Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Things are Bad When Spycams Grab the Headlines

Inside Story: It was the autumn of 2009, and something odd was happening at the offices of ING North America at 400 Atrium Drive in Somerset. It had to do with one of the janitors.

Unlike most janitors, this one had set up his own office, inside a boiler room. And in addition to making his rounds, which included one of the women’s restrooms in the five-story building, the man spent a lot of time on his laptop in his office even though nothing about his job required him to use a computer.

There was also something strange going on in the bathroom that he cleaned. For months, women had been noticing objects wrapped in toilet paper, set in peculiar places.

All this suddenly made sense in November, when a woman went to use the bathroom and noticed a strange looking object in one of the ceiling tiles. She stood on the toilet and retrieved what looked to be a hidden camera. She called the police... more

Better learn how to spot spycams. more

Become A Spy Fast... in Slovenia

Slovenia's spy agency on Tuesday published its first ever public advert to recruit new agents "to strengthen and refreshen" the former Communist country's intelligence services.

"We call on those interested in the intelligence and security fields, motivated by challenges and prepared to adjust to the agency's specific line of work," the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) said in an ad in the daily Delo and other newspapers.

One major requirement, however: candidates must be Slovenian citizens. more

The Story Behind the Story
December 8, 2017

Workers from the Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) have reportedly gone on strike, demanding higher wages and better working conditions...

Just like their work, Slovenian intelligence workers kept their strike secret, but details have gradually leaked to the media. As local weekly Reporter wrote, “Slovenian spies are on strike so secretly no one knows they are on strike.” more

Travel Security Tip from Smart Mexicans - Dummy Phones & Wallets

Armed robberies have gotten so common aboard buses in Mexico City that commuters have come up with a clever if disheartening solution: Many are buying fake cellphones, to hand over to thieves instead of their real smartphones.

Costing 300 to 500 pesos apiece — the equivalent of $15 to $25 — the "dummies" are sophisticated fakes: They have a startup screen and bodies that are dead ringers for the originals, and inside there is a piece of metal to give the phone the heft of the real article.

There were an average of 70 reported violent muggings every day in Mexico City in the first four months of 2019. About two-thirds were committed against pedestrians, with the rest split almost evenly between bus passengers and assaults on motorists stopped at lights or caught in traffic jams. Between 2017 and 2018, such assaults rose by about 22 percent. more

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Snapple "Real Fact" #726 – Polar Bears v. Infrared Cameras v. TSCM

I had a Snapple tea the other day and found this "Real Fact" #726 under the cap.

We use infrared cameras in our work, and know how they work. This "Real Fact" struck all of us here as odd. An IR camera would not detect a polar bear because its fur was transparent?!?!

Oxymoron? No, just sensationalism. The mixing of two unrelated facts to manufacture an unexpected outcome designed to surprise... aka Fake News.

The real "Real Fact" reason... 
  • Yes, a polar bear's fur is mostly transparent, and hollow too! 
  • Yes, IR cameras would have a difficult time detecting a polar bear.
Polar bears live in a cold climate. Retaining body heat is important. Fur and a thick layer of fat provide insulation. Insulation prevents heat from escaping their bodies, and heat is what IR cameras detect.

Insulation is the "Real Fact"
It's not that the fur is mostly transparent, or that polar bears alone have super-powers. IR invisibility is also true for the Arctic fox and other mammals living in cold environments.

The Technical Surveillance Countermeasures field (TSCM) is also riddled with "Real Facts", like inflated bug-find claims, and pervasive laser beam eavesdropping fearmongering.

It always pays to scratch the surface.
Examine the science.
Apply some common sense.
Visit us for the Real Facts about TSCM
. ~Kevin

Monday, May 20, 2019

San Francisco Prohibits Deployment Of ‘Secret Surveillance’ Technologies

Although the facial recognition aspects of the ordinance have been the most publicized, it also targets a long list of other products and systems.

According to the ordinance, "Surveillance Technology" means “any software, electronic device, system utilizing an electronic device, or similar device used, designed, or primarily intended to collect, retain, process, or share audio, electronic, visual, location, thermal, biometric, olfactory or similar information specifically associated with, or capable of being associated with, any individual or group.” Broadly interpreted, that’s a lot of devices.

The ban only applies to city departments and agencies, not to private businesses or the general public. Therefore, San Franciscans can continue to use facial recognition technology every day when they unlock their smart phones.

