far.

According to residents and security personnel, during a recent five-day period, the maintenance office dispatched security guards to investigate the source of excessive noise among suites on floors 9 through 15 in one building. The guards, deployed from midnight to three in the morning on the apartment corridors, were armed with sound amplifying equipment.

“Throughout the course of the investigation, I ended up listening to the conversations of the residents in each suite, even though I didn’t want to,” one security guard said. “Problems of excessive noise should be resolved through legal and appropriate means, but I think that using a sound amplifier that can result in an invasion of privacy is taking things too far.” more

Monday, December 25, 2017

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

You'd better watch out,
You'd better not cry,
You'd better not pout;
I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is tapping
Your phone.

He's bugging your room,
He's reading your mail,
He's keeping a file
And running a tail.
Santa Claus is tapping
Your phone.

He hears you in the bedroom,
Surveills you out of doors,
And if that doesn't get the goods,
Then he'll use provocateurs.

So–you mustn't assume
That you are secure.
On Christmas Eve
He'll kick in your door.
Santa Claus is tapping
Your phone.

Author unknown

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Espionage Backdoor Installs via Printer-Spoofing Campaign

For many large organizations, emails from corporate printers and scanners are commonplace, and cyber-criminals are finding this vector to be a lucrative host to launch cyber-attacks.

Barracuda Networks has tracked an uptick in attacks through Canon, HP and Epson printer and scanner email attachments of late: Since late November, cyber-criminals have made millions of attempts to infect unsuspecting users by sending impersonated or spoofed emails from these common printer and scanner brands, with attachments that contain malware.

Once unpacked, the malware installs a backdoor on the machine that offers unauthorized access to a victim PC and cyber-espionage capabilities...

Further, indicating a ramsomware-ready aspect, attackers also can change the victim’s wallpaper to display a message of their choice.

Workers should use common sense to avoid the threat: 
  • double-check with the sender if one didn’t know a scanned document was coming; 
  • hovering the mouse over every hyperlink to make sure it’s legitimate; 
  • and simply not clicking if there’s any doubt whatsoever.  more
Example of a fake email.

Fun Spy Facts

Too much training.
The research team behind BBC2 quiz show QI have published a new book of facts and stats. Here are a few...
  • The first editorial assistant to work on the Oxford English Dictionary was sacked for industrial espionage.
  • Secret agents have to be trained to forget their advanced driving courses.
  • The French air force have a squad of golden eagles, trained to hunt down drones.
The QI Christmas Special is on BBC1, Boxing Day, 10pm more

"Hey, kids. Make BIG money in your spare time. Train spies!"

The UAE is recruiting former CIA and US government officials in a bid to create a professional intelligence body modeled on leading Western agencies.

The Gulf state has long relied on Western countries to build up its intelligence infrastructure, but are now paying big bucks to hire former US intelligence employees to build its spying capabilities.

Details of the training were reviewed by Foreign Policy and show daily seminars, scavenger hunts and training exercises in four-to-six man surveillance teams.

The following weeks provide advanced training on creating undercover identities when attending embassy functions and how to groom intelligence assets...

Former CIA and US government officials are drawn to the promise of a lucrative career, with instructor salaries of up to $1,000 a day funding an extravagant lifestyle, Foreign Policy reported. more

The Catch Santa in the Act App, by Snowden?!?!

Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden met with Jacqueline Moudeina, the first female lawyer in Chad and a legendary human rights advocate... 

Snowden told Moudeina that he was working on an app that could turn a mobile device into a kind of motion sensor in order to notify you when your devices are being tampered with.

The app could also tell you when someone had entered a room without you knowing, if someone had moved your things, or if someone had stormed into your friend’s house in the middle of the night.

Snowden recounted that pivotal conversation in an interview with the Verge. “She got very serious and told me, ‘I need this. I need this now. There’s so many people around us who need this.’”

Haven, announced today, is an app that does just that. Installed on a cheap burner Android device, Haven sends notifications to your personal, main phone in the event that your laptop has been tampered with.

If you leave your laptop at home or at an office or in a hotel room, you can place your Haven phone on top of the laptop, and when Haven detects motion, light, or movement — essentially, anything that might be someone messing with your stuff — it logs what happened. It takes photos, records sound, even takes down changes in light or acceleration, and then sends notifications to your main phone.

