Friday, July 30, 2010

What your phone app doesn't say: It's watching


LAS VEGAS — Your smart phone applications are watching you — much more closely than you might like.

Lookout Inc., a mobile-phone security firm, scanned nearly 300,000 free applications for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and phones built around Google Inc.'s Android software. It found that many of them secretly pull sensitive data off users' phones and ship them off to third parties without notification.

That's a major concern that has been bubbling up in privacy and security circles.

The data can include full details about users' contacts, their pictures, text messages and Internet and search histories. The third parties can include advertisers and companies that analyze data on users.

The information is used by companies to target ads and learn more about their users. The danger, though, is that the data become vulnerable to hacking and use in identity theft if the third party isn't careful about securing the information.

Lookout reported its findings this week in conjunction with the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

Lookout found that nearly a quarter of the iPhone apps and almost half the Android apps contained software code that contained those capabilities.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cybercriminals having easy time cracking corporate networks
Verizon today issued its annual Data Breach Investigation Report, timed for the opening day of the giant Black Hat cybersecurity convention in Las Vegas.

It's not widely known that the telecom giant is home to a crack cybersecurity forensics team. Over the past half dozen or so years, Verizon's cybersleuths have been retained by large organizations to probe more than 900 separate cases of data theft in which some 900 million records were compromised. Based on direct evidence from those hands-on probes of real hacks, Verizon's annual breach report stands apart from other cybersecurity studies, many of which are based on subjective, anecdotal opinions of survey respondents.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Arpaio-Thomas Feud With County Officials Had Nothing to do With Sweep for Bugs, County Manager Says
Last year's sweep of Maricopa County offices for hidden bugs had nothing to do with the feud between county officials and the tag-team of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and then-County Attorney Andy Thomas, says County Manager David Smith.

Instead, the two sweeps costing taxpayers $14,600 were conducted out of concern about "leaks" of information to the media, Smith says. Board members were worried that someone had given out details of supervisors' executive sessions last December -- yet none of these concerns was linked to the long-running feud with the county's two antagonists, he adds.

If you're like us, you're wondering why the heck Smith seems to be lying about this.

Sure, we understand that the thinly evidenced investigation into Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek appears yet another political tactic by Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott on behalf of his boss, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

We knew the Kunasek investigation had problems before we could tell you, with certainty, what it was about.

Now that the Arizona Republic has confirmed rumors that Arpaio's office was investigating Kunasek over last year's sweep for bugs in county offices, Hendershott's tactic looks no less unprofessional.


Spy Clock helps you keep tabs at home

Are you suspicious that the tap at home keeps on leaking, and the handyman who drops by is beefier than Mr. America? Well, you might want to make sure the missus isn’t two-timing you behind your back then with the help of the £79.99 Spy Clock (surely that is much cheaper than hiring a private investigator, although a device such as a Spy Clock certainly needs a whole lot more providence to catch someone in the act). This might just be one of the smartest spy gadgets around, looking pretty classy to be placed anywhere in your home while holding an almost-invisible video camera with a motion and sound detector, ready at any opportunity to snap a photo which might lead to incriminating evidence. If its 4GB capacity isn’t up to your liking, you can always expand it further with another microSD memory card. All photos can be transferred over to your computer when no one’s looking via USB.

SECURITY ALERT! Latest New Video Spy Gadget

Note: This "Spy Gadget Security Alert" just in from our friend "Mike", so pay attention! You know the drill. He’d tell where he got this secret information from....but then he'd have to.....well, you know! JDL

Barbie® Video Girl™ Doll

Budding Spymasters, take note: Barbie® doll now doubles as a video camera! Girls (or little Spies in training) can record and play back clips with this multi-tasking doll, which has a video camera built right in. Capture everything from a doll's-eye-view, then watch it instantly or upload to your computer. There's an LCD screen on Barbie® doll's back, and a camera lens hidden discreetly in her necklace. Talk about spying on your enemies in style!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Hybrid Espionage! GM Takes Couple to Court Over Tech Secrets
Hybrid technology is really getting its day in court. A former General Motors worker and her husband have been accused of stealing (and trying to sell to a Chinese competitor) $40 million in trade secrets related to the automaker’s hybrid vehicles. On Thursday, a federal court in Detroit unsealed an indictment of the couple on seven charges including conspiracy and fraud.