And technologies such as facial recognition currently used at the San Francisco airport and ports are not impacted because they are under federal jurisdiction. more

FutureWatch: New Mobile App Fends off Espionage Attacks

Innovative technology from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the FZI Research Center for Computer Science can put an end to espionage on our cell phones.....

For example, it is possible to give apps wrapped in AVARE access to the contacts in the address book, but not to all of the stored information...

In addition, AVARE can extend the location information to a radius of several kilometers and disguise the exact location. Thus, a weather app can continue to provide reliable forecasts without knowing the exact location of the user...

The AVARE code is available as open source software on the AVARE website and the scientists hope that their program will be taken up by other developers who will help to extend the current beta version to a version 1.0. more  video (cartoon)

Spycam Brings Down Austrian Leader - A Cautionary Tale

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called Saturday for an early election after his vice chancellor resigned over a covertly shot video that showed him apparently promising government contracts to a prospective Russian investor.

Two German publications, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel, published extracts Friday of a covert video purportedly showing Strache during an alcohol-fueled evening on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza offering Austrian government contracts to a Russian woman, purportedly the niece of a Russian oligarch and interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.

In his resignation statement Saturday, Strache apologized but said he was set up in a “political assassination” that illegally used surveillance equipment. more

Hey Politicos. Better learn how to detect spycams.

The ASML Case - Trade Secret Theft - Sometimes the Good Guy Wins

Following a jury verdict rendered months earlier, a California court entered a final judgment for $845 million in favor of semiconductor maker, ASML, in its suit against rival, XTAL, for stealing trade secrets related to ASML’s lithography technology.

This judgment followed a jury award last year, which had included the potential for punitive damages because the jury found XTAL’s conduct to be malicious. The final judgment, which also reimbursed AMSL for costs relating to its investigation of XTAL’s theft...

AMSL will receive most, if not all, of XTAL’s intellectual property under a settlement agreement... more

Congratulations, ASML! ~ Kevin

Saturday, May 18, 2019

FLIR Black Hornet - US Army Mini-Drones Deployed - Flying Binoculars

  • US Army soldiers are, for the first time, getting personal reconnaissance drones small enough to fit on a soldier's utility belt.
  • A soldier could send one of these little drones out to get a view of the battlefield all while staying put in a covered, concealed position.
  • This awesome technology is a potential game changer, one that is expected to save lives by significantly reducing the risk soldiers take in battle. more  Early promo video.  Want one for your desk. Check eBay.

Military mini-drones have been a holy grail since the 1970's. Since 2009 they have developed rapidly. In 2019 they are a practical reality and are being deployed. 

FutureWatch: Expect many additional capabilities over a short period of time. Poisonous mosquitoes, self-planting eavesdropping bugs, anyone?

Mini-Drone History
Early 2014 Army version.

The British Army version from 2013. 
2009 DARPA version.
1970's CIA version.
For all of our drone posts, click here.  
Enjoy. ~Kevin

Office Spying – The Coworking Vulnerability – Part 1

Stratfor Chief Security Officer Fred Burton said...countries like Russia and China deploy spies to work with or around startups in places like Silicon Valley and Austin to get an edge on the future pipeline of tech, either copying those systems or designing resistance measures to them.

The way they pry into targets may have little to do with hacking...

Spies have been known to moonlight as office cleaners, roaming around a floor after hours and using iPhones to take pictures of workstations and documents, Burton said.

“I don't have to hack into your system. I just have to have someone work next to you who knows what you're doing. It is just that simple sometimes. It is basic agent 101.” more

Office Spying – The Coworking Vulnerability – Part II

Open office spaces and coworking are designed to help companies foster communication and collaboration, not only among their own employees, but also with workers from other firms.

But the intermingling also has a dark side — the risks of losing talent or intellectual property and corporate spying. And as coworking has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years, the risks have escalated...

Some experts are raising alarm that the open, collaborative work world may be detrimental to corporate secrecy, competitiveness and intellectual property security. After all, corporate espionage is big business....

Eavesdropping is one of the biggest risks in open office environments, whether intentional or not... more

If You're a Slack'er, Patch the Hacker

A security researcher has uncovered a flaw in Slack that could've been exploited to steal files over the business messaging app and potentially spread malware.