None of this logging is stored in the cloud, and the notifications you receive on your main phone are end-to-end encrypted over Signal. more

NJ Spycam'er Gets Slammer

A Williamstown, New Jersey, man was sentenced to 180 months in prison for receiving images and videos of child sexual abuse and for producing child pornography using a hidden camera in his bathroom, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced. more

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

TSCM - A Prudent Business Practice - Misunderstood by the Press

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency used public money to have his office swept for hidden listening devices and bought sophisticated biometric locks for additional security.

The spending items, totaling nearly $9,000, are among a string of increased counter-surveillance precautions taken by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt...

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the spending. "Administrator Pruitt has received an unprecedented amount of threats against him...

Wilcox said that under the Obama administration, then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also had her office swept for listening devices. more

Conducting Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) is an integral part of any competent information security program. 

It is a common, albeit subtle, business practice in the private sector, and an absolute requirement in governments worldwide. 

The cost of a strategic information loss via undiscovered electronic surveillance makes proactive TSCM inspections look like pocket change cheap insurance. However, unlike insurance, TSCM inspections can prevent the loss.  

Visit to learn more. ~Kevin

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hollywood Has Always Played by a Different Set of Rules

Terry Crews is alleging that he and his family are the victims of a plot to "track" and "possibly bug" them, the actor and Time Magazine Silence Breaker posted on Twitter.

"My assailant Adam Venit is the founding partner at @WME, a corporation worth over $8 billion. I believe my family is being tracked and possibly bugged," he wrote as part of a series of tweets.

Crews also claims that someone possibly hacked into his son's computer. more

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Video Voyeurism: Carnival Cruise's Botched Investigation

A Florida family was shocked to discover a camera hidden among wires in their Carnival Cruise Line cabin. 

Click to enlarge.
The Pensacola couple, along with their 10-year-old son, found the device while searching undusted areas of the room after the father suffered an allergy attack during the second night of their journey from Mobile, Al., to Mexico, the Miami New Times reported.

According to the father, who was not identified by name, the camera was placed behind a TV in their room. The lens was sticking out a bit, pointing directly at the bed.

The man claimed the device was "warm to the touch" and appeared to have an antenna, which leads him to believe it may have been transmitting information to a third party. more

The couple reported the presence of the camera and transmitter in their cabin to the cruise ship’s security department. One of Carnival’s security personnel arrived in their cabin. He disconnected and removed the camera and transmitter with no gloves on and did not attempt to secure the room. In the video below, you can hear the passenger asking the officer why he was not wearing gloves.

The passenger thereafter communicated with the security staff to obtain an update. According to the passengers, the Carnival security personnel confirmed that the camera and transmitter: (1) were operational; (2) were typically the type of devices used on video drones: and (3) the transmitter was a long range device. To the passenger's knowledge, Carnival did not promptly report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). more

This is a cautionary tale. Video voyeurism can happen to any business which offers hospitality, restrooms, changing rooms, shower areas, etc., to customers, visitors or employees. 

Handling the situation properly when it arises is important, and easy to do. Visit to learn how. Mishandling an incident, or sweeping it under the rug, will likely result in expensive litigation. Litigation you will likely lose.

Are Google and Amazon Patently Eavesdropping?

Patent applications from Amazon and Google revealed how their Alexa and Voice Assistant powered smart speakers are 'spying' on you.
The findings were published in a report created by Santa Monica, California based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

The study warns of an Orwellian future in which the gadgets eavesdrop on everything from confidential conversations to your toilet flushing habits...

The study found that digital assistants can be 'awake' even when users think they aren't listening...

In fact, the devices listen all the time they are turned on – and Amazon has envisioned Alexa using that information to build profiles on anyone in the room to sell them goods. more

Letter Accuses Uber of Corporate Espionage and Wiretapping

The legal battle between Uber the ride-hailing behemoth and Waymo the self-driving unit of Alphabet reached a pivotal point this week as the Judge presiding over the case released a letter based on the account of a former employee at Uber.

The letter alleged that a division with Uber has been responsible for carrying out acts such as theft of trade secrets, corporate espionage, bribery of officials in foreign countries, and different types of unlawful surveillance.

The letter, given the name “Jacobs Letter,” was authored by an attorney who represents Richard Jacobs, a former employee at Uber who held the position of global intelligence manager prior to his firing last April.