This comes on the heels of two other longstanding legal battles over hybrid technology finally coming to a close, with Ford and Toyota each reaching settlement agreements this month in patent disputes with a company called Paice LLC. All of these cases come at a time when automakers are jockeying to carve out a piece of the nascent green car segment, not least of all in China’s fast-growing auto market.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

12 Top Spy Gadgets
Spies are everywhere these days, from the 10 Russian agents nabbed recently here in the United States to the more glamorous Hollywood variety, such as is Angelina Jolie. In the movie Salt, Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy.

With so many secret agents--both real and fictional--these days, we thought it might be helpful to examine a short list of modern-day high-tech spy gear. After all, who knows when you'll need invisible ink, or a code to pass messages in, or just the right bag to swap in a stairwell?

But before we get started on our surveillance, we must offer a big disclaimer about this collection of sneaky hardware (and software): Using any of this spy gear may be illegal or unethical, depending on how and where you use it. If you're unsure, check the laws in your state and consult your conscience. By linking to the Websites hosting additional information about the products mentioned in this article, we do not mean to endorse them.

To view an abbreviated, slideshow version of this article, see "Spies Like Us: Spy Gear for Your Inner Secret Agent."


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top Secret America

Starting yesterday and running throughout the week, the Washington Post is running a series of articles entitled Top Secret America. The purpose of the article is to ostensively discuss the growth of the US intelligence community and the reliance on private contractors in the post-9/11 world.

How Congress Fueled the Rise of Private Spies Read More

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Highly Dangerous Zero-day Windows Trojan Targets Espionage
There is a new vicious rootkit-level malware infection targeting critical infrastructure and aimed at corporate or government espionage. It often enters the enterprise through USB sticks. Finnish security company F-Secure advised that the current malware is very dangerous and poses, "a risk of virus epidemic at the current moment." F-Secure further warns that this is an espionage attack using LNK (*.LNK) shortcut files. All Windows operating systems are vulnerable, even Windows 7, though F-Secure says it has added detection modules for these rootkits to its own anti-malware products. Problem is, once it added the detection module, it started discovering infections all over the world, and the hole that the virus exploits remains unfixed. Because this is a rootkit infection, the virus bypasses security mechanisms. From regular Joes to enterprises, this spy rootkit is in the wild and spreading infection.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Alleged Israeli Mossad agent to be extradited to Germany

Uri Brodsky is suspected of helping to forge a German passport used in connection with the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai.

Mr Brodsky, an Israeli citizen, was detained in Poland in June on an arrest warrant issued by Germany.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas's military wing, was found dead in a Dubai hotel on 20 January.

Dubai police have said they are 99% sure that members of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were involved, although Israel says there is no proof.

"The court has decided to hand over Uri Brodsky to German authorities for judicial procedures there," Judge Tomasz Talkiewicz said, following the closed hearing at Warsaw regional court.

"The court did not decide whether Brodsky committed the crime for which he is under investigation, the court only checked whether the extradition request fulfils the formal requirements and whether the suspect is correctly identified," he added.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Erin Andrews files lawsuit against stalker, hotels

Sports reporter Erin Andrews has filed a lawsuit alleging the hotels where a peephole stalker secretly videotaped her were negligent, according to a statement from the law firm representing her.

The lawsuit also accuses Michael David Barrett, who has pleaded guilty to stalking the ESPN reporter, of invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit, filed Thursday, alleges that Barrett received information from hotels when he called them to see if Andrews had made reservations to stay there.

"Not only did the hotels confirm that Ms. Andrews was intending to register as a guest, but they also released, without Ms. Andrews' consent, her room number. The hotels then provided Michael David Barrett a hotel room immediately adjacent to hers," the statement from law firm Greene, Broilett & Wheeler said.

Hotels named as defendants in the civil suit include Marriott International Inc. and Radisson Hotels International Inc. Representatives from those companies did not immediately return requests for comment.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3 Famous Spy Cases That Shaped The United States

In one form or another, spying and espionage have been going on as long as there have been groups of people who have an interest in keeping an eye on each other. Historical cases of spying and espionage have shaped the way in which The United States handles domestic and international crime fighting and security. The following are three influential cases that marked very important eras in US history:

1. The Atom Spy Case- The Rosenburgs
Russian-Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were responsible for Soviet Russia's acquisition of the atom bomb. In a complex web of intrigue, the couple recruited David Greenglass, Ethel's brother, to obtain atom bomb schematics. A communist since the age of 14 and a member of the military, Greenglass was able to obtain the schematics. These were then passed on to the Russian intelligence agency in Moscow.