The flaw involves Slack's Windows desktop app, and how it can automatically send downloaded files to a certain destination—whether it be on your PC or to an online storage server...

"Using this attack vector, an insider could exploit this vulnerability for corporate espionage, manipulation, or to gain access to documents outside of their purview," David Wells, a researcher at the security firm Tenable said...

Slack has patched the flaw in version 3.4.0 of the Windows desktop app. more

Thursday, May 16, 2019

To Catch a Spy - The Art of Counterintelligence

Longtime Central Intelligence Agency operative and former CIA chief of counterintelligence James “Jim” Olson delivered a talk on his career experiences and challenges Tuesday night to a near-capacity crowd at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.

Earlier this year, Olson released a book, To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence, which he said is rooted in his three decades in the arena of counterintelligence. It offers “a wake-up call,” in Olson’s words, for the American public about why counterintelligence matters, and why America must protect its trade and national security secrets.

Olson said 50 countries are known to be spying against the U.S. currently. “The worst culprit, by far, is China — followed by Russia, Cuba and Iran,” he said.

“In my 31-year career in the CIA, I saw evil face-to-face more often than I care to remember,” Olson said. “People I knew and trusted — people I considered friends — betrayed us, and their treachery was close to me. It was personal, and indescribably painful. The damage that these traitors did to our country was devastating.more

Q: "You'll be using this Aston Martin DB5."

James Bond: Ejector seat? You must be joking.

Q: I never joke about my work 007.

If Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob is coming after you, Aston Martin has just the car you need. It will cost a lot, though.

Ten months ago Aston Martin announced it would build a limited number of 1964 Aston Martin DB5s, just like the one Sean Connery, as James Bond, first drove in the movie “Goldfinger.” Twenty-five of these cars will be sold at a price of £2.75 million, or about $3.5 million. Each car will include a host of dangerous-sounding options, just like the one in the movie, Aston Martin said.

Aston Martin has finally announced what some of those gadgets will be. The cars will have, among other things, rotating license plates that can show three different tags and replica machine guns that poke out from behind the turn signals. Other clever features will include a “smoke screen” device to hide the car from pursuers and... more

Cautionary Tale: Why Scheduled Bug Sweeps (TSCM) Protect You

Consider this recent event...

NY - In the annals of jaw-dropping East Hampton political miscalculation, the bugging of the town trustees office is a new low. 

As indicated by an edited version now circulating, someone or multiple conspirators were able to make illegal secret recordings of conversations beginning in the early fall or perhaps earlier.

The technology and those responsible have not been discovered, but from the way the recordings and an associated partial transcript were organized there is a sense that it was aimed at particular trustees and not the nine-person board as a whole. more

Regularly scheduled TSCM inspections for electronic eavesdropping devices work. Here's why... 
  • Intelligence collection is a leisurely process. 
  • The bugging itself is harmless. 
  • The harm happens after the information is collected, and is then used against you. 
TSCM inspections catch bugs during the intelligence collection phase, before your information can be used against you. ~Kevin

Typical GSM bug. Easily planted. Call it from anywhere to listen in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Spying - That's WhatsApp

WhatsApp users are being urged to update their apps, after it emerged that hackers are exploiting a software flaw to wiretap people's phones.

The flaw reportedly allows attackers to install malicious code, known as "spyware", on iPhones and Android phones by ringing up the target device. ​

The code can be transmitted even if the user does not answer the phone and a log of the call often disappears, the Financial Times reported. more

Not sure if WhatsApp is spying on your Android phone? Check here.

This Week in Spycam News

FL - After pleading guilty to charges related to video voyeruism, a former University of North Florida student has been sentenced to six years in prison, according to Duval County court records... Additional charges were filed after police said they learned Martinez had hidden a video camera in the men’s room at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. more

UT - An electrician convicted of recording a naked teenager while she was in her bedroom of a house he was hired to work on was sentenced to 60 days in jail... The girl told police after she got out of the shower, she noticed a black iPhone being pushed up through a vent in her wall. She said the phone was pointed in her direction; records additionally stated. more

China Airbnb “Superhost” fined S$100 for hiding bedroom spycam in router discovered by alert female guest. The camera had been built into a router. more

SC - A Bishop England High School employee who worked as the school’s sports information director has been charged with two counts of voyeurism for allegedly videotaping student athletes in a locker room... Scofield informed police that he filmed the video in February “by setting up his phone in between the blinds of his office window, which looked into the boys’ locker room.” more


Police Can't Take Suspect's Garbage Without a Warrant, in Oregon

The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday disagreed with more than 50 years of state case law by ruling that Oregonians retain a privacy interest in the garbage they leave on the curb for pick-up. That means police can’t search the garbage without a warrant even after a truck hauls it away...

