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FBI in every cellphone <crap>

 
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 126877
United States
01/01/2007 01:09 PM
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FBI in every cellphone <crap>
[link to www.slashgear.com]

After the news that China has decided to force manufacturers to standardise phone charging ports to the mini-USB format, it turns out that there’s an even easier way to get the industry-wide feature you want implemented: just be the FBI. What cellphone manufacturers are reluctant to include in-among all the blurb about Bluetooth and high-speed data connectivity is that apparently every recent phone sold in the US has a built-in tracking device that, once activated remotely, can be set to keep the microphone powered on even when the phone itself is switched off.

The FBI used the technology in collecting evidence for the recent Genovese crime family trial, and it should be made clear that they can only do so with the relevant court order. Saying that, just how difficult is it to get a court order in our age of super-terror? The only way to circumnavigate the tracker is removing the battery, which then makes the phone rather useless. In fact, you’d be better off carrying a small child’s shoe, which could at least be used for storing your keys.

I’d be very interested to find out whereabouts in the phone circuitry the tracking device is located, from a purely geeky point of view. Anybody fancy hacking open their KRZR and going looking?
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 160850
United States
01/01/2007 01:29 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
I said this before...the easiest way to defeat this eavesdropping is to connect a shorting plug up to the external mic connector and you have essentially eliminated any audio from reaching the mic audio circuits...

mic high, to ground and there you go...no more audio
a/c
User ID: 176080
United States
01/01/2007 01:31 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
surely they have enough to do than listen to all the crap that people talk about on telephones........
Mark In NYC

User ID: 93511
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01/01/2007 03:46 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
Until about five years ago all the info they could potentially gather this way would have been almost useless because of the necessity to have a human being listen to the audio captured and then make a decision about whether or not it was relevant or even of interest to the agency capturing the information.

Of course science came to the rescue - we now have computers that can be programmed to pick out specific words, phrase, etc., and then reach for either human help or more electronic processing to assure themselves that other key elements are present in the conversation sufficient to merrit human time and follow-up.

The computer scanning of these vast audio files can be done on a powerful desktop or, in the case of Eschelon, it is done on a mainframe dedicated to that purpose. The end result is that finding the proverbial 'needle in the haystack" just got a whole lot easier and vastly more probable, too. With data storage capabilities in the million terabyte range becomming reality, it will soon be possible to scan the conversations of nearly every person on earth on a daily basis, and store those bits of audio indefinately. This is the kind of shit our tax dollars are being used for in the name of "security" and "safety of our country". Don't think for one minute that big brother isn't watching. He is. The one thing most of us had in our favor - until recently - was that the info collected could not be processed or reviewed because of the vast amounts of it. That has now changed.

Someone somewhere on the internet will have to offer a cut-off modification for cellphones and a way to make sure that the software cannot be activated to turn on the Listen IN feature. If you see such an enterprising person or group - please let me know! I'll be their first customer!

I still believe that privacy is a fundamental right, regardless of the fact that the current Bush bunch disagrees with my belief.
Life really is a banquet - and truly - most poor sucker are starving! Enjoy the ride baby.
Not a Sheople

User ID: 79075
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01/01/2007 04:40 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
I have only heard this as theory from "outside" the industry. Never from anyone within as that is the business I am in. Link?
"You direct the will upon the mind, and use it in determining what you shall believe,
what you shall think, and to what you shall give your attention."
Not a Sheople

User ID: 79075
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01/01/2007 08:25 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
Didn't think so...
"You direct the will upon the mind, and use it in determining what you shall believe,
what you shall think, and to what you shall give your attention."
Asa
User ID: 172424
United States
01/01/2007 08:34 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

Nextel cell phones owned by two alleged mobsters, John Ardito and his attorney Peter Peluso, were used by the FBI to listen in on nearby conversations. The FBI views Ardito as one of the most powerful men in the Genovese family, a major part of the national Mafia.

The surveillance technique came to light in an opinion published this week by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He ruled that the "roving bug" was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a suspect's cell phone.

Kaplan's opinion said that the eavesdropping technique "functioned whether the phone was powered on or off." Some handsets can't be fully powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set.

While the Genovese crime family prosecution appears to be the first time a remote-eavesdropping mechanism has been used in a criminal case, the technique has been discussed in security circles for years.

The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."

Because modern handsets are miniature computers, downloaded software could modify the usual interface that always displays when a call is in progress. The flowers could then place a call to the FBI and activate the microphone--all without the owner knowing it happened. (The FBI declined to comment on Friday.)

"If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to either have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which is not practical, or to peel the battery off the phone," Atkinson said. Security-conscious corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell phones, he added.