2. The Pearl Harbor Spy
German national Otto Kuehn was responsible for coordinating the attack of the Japanese fleet on Pearl Harbor. With a complex serious of signals—bed sheets being hung to dry at certain hours, lights lit in certain windows of his house, etc.— Kuehn was able to reveal the movements of specific Navy vessels and to prevent troop deployments. Five days before the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Kuehn sent a letter to the Japanese commander containing details concerning the US fleet.

In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Kuehn was found guilty of being a spy. Initially, he was sentenced to die by firing squad. Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison and then deported.

3. 1985 The Year of the Spy
In 1985, a notable number of high-profile individuals were arrested for spying. While the Cold-War was winding down, spying activities continued with great intensity. The following spies were apprehended during this year of high intensity espionage.

John Anthony Walker Jr. - US Navy Warrant Officer and Communications Specialist

Jonathan Jay Pollard - Civilian intelligence analyst at the Navy's Anti-Terrorist Alert Center in Maryland

Sharon Marie Scranage - CIA clerk stationed in Ghana

Larry Wu-tai Chin - Chinese language translator/intelligence officer for CIA, 1952 to 1981

Ronald William Pelton - Communications specialist, National Security Agency

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at, researching areas of online college degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

The 12th Russian Spy Worked at Microsoft
He may not have the femme fatale appeal of Anna Chapman, but recently deported Russian spy Alexey Karetnikov had something eve more intriguing: gainful employment at Microsoft. Which might explain a lot about Vista, amIright?

The twentysomething Karetnikov actually worked at Microsoft for a nine month period as a software tester, meaning he wasn't actually writing any code. He also, according to his Facebook page, worked for a Romanian software company called Neobit. And yes, Microsoft has confirmed that it's the same guy.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ontario Airport Janitor Arrested For 'Peeping'
A man was arrested Sunday night at Ontario International Airport after a woman discovered a cell phone filled with dozens of images and video of women with their pants down and their skirts up, authorities said Monday.

Airport police told KCAL9 that they arrested employee Steve Aragon for placing what they call a recording device in the women's bathroom of Terminal 2.

Our sources say that Aragon works as a janitor on the overnight shift and left a cell phone in the bathroom to get video of unsuspecting women.

A traveler noticed the cell phone around 7 a.m., and after viewing the explicit images, turned it over to airport authorities who arrested the janitor two hours later.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters
Invisible ink, instructions concealed in images posted on the Internet, a laptop in a Barnes & Noble flashing messages to a passing van: the high-tech spycraft used by the 10 now-confessed Russian intelligence agents arrested last month intrigue us because it rings of good old spy fiction -- and the exchange of the spies for four Russians convicted of spying for the West only adds to that feeling -- but it's less astounding than the farce.

A former KGB officer who handled the KGB's biggest-ever spies -- Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen -- in Washington during the 1980s calls it so absurd as to be unbelievable. "It's as if a kindergarten class decided to go into espionage," says Viktor Cherkashin, "not the intelligence service I knew."

But dismissing the latest spy scandal as indication the Russians are ineffectually still fighting the Cold War is to miss the big picture. In fact, Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Woman sues ex-husband for bugging her phone during 'spiteful' campaign against her
A woman is suing her former husband for bugging her carphone in a "spiteful" campaign designed to influence their divorce proceedings.

Harvinder Singh Gora secretly recorded the private conversations of his former wife Baksho Devi Gora by placing a bug in her car, a court heard.

Mrs Gora is seeking "substantial damages" in the unique High Court case which could have far reaching implications for privacy laws. Mrs Gora, from Walsall in the West Midlands, claimed Mr Gora violated her privacy and ruined her career after relaying extracts of recorded conversations to members of his family and their circle of friends.

Her barrister, Aidan Eardley, told the court that Mr Gora "appears to have been acting out of spite or to to assert illegitimate pressure on her in the course of their separation and divorce".

He said: "She contends that Mr Gora surreptitiously recorded a number of private and confidential telephone conversations between her and third parties - conducted by telephone from her car - and then played extracts of these recordings to members of his family, as well as threatening to play them to others."

The tapes were allegedly made during the "dying months" of the couple's acrimonious marriage.


Google's Street View 'snoops' on Congress members
Google's popular Street View project may have collected personal information of members of Congress, including some involved in national security issues.

The claim was made by leading advocacy group, Consumer Watchdog which wants Congress to hold hearings into what data Google's Street View possesses.

Google admitted it mistakenly collected information, transmitted over unsecured wireless networks, as its cars filmed locations for mapping purposes.