The majority opinion noted that even the U.S. Supreme Court has said Americans don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy “in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public.” But the U.S. Supreme Court also said individual states are free to impose “more stringent constraints on police” based on their own constitutions.

Thursday’s ruling applies to curbside refuse collected from private homes. It doesn’t appear to apply to trash thrown in public garbage cans in public places. more

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Heidi A. Bug Caper, or... The Church Lady Tapes

NY - A 50-year-old Auburn woman faces a felony charge for eavesdropping on her coworker, according to the Auburn Police Department.

Heidi A. Church is accused of hiding a recording device under a coworker’s desk and recording conversations that she was not a party to, said Auburn police Captain James Moore.

Moore said someone found the recording device under the desk and the 41-year-old man who was the victim of the eavesdropping contacted police. more

Lucky find.
Smart businesses don't depend on luck. They check.

From Those Wonderful Emperors of Espionage...

A popular GPS tracker used as a panic alarm for elderly people and to monitor children's whereabouts can be hacked to spy on users, researchers have warned.

The white-label location tracker, manufactured in China, is rebranded and sold by multiple UK companies - including Pebbell 2 by HoIP Telecom , OwnFone Footprint , and SureSafeGo.

"There were no signs from the device when this was activated or when you called in, turning this device issued to vulnerable people into a remote listening bug,” said Fidus.

"This issue teamed with the location tracking abilities of the device allows you to conceive some pretty scary potential use cases."

The researchers also found it was possible to remotely reset the GPS tracker without needing a PIN, and kill signal to the device altogether, rendering it effectively useless.

Fidus estimates that there are at least 10,000 of these devices in use in the UK, and thousands more around the world.

The team has informed several of the device makers about the flaws, but there is no way to fix the vulnerabilities without recalling every device. more

Smokin' - New Camera Can See 28 Miles - Through Smog

A new camera can photograph you from 45 kilometers away...

Developed in China, the lidar-based system can cut through city smog to resolve human-sized features at vast distances...

Zheng-Ping Li and colleagues from the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai show how to photograph subjects up to 45 km (28 miles) away in a smog-plagued urban environment.

Their technique uses single-photon detectors combined with a unique computational imaging algorithm that achieves super-high-resolution images by knitting together the sparsest of data points...
Click to enlarge.
The results speak for themselves. 

The team set up the new camera on the 20th floor of a building on Chongming Island in Shanghai and pointed it at the Pudong Civil Aviation Building across the river, some 45 km away...

The entire device is about the size of a large shoebox and so is relatively portable. more

Beware of New Devices in Expectation of Privacy Areas

UK - A camera hidden inside an alarm clock was used to spy on a naked student in a shower...

Maintenance man Nicholas Burford installed the secret recording device in the bathroom of a house in South Devon and deliberately aimed its lens at the shower unit.

He recorded the 20-year-old woman at least twice, but was caught because his hidden camera malfunctioned and started making a buzzing noise. more

Learn how to spot spycams.

Even Popcorn Has Trade Secrets

Caramel Crisp LLC, the owner of Garrett Popcorn Shops (“Garrett”), the renowned Chicago-based purveyor of deliciously flavored popcorn, recently filed suit in federal court in Chicago against its former director of research and development, Aisha Putnam, alleging that she misappropriated the company’s trade secrets, including its recipes for Garret’s famous popcorn...

Garrett alleges that when she learned about the termination, Putnam began downloading “virtually all of [Garrett’s] trade secrets and confidential information in her possession to a personal USB drive, which she took home.”...

This case offers two helpful reminders to employers that seek to protect their valuable trade secrets.  

First, in determining whether something qualifies as a “trade secret,” one factor considered by courts are the reasonableness of the efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the trade secrets...

