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 […]

SMS gateways you can use to get around high texting charges

Tired of high SMS charges? Use these SMS gateways, which translate emails & IMs into SMS text messages … for free (well, to the sender, anyway – the recipient still has to pay). And when recipients reply, those replies come back to the sender in the same format; in other words, you email someone, they […]

Cell phone viruses

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): Earlier this year, smartphone users in China started to get messages promising a “sexy view” if they clicked on a link. The link led to a download. That download was a spam generator which, once installed, sent identical “sexy view” […]

Taxi driver party lines

photo credit: 708718 From Annie Karni’s “Gabbing Taxi Drivers Talking on ‘Party Lines’” (The New York Sun: 11 January 2007): It’s not just wives at home or relatives overseas that keep taxi drivers tied up on their cellular phones during work shifts. Many cabbies say that when they are chatting on duty, it’s often with […]

Why everyone wants a computer: socializing

From Paul Graham’s “Why TV Lost” (Paul Graham: March 2009): The somewhat more surprising force was one specific type of innovation: social applications. The average teenage kid has a pretty much infinite capacity for talking to their friends. But they can’t physically be with them all the time. When I was in high school the […]

Matthew, the blind phone phreaker

From Kevin Poulsen’s “Teenage Hacker Is Blind, Brash and in the Crosshairs of the FBI” (Wired: 29 February 2008): At 4 in the morning of May 1, 2005, deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office converged on the suburban Colorado Springs home of Richard Gasper, a TSA screener at the local Colorado Springs Municipal […]

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 Obama raised money in Silicon Valley & using the Net

From Joshua Green’s “The Amazing Money Machine” (The Atlantic: June 2008): That early fund-raiser [in February 2007] and others like it were important to Obama in several respects. As someone attempting to build a campaign on the fly, he needed money to operate. As someone who dared challenge Hillary Clinton, he needed a considerable amount […]

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. […]

Lots of good info about the FBI’s far-reaching wiretapping of US phone systems

From Ryan Singel’s “Point, Click … Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates” (Wired News: 29 August 2007): The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act. The […]

Virtual kidnappings a problem in Mexico

From Marc Lacey’s “Exploiting Real Fears With ‘Virtual Kidnappings’ ” (The New York Times: 29 April 2008): MEXICO CITY — The phone call begins with the cries of an anguished child calling for a parent: “Mama! Papa!” The youngster’s sobs are quickly replaced by a husky male voice that means business. “We’ve got your child,” […]

The shift from interior to exterior lives

From Mark Dery’s response to R.U. Sirius’ “Is The Net Good For Writers?” (10 Zen Monkeys: 5 October 2007): But we live in times of chaos and complexity, and the future of writing and reading is deeply uncertain. Reading and writing are solitary activities. The web enables us to write in public and, maybe one […]

How to wiretap

From Seth David Schoen’s “Wiretapping vulnerabilities” (Vitanuova: 9 March 2006): Traditional wiretap threat model: the risks are detection of the tap, and obfuscation of content of communication. … POTS is basically the same as it was 100 years ago — with central offices and circuit-switching. A phone from 100 years ago will pretty much still […]

4 ways to eavesdrop on telephone calls

From Bruce Schneier’s “VOIP Encryption” (Crypto-Gram Newsletter: 15 April 2006): There are basically four ways to eavesdrop on a telephone call. One, you can listen in on another phone extension. This is the method preferred by siblings everywhere. If you have the right access, it’s the easiest. While it doesn’t work for cell phones, cordless […]

The origins of 2600

From Nicholas Thompson’s “Who Needs Keys?” (Legal Affairs: November/December 2004): The event was organized by 2600, a quarterly magazine whose name refers to one of the great discoveries in hacker history: that the plastic whistles given away free in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal in the early 1970s could be slightly modified to create sound […]

Tracking via cell phone is easy

From Brendan I. Koerner’s “Your Cellphone is a Homing Device” (Legal Affairs: July/August 2003): What your salesman probably failed to tell you – and may not even realize – is that an E911-capable phone can give your wireless carrier continual updates on your location. The phone is embedded with a Global Positioning System chip, which […]

Bring down the cell network with SMS spam

From John Schwartz’s “Text Hackers Could Jam Cellphones, a Paper Says“: Malicious hackers could take down cellular networks in large cities by inundating their popular text-messaging services with the equivalent of spam, said computer security researchers, who will announce the findings of their research today. Such an attack is possible, the researchers say, because cellphone […]

Early attempts to control phone usage

From R. W. Kostal’s Law and English Railway Capitalism, 1825-1875 (quoted in Andrew Odlyzko’s “Pricing and Architecture of the Internet: Historical Perspectives from Telecommunications and Transportation“): In Britain in 1889, postal officials reprimanded a Leicester subscriber for using his phone to notify the fire brigade of a nearby conflagration. The fire was not on his […]

Flat local calling rates in US helped grow the Net

From Andrew Odlyzko’s “Pricing and Architecture of the Internet: Historical Perspectives from Telecommunications and Transportation“: Moreover, flat rates for local calling played a key role in the rise of the Internet, by promoting much faster spread of this technology in the U.S. than in other countries. (This, as well as the FCC decisions about keeping […]

Douglas Adams on information overload

From Douglas Adam’s “Is there an Artificial God?“: Let me back up for a minute and talk about the way we communicate. Traditionally, we have a bunch of different ways in which we communicate with each other. One way is one-to-one; we talk to each other, have a conversation. Another is one-to-many, which I’m doing […]