FBI's physical bugs discovered
The FBI's Joint Organized Crime Task Force, which includes members of the New York police department, had little luck with conventional surveillance of the Genovese family. They did have a confidential source who reported the suspects met at restaurants including Brunello Trattoria in New Rochelle, N.Y., which the FBI then bugged.

But in July 2003, Ardito and his crew discovered bugs in three restaurants, and the FBI quietly removed the rest. Conversations recounted in FBI affidavits show the men were also highly suspicious of being tailed by police and avoided conversations on cell phones whenever possible.

That led the FBI to resort to "roving bugs," first of Ardito's Nextel handset and then of Peluso's. U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones approved them in a series of orders in 2003 and 2004, and said she expected to "be advised of the locations" of the suspects when their conversations were recorded.

Details of how the Nextel bugs worked are sketchy. Court documents, including an affidavit (p1) and (p2) prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kolodner in September 2003, refer to them as a "listening device placed in the cellular telephone." That phrase could refer to software or hardware.

One private investigator interviewed by CNET News.com, Skipp Porteous of Sherlock Investigations in New York, said he believed the FBI planted a physical bug somewhere in the Nextel handset and did not remotely activate the microphone.

"They had to have physical possession of the phone to do it," Porteous said. "There are several ways that they could have gotten physical possession. Then they monitored the bug from fairly near by."

But other experts thought microphone activation is the more likely scenario, mostly because the battery in a tiny bug would not have lasted a year and because court documents say the bug works anywhere "within the United States"--in other words, outside the range of a nearby FBI agent armed with a radio receiver.

In addition, a paranoid Mafioso likely would be suspicious of any ploy to get him to hand over a cell phone so a bug could be planted. And Kolodner's affidavit seeking a court order lists Ardito's phone number, his 15-digit International Mobile Subscriber Identifier, and lists Nextel Communications as the service provider, all of which would be unnecessary if a physical bug were being planted.

A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activiation method. "A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug," the article said, "enabling them to be activated at a later date to pick up sounds even when the receiver is down."

For its part, Nextel said through spokesman Travis Sowders: "We're not aware of this investigation, and we weren't asked to participate."

Other mobile providers were reluctant to talk about this kind of surveillance. Verizon Wireless said only that it "works closely with law enforcement and public safety officials. When presented with legally authorized orders, we assist law enforcement in every way possible."

A Motorola representative said that "your best source in this case would be the FBI itself." Cingular, T-Mobile, and the CTIA trade association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mobsters: The surveillance vanguard
This isn't the first time the federal government has pushed at the limits of electronic surveillance when investigating reputed mobsters.

In one case involving Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the alleged mastermind of a loan shark operation in New Jersey, the FBI found itself thwarted when Scarfo used Pretty Good Privacy software (PGP) to encode confidential business data.

So with a judge's approval, FBI agents repeatedly snuck into Scarfo's business to plant a keystroke logger and monitor its output.

Like Ardito's lawyers, Scarfo's defense attorneys argued that the then-novel technique was not legal and that the information gleaned through it could not be used. Also like Ardito, Scarfo's lawyers lost when a judge ruled in January 2002 that the evidence was admissible.

This week, Judge Kaplan in the southern district of New York concluded that the "roving bugs" were legally permitted to capture hundreds of hours of conversations because the FBI had obtained a court order and alternatives probably wouldn't work.

The FBI's "applications made a sufficient case for electronic surveillance," Kaplan wrote. "They indicated that alternative methods of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance."

Bill Stollhans, president of the Private Investigators Association of Virginia, said such a technique would be legally reserved for police armed with court orders, not private investigators.

There is "no law that would allow me as a private investigator to use that type of technique," he said. "That is exclusively for law enforcement. It is not allowable or not legal in the private sector. No client of mine can ask me to overhear telephone or strictly oral conversations."

Surreptitious activation of built-in microphones by the FBI has been done before. A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems like General Motors' OnStar to snoop on passengers' conversations.

When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored.

Malicious hackers have followed suit. A report last year said Spanish authorities had detained a man who write a Trojan horse that secretly activated a computer's video camera and forwarded him the recordings.


[link to news.zdnet.com]
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 150035
United States
01/01/2007 08:35 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
Watch out, women, knowing how men think
Asa
User ID: 172424
United States
01/01/2007 08:35 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
Check out this google search: [link to www.google.com]
Not a Sheople

User ID: 79075
United States
01/01/2007 09:35 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
Wow! There really is no limit to what "they" can do. Just think what one could do with an election with access to information like that.
"You direct the will upon the mind, and use it in determining what you shall believe,
what you shall think, and to what you shall give your attention."
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 171409
United States
01/01/2007 09:57 PM
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Re: FBI in every cellphone <crap>
I like to fart in my phone!

Gives the poor bastards something to chuckle about.

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