Ramblings & ephemera

Eavesdropping with your cell phone

From David S. Bennahum’s “Hope You Like Jamming, Too” (Slate): …innovative industrial spies, who have several neat new tricks. These days, a boardroom Mata Hari can purchase a specially designed cell phone that will answer incoming calls while appearing to be switched off. In a business meeting, she could casually leave her phone on the […]

How security experts defended against Conficker

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): 23 October 2008 … The dry, technical language of Microsoft’s October update did not indicate anything particularly untoward. A security flaw in a port that Windows-based PCs use to send and receive network signals, it said, might be used to […]

Prices for various services and software in the underground

From Tom Espiner’s “Cracking open the cybercrime economy” (CNET News: 14 December 2007): “Over the years, the criminal elements, the ones who are making money, making millions out of all this online crime, are just getting stronger and stronger. I don’t think we are really winning this war.” As director of antivirus research for F-Secure, […]

The NSA and threats to privacy

From James Bamford’s “Big Brother Is Listening” (The Atlantic: April 2006): This legislation, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, established the FISA court—made up of eleven judges handpicked by the chief justice of the United States—as a secret part of the federal judiciary. The court’s job is to decide whether to grant warrants requested by […]

How the Greek cell phone network was compromised

From Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis’ “The Athens Affair” (IEEE Spectrum: July 2007): On 9 March 2005, a 38-year-old Greek electrical engineer named Costas Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens loft apartment, an apparent suicide. It would prove to be merely the first public news of a scandal that would roil Greece for months. […]

The Chinese Internet threat

From Shane Harris’ “China’s Cyber-Militia” (National Journal: 31 May 2008): Computer hackers in China, including those working on behalf of the Chinese government and military, have penetrated deeply into the information systems of U.S. companies and government agencies, stolen proprietary information from American executives in advance of their business meetings in China, and, in a […]

Abuse of “terrorist” investigative powers

From BBC News’ “Council admits spying on family” (10 April 2008): A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment. A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council […]

1 Henry VI: espials

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 4): Master Gunner: The prince’s espials have informed me How the English, in the suburbs close intrench’d, Wont, through a secret grate of iron bars In yonder tower, to overpeer the city, And thence discover how with most advantage They may vex us with shot, or with […]

MI5 & MI6 backgrounds

From Tom Reiss’s “Imagining the Worst: How a literary genre anticipated the modern world” (The New Yorker [28 November 2005]: 112): The [British] army was given responsibility for domestic intelligence, which became MI5; the Navy was put in charge of a new foreign espionage service, which became MI6.

NSA spying: Project Shamrock & Echelon

From Kim Zetter’s “The NSA is on the line — all of them” (Salon: 15 May 2006): As fireworks showered New York Harbor [in 1976], the country was debating a three-decades-long agreement between Western Union and other telecommunications companies to surreptitiously supply the NSA, on a daily basis, with all telegrams sent to and from […]

A private espionage company for businessmen

From Bo Elkjaer and Kenan Seeberg’s “Echelon’S Architect” (Cryptome: 21 May 2002): After that, [Bruce McIndoe] started to design Echelon II, an enlargement of the original system. Bruce McIndoe left the inner circle of the enormous espionage network in 1998, a network run by the National Security Agency, the world’s most powerful intelligence agency, in […]

Spy on no-good boss and lose your job

From Melissa Meagher’s “State Worker Spies on Boss, Loses His Job“: For 22 years, [Vernon] Blake was a System Administrator for the Alabama Department of Transportation. It was a job he loved, with the exception of his supervisor. … The running joke around the office? The boss blew off meetings and projects to play games […]

L.A. police using drones to spy on citizens

From Zachary Slobig’s “Police launch eye-in-the-sky technology above Los Angeles” (AFP: 17 June 2006): Police launched the future of law enforcement into the smoggy Los Angeles sky in the form of a drone aircraft, bringing technology most commonly associated with combat zones to urban policing. The unmanned aerial vehicle, which looks like a child’s remote […]

Social network analysis by the NSA

From John Diamond and Leslie Cauley’s “Pre-9/11 records help flag suspicious calling” (USA TODAY: 22 May 2006): Armed with details of billions of telephone calls, the National Security Agency used phone records linked to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to create a template of how phone activity among terrorists looks, say current and former intelligence […]