In the highly detailed account accusations are leveled of systematic illegal activities inside the Strategic Services Group (SSG) of Uber, which allegedly sought out the trade secrets of other companies through data collection and eavesdropping. more

Quote from the letter...
Uber’s Marketplace Analytics team…fraudulently impersonates riders and drivers on competitor platforms, hacks into competitor networks, and conducts unlawful wiretapping. more 

Another version of the story...
Uber illegally recorded phone calls and wiretapped the phones of executives at rival companies in a global “intelligence gathering” operation that went on for years, a former employee has alleged.

In a 37-page letter made public in federal court on Friday, Richard Jacobs, a former security employee with the ride-hailing service, alleges Uber set up internal teams whose sole purpose was to spy on competitors. “Uber has engaged, and continues to engage, in illegal intelligence gathering on a global scale,” Jacobs wrote, according to The New York Times.

The teams allegedly infiltrated chat rooms, impersonated drivers of rival companies, and placed surveillance on executives of those companies, including by illegally recording phone calls, the letter claims.

Jacobs’ allegations stem from a trade secrets case against Uber filed by Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit, which says Uber stole information about autonomous driving technology. more

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

For One Family - A New Christmas Gift Rule

Op-ed, NYT opinion
Click to enlarge.

During the holiday season, my husband and I tend to offer suggestions to those who are generous enough to insist on buying presents for our kids.

Things like “Don’t spend more than $50” and “No guns.” Or, for those with whom we can be comfortably blunt, “Just cash, please....

This year we’re adding a new rule to our list: No toys that can spy. The idea: to keep seemingly innocuous internet-connected devices that may compromise our privacy and security out of our home and especially out of our children’s hands. more

• CBS video report on holiday toys that can spy.

• All the cool gifts are made for spying on you.

FutureWatch: That Photo Can Now Be Traced to Your Phone

A University at Buffalo-led team of researchers has discovered how to identify smartphones by examining just one photo taken by the device.

The advancement opens the possibility of using smartphones—instead of body parts—as a form of identification to deter cybercrime.

"Like snowflakes, no two smartphones are the same. Each device, regardless of the manufacturer or make, can be identified through a pattern of microscopic imaging flaws that are present in every picture they take," says Kui Ren, the study's lead author. "It's kind of like matching bullets to a gun, only we're matching photos to a smartphone camera." 

The new technology, to be presented in February at the 2018 Network and Distributed Systems Security Conference in California, is not yet available to the public. However, it could become part of the authentication process—like PIN numbers and passwords—that customers complete at cash registers, ATMs and during online transactions. more

Security Director Alert: HP Laptops with Hidden Keyloggers

Researcher Michael Myng found a deactivated keylogger in a piece of software found on over 460 HP laptop models. A full list of affected laptops is here. The keylogger is deactivated by default but could represent a privacy concern if an attacker has physical access to the computer...

The bottom line? Update your HP laptop as soon as possible. If you are on HP’s list of affected laptops you can download the fix heremore

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

33 Years Late, or You'll Never be a Stranger Here

China has been building what it calls "the world's biggest camera surveillance network".

Across the country, 170 million CCTV cameras are already in place and an estimated 400 million new ones will be installed in the next three years.

Many of the cameras are fitted with artificial intelligence, including facial recognition technology. The BBC's John Sudworth has been given rare access to one of the new hi-tech police control rooms. excellent video demo

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mickey With the Big Ears - RIP

Mickey Gurdus was always a good listener.

Click to enlarge
For decades he commanded a battery of shortwave and FM radios, UHF and VHF receivers, tape recorders and other devices from a swivel chair in his Tel Aviv apartment, all to intercept and record foreign news broadcasts, secret satellite transmissions, confidential military messages and diplomatic conversations.

He was no vicarious eavesdropper, however. Mr. Gurdus listened for a living.

He monitored the airwaves for the state-run Israel Radio and tipped his editors — and, sometimes, intelligence agents — to hijackings, invasions and revolutions. In one instance he intercepted a telephone call between the White House and Air Force One. more

Amazingly, there was a time when anyone could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone calls from Air Force One. All one needed was a radio which could receive shortwave and/or frequencies around 409 MHz. More detailed instructions are still floating around the net. These days, communications are encrypted, and are mostly routed via satellite. ~Kevin

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seminar in Information Security and Cryptography

Seminar in Information Security and Cryptography
Zurich Switzerland, June 11-13, 2018

Lecturers: Prof. David Basin and Prof. Ueli Maurer, ETH Zurich

Information Security and Cryptography. A full description of the seminar, including all topics covered, is available at

This seminar provides an in-depth coverage of Information Security and Cryptography. Concepts are explained in a way understandable to a wide audience, as well as mathematical, algorithmic, protocol-specific, and system-oriented aspects. The topics covered include cryptography and its foundations, system and network security, PKIs and key management, authentication and access control, privacy and data protection, and advanced topics in cryptography.