Google said the problem began in 2006.

The issue came to light when German authorities asked to audit the data.

The search giant said the snippets could include parts of an email, text, photograph, or even the website someone might be viewing.

"We think the Google Wi-Spy effort is one of the biggest wire tapping scandals in US history," John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog told BBC News.


Past Russian spies have found post-swap life gets a bit sticky

Russia's accused spies could be posing soon for stamp designers in Moscow instead of prison intake photographers here, if a swap deal comes through and the Kremlin follows its tradition of honoring its secret agents.

Ever since the depths of the Cold War, the Kremlin has used postage stamps to showcase operatives who managed to steal some of the West's most guarded secrets, from atomic bomb designs to diplomatic cables to sensitive technical information, before they were arrested.

Their stories are as well known in Russia as the legend of Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale is here.

And while life in Moscow may be duller than New York, Boston, New Jersey, Seattle and Washington, D.C., where the 11 Russians charged last week allegedly lived as long-term, deep-penetration agents, it won't be too bad, either, if their predecessors' experience is any guide.

Their main worry will be keeping their minds.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

iPhones and BlackBerrys contributing to corporate espionage

The world of computer forensics used to be largely confined to the computer hard drive, but as more and more business professionals carry sensitive data around with ease on smart phones, BlackBerrys and iPhones, the challenge is to sort through the massive amounts of data being created and stored, as well as getting to grips with the different storage formats of all of these mobile devices.

“Investigators are now required to review and analyze a massive volume of data,” said Chris Taylor, forensic investigator with Dublin-based IT security company, Espion.

The average data seizure is now in the region of a staggering 180GB, so if a forensic computer scientist wanted a cromulent analysis of a PC’s hard drive it would take an entire week for that device alone, and the proliferation of the mobile device throws another spanner into the works.

“The impact of new technical devices is also extremely relevant, as there is a growing need for investigators to consider forensic artifacts on mobile devices.”


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spyware on Your Cell Phone?
How suspicious spouses, protective parents, and concerned companies are turning to cheap and hard-to-detect commerical spyware apps to monitor your mobile communications.

Sometime in early 2007, Richard Mislan, an assistant professor of cyberforensics at Purdue University, started getting phone calls and e-mails from people around the world—all looking for help with the same problem. “They thought someone was listening in on their cell-phone calls,” he says. “They wanted to know what they could do to confirm it was happening.”

Mislan, who has examined thousands of phones at the Purdue Cyber Forensics Lab, politely disregarded some callers as a little paranoid. Others, he thought, had reason to be concerned. A decade ago the idea that anyone with little technical skill could turn a cell phone into a snooping device was basically unrealistic. But as the smart-phone market proliferates—it grew 86 percent in the United States alone last year—so do all the ethical kinks that come with it.


Hack into a smart phone? It's easy, security experts find

Just one number can unlock your personal information, your private conversations and even your whereabouts to smart-phone hackers.

Security researchers Nick DePetrillo and Don Bailey have discovered a seven-digit numerical code that can unlock all kinds of secrets about you.

It's your phone number.

Using relatively simple techniques, this duo can use your cellphone number to figure out your name, where you live and work, where you travel and when you sleep. They could even listen to your voice messages and personal phone calls — if they wanted to. "It's really interesting to watch a phone number turn into a person's life," DePetrillo said.

"Everyone's taught to keep their Social Security number a secret," Bailey said. "But the phone number seems just as dangerous, if not more so."


Saturday, July 3, 2010

It's not just the Russians who are spying on the U.S.

The arrest of 11 people on charges of espionage for the Russian government was a case of old-fashioned spy craft straight from the annals of the Cold War: dead drops, moles and communicating in code, known as steganography. Yet Russia is not alone in trying to crack U.S. secrets. China is engaged in a massive espionage effort against the United States that exceeds Russian efforts on a crucial front: Cyber espionage.

The Chinese military — namely the People's Liberation Army — is behind many of the cyber intrusions into U.S. government and corporate computer networks as part of a broad effort to steal technological, military and political secrets. This form of espionage costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars per year and represents a dangerous threat to U.S. national security. In early 2010, news reports from Washington indicated that Google, along with other U.S.-based corporations, was being hacked by unnamed parties in China. A progressive political organization, Patriot Majority, asked me and a team of journalists and researchers to investigate the likeliest source of the attacks. After combing through government documents, military land technical literature we concluded the Chinese military was likely behind many cyber intrusions against the United States.