Second, whenever an employee with access to trade secrets leaves their employment (either voluntarily or involuntarily), employers should consider whether to conduct a forensic review of their computers and other storage devices to determine whether the employee took any confidential information on his or her way out the door. more

Friday, May 3, 2019

"Smart" Doorlocks Let Landlords and Third Parties Spy on You

Latch is a leading vendor of internet-of-things "smart" doorlocks that are in increasing use in rental housing (the company claims 10% of all new multiunit construction incorporates their product); they allow entry by keycode, keycard, and Bluetooth.

Latch's privacy policy is the usual IoT dumpster fire, allowing the company to harvest a vast amount of information from you and also share that information with a wide array of third parties, including (sometimes) your landlord.

Almost every method of unlocking your Latch requires an app in the loop (even PINs that you use with a numeric keyboard are delivered by app) and the app gathers huge amounts of information on you. Moreover, landlords can choose to configure Latch locks to require the app. more

California Weighs Limiting Smart Speaker 'Eavesdropping'

California is weighing whether to ban smart speakers from storing customer voice recordings by default. 

The Anti-Eavesdropping Act moving through California's state legislature would require all smart speaker vendors, including Amazon and Google, to get explicit written consent from customers before voice queries are stored.

The same legislation also seeks to ban smart speaker vendors from sharing voice-recording data with a third party, unless the customer has opted into it. more

Brain Imaging Lie Detector Can Be Beaten

People have certain physical "tells" when they conceal information—and studies show that good liars can prevent these "tells" being detected by displaying physical red herrings of their own.

But scientists have now shown that even a brain imaging technique called fMRI, which in theory is much harder to trick, can be beaten by people who use two particular mental countermeasures...

This research is the first to explore the effects of mental countermeasures on brain activity in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)—and it showed that when people used the countermeasures, the test proved to be 20 percent less accurate. more

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Grand Opening Party at the International Spy Museum

Join us for a night of celebration at our Opening Night Gala on Saturday, May 11. This is your exclusive opportunity to be among the first to tour our completely reimagined, state-of-the-art exhibits that provide a behind-the-scenes look at how intelligence has changed the world and continues to affect our lives today.

Enjoy live entertainment, dine on food and cocktails by Ridgewells Catering, and experience the Museum's new interactive and immersive installations at your leisure.  Tickets

On May 12, the International Spy Museum now at L'Enfant Plaza will officially opening its doors to the public! With interactive exhibitions and installations, the foremost collection of spy artifacts in the world, and first-person accounts from top intelligence officers and experts, the new Museum places visitors in the shoes of the spies.

In celebration of Mother’s day, all moms will receive free admission to SPY! To access a free ticket in advance, call the Call Center at 202.393.7798. Moms can also obtain tickets onsite that day only. NOTE: Same-day tickets are subject to availability. This special offer is not available online and no refunds are permitted for tickets purchased in advance of May 12. Tickets

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Can Doctor Visits be Recorded? - State & Federal Laws Govern

Audio and video recordings of doctors’ visits can be used to improve patients’ and families’ understanding of medical conditions and care instructions. In some situations, however, providers may be concerned that recordings could be harmful or illegal or may cause liability down the line.

What legal protections apply to recordings of doctors’ visits, and what rights do doctors have to limit recordings when they are uncomfortable? more

My Way or the Huawei - The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Vodafone, Europe's largest phone company, "acknowledged that it found vulnerabilities going back years with equipment supplied by Huawei for the carrier’s Italian business."

Bloomberg reported that Vodafone identified "hidden backdoors in the software that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy, a system that provides internet service to millions of homes and businesses." more

This Week's Spy Headlines

  • Your smart TV is spying on you. Here's how to stop it. more
  • Your Smart Home Devices Are Spying on You – Now, You Can Spy on Them more
  • Your cellphone is spying on you but you can make it stop. more
  • Ex-CIA officer Jerry Lee expected to plead guilty to spying for China. more
  • Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces have detained two Turkish citizens on charges of spying. more
  • Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthis to free 10 journalists held for spying. more
  • Whale found off Norway's coast believed to be spying for Russia. more
  • Police Search For Man Caught Spying In Bathroom Stall more
  • Family of Palestinian ‘Emirati spy’ disputes Turkish suicide claims. more 
  • Despite U.S. spying warnings, Huawei 5G reportedly gets U.K. approval. more
  • British Embassy refuses to comment on U.K. spying on Trump campaign. more
  • Julian Assange has filed a criminal complaint accusing Ecuadorian embassy of spying on him. more