The seminar takes place in Zurich, Switzerland. The lectures and all course material are in English.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hedy Lamarr - The Spread Spectrum Lady

“Bombshell” (Alexandra Dean’s timely documentary) explores, Lamarr, in collaboration with avant-garde composer George Antheil, of all people, came up with a way to ensure secure radio signals, a frequency-hopping technology that has been called the basis for such up-to-date innovations as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Though one of the most recognized faces in the world, Lamarr, executive producer Susan Sarandon has said, “was never seen for who she was.”
Yet what makes “Bombshell” intriguing is not just Lamarr’s gift for invention, it’s also what a fiery individualist she was, someone who had no regrets about her eventful life (”You learn from everything”), not even its racy, tabloid elements. more

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Russia Accuses Pepsi of Espionage - “Gotta Have It” / ”Chill Out”

A Russian state watchdog is accusing U.S. soda giant Pepsi of espionage, after receiving word that the soft drinks company had a copy of an internal agency document that was apparently never sent out.

Russia’s Rosselkhoznadzor, the Kremlin’s watchog specializing in agricultural products, released a statement alleging that Pepsi Co. orchestrated a cyber attack on its database to obtain a copy of an industry document, intended only for the watchdog's consumption. The statement, released on Monday, reveals nothing about the document’s contents.

The watchdog claims that the company cited the document during a union meeting with Rosselkhoznadzor. more

PepsiCo denied the accusations

Guests Keep Finding Spycams in their Airbnb Bedrooms

An Airbnb guest discovered a hidden camera inside his rental property in another disturbing example of the service's users being spied upon.

Jason Scott, an internet activist from the US, tweeted pictures of what he claims was a spy camera hidden in a burglar alarm motion sensor. Scott says he was sent the images by a concerned friend who found the item during a recent stay in an Airbnb property.

According to Scott, the device was an IP camera that was likely connected to the internet and used for surveillance

He wrote: "In "oh, that's a thing now" news, a colleague of mine thought it odd that there was a single "motion detector" in his AirBNB in the bedroom and voila, it's an IP camera connected to the web. (He left at 3am, reported, host is suspended, colleague got refund.)" more

Extra Credit Reading:
 Education is the best prevention against becoming a victim of spy cameras.

Eavesdropping App Lawsuit Allowed to Proceed

A federal judge denied the Golden State Warriors’ motion to dismiss an amended lawsuit 
alleging that the NBA champions recorded private conversations through their mobile app.

Jeffrey White, a judge for the Northern District of California, originally dismissed the class action complaint, which was filed by New York resident LaTisha Satchell last year, but ruled recently that the revised suit can proceed against the Warriors and beacon-technology company Signal360 for a possible violation of the Wiretap Act. more

DIY PI - What could possibly go wrong?

PI - Two school employees in Monroe County could face wiretapping charges.

A grand jury is recommending charges against Joshua Krebs and Alex Sterenchok.

Krebs is the supervisor of support staff and Sterenchok is the technology supervisor for the Pleasant Valley School District.

Both are accused of setting up a camera in April of 2016 in a break room at Pleasant Valley Elementary School to see if they could catch a janitor not doing his job.
Teachers and other staff members argue their privacy was being violated. more

Monday, December 4, 2017

After Seven Years of Hacking an Indictment - Will it Make a Difference?

Federal prosecutors indicted three Chinese nationals last week. It accusing them of hacking over the past seven years into at least three multinational corporations.

reported this is for last week and was kind enough to ask my opinion for background.


China warned it would retaliate if the US pressed the issue. And that was pretty much that.

Which is the way Kevin Murray, director at Murray Associates, a counter espionage consultancy, sees this case playing out. Does the indictment mean anything significant will happen? “No,” he said, offering a brief history lesson.
Go back 1,000 years, remembering that the Chinese invented things like silk, gunpowder, paper. All this intellectual property was stolen from them. At that time, the law in China was that if you engaged in it, that was your life. But it still got stolen. So now they’re getting back at us. And we’re trying to replicate what they did by punishing the criminal. Is it going to help? No.
Murray said if those responsible for protecting IP faced charges, “then you’d see some changes.” more