Friday, 19 February 2010

The eyes have you.


Big Maaa is watching you.

(Picture re-educated from here.)

Cameras in your home, watching your every move, controlled remotely by some secretive and fervent drooling pervert with a nine-pack-a-day man-size tissue habit.

It can't happen. Nobody is going to let any authority do it. If they tried it we'd just tape over the cameras and pretend there was a technical problem. There is no way anyone will voluntarily allow a camera in their homes unless they are certain they control it themselves.

Sure?

Bought a new laptop recently? Look at the top of the screen. Most of them have a built-in webcam but that's no problem. It's your webcam. You control it.

That's what these American kids thought when they received shiny Mac computers to help with their schoolwork. It never occurred to them that the donors of those laptops might have installed software to allow the cameras to be accessed remotely. Who would imagine such a thing? They are educational tools, nothing more.

Well, turns out they were a little more after all.

The district retained remote control of the built-in webcams installed on the computers – and used them to capture images of the students, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court this week.

The ruse was revealed when Blake Robbins, a student at Harriton high school, was hauled into the assistant principal Lindy Matsko's office, shown a photograph taken on the laptop in his home and disciplined for "improper behaviour".

Improper behaviour - in his own home! The kid was disciplined for something he did in private, at home, when he thought nobody was watching. What he did must be left to the imagination of the reader, but whatever it was it wasn't illegal. If it was illegal the police would have been involved. No, he did something in his own home which Big Brother deemed inappropriate. Big Brother was watching. Through a webcam this kid thought he had control over.

My computer has no camera attached. I have a laptop with a lid camera but it's no use to me so there's a bit of tape over it. Paranoid? Read the article again. I'm no computer wiz. I can't tell if that camera is on or not. There's no indicator light. I can't tell if there is software pre-installed that runs it. I can't tell if that software is running or not.

Keep in mind that this kid was shown a photo of this 'improper behaviour' when the school hauled him into Room 101. Then read the last paragraph:

"The district never activated the security feature for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever," he wrote. "We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families."

They claim the webcam control is to catch someone who has stolen the laptop. They claim they have never used it for any other purpose. Yet they showed this kid a photo of whatever he was up to. The doublethink here is impressive. We say it didn't happen so it didn't happen, and it can't have happened because we say so, but the punishment stands because he was caught and we have the proof in the form of surveillance we are not doing.

There are already cameras in most homes. Eye toys, TVs which can be controlled by waving at the installed cameras, and so on.

Who's watching at the other end?

We'll find out when they ban smoking, then drinking, then fatty foods in the home.

76 comments:

moorlandhunter said...

Masking tape going on my lap top camera NOW!

Neil Platypus said...

If they tune into Chatroulette they'll be surprised.

418 said...

Here is a copy of the claim:

http://craphound.com/robbins17.pdf

Anonymous said...

Over at BigBrotherWatch:

"This is George Orwell's Telescreen, though somewhat worse in that they victims of the alleged surveillance didn't know they could be watched.

Posted by: Gareth | 02/19/2010 at 02:40 PM"

http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/home/2010/02/did-a-us-school-use-webcams-in-laptops-to-spy-on-students-at-school-and-at-home.html

Sir Henry Morgan said...

All well and good having the tape over the lens ... but we've all got microphones on our machines.

Had any "private" conversations recently?

George said...

Fuck-ing-hell. The double-speak stuff is beyond comprehension. Scary shit.

Surely the courts will sort it out - even if he did commit a criminal offence they couldn't use the evidence, could they?

I am the good big brother, one who never says a word, and lets everyone get on with whatever they fucking want - as long as it don't affect anyone else.

The freeman thing you are trying is a really thought-provoking idea, or reality?

With no life insurance or private medical healthcare for a lifetime illness - how the fuck can I possibly consider it without dishing out every last bit of information they ask for?

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Hey everyone - that comment above of mine ... I didn't comment in jest.

Have YOU got a microphone built in to your machine?

Think about this seriously.

418 said...

"since the laptops were used by students and their friends and family at home, images of "compromising or embarrassing positions, including ... in various states of undress" have been captured."

Pedophiles.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

418

Don't be diverted from the main issue which is: what are the implications for the rest of us with cams or microphones.

We already know there's a bunch of paedos involved - that's a given in the circumstances.

418 said...

Okay Sir Henry, have it your way.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Only because for once in my life I'm right. What are the implications for the rest of us? Given what we already know of our own state?

If our own state was otherwise, it might be different.

Anonymous said...

I read about this earlier today & almost shat myself as on one of the sites it talks about skybots which would circumvent firewalls without setting off any alarms. I recently installed two webcams - on my tower & my laptop - to use Skype to keep in touch with friends abroad. Being somewhat lazy & assuming firewalls were just that, I've left the cameras connected ever since & was getting a warning message about my web camera being connected everytime I turned on the tower - which I merrily clicked through. No more - both cameras now disconnected & will only be re-connected when I specifically want to use them. However, I am interested in Sir Henry's comments about microphones - any suggestions?

apocalypse nowish said...

"Big Maaa is watching you." :) I'm stealing that one... made my evening.

Anonymous said...

I hope the "district" gets hammered in court. I hope a class action is being brought, one which is financially supported by civil liberty organisations. I hope they get done for the making and possesion of illegal images.The bastards.

Leg-iron said...

Sir Henry - 'those' conversations happen where there are no computers or webcams, because when they are happening, there's a lot of smoke and whisky around.

This battered old machine has neither camera nor microphone, just the sockets to plug them into should I want them. My laptop is newer so has both. I have never seen the need for a crappy little microphone built in to the machine because I can buy a far better mic in Tesco for under a fiver.

Would superglue in its holes be enough, I wonder?

DaveP said...

Isn't Gordon giving away free laptops to disadvantaged children to help them with their school work?

sike said...

If you are that worried you can switch microphone input off in windows control panel - audio properties . not difficult

microdave said...

2 things to ponder:

Most of you will have Adobe Flash Player installed (to watch YouTube videos etc). If so I suggest you right click on any playing clip, and choose "Settings". Then click on the little icons at the bottom of the box. Ignore the first one which is only related to playback. But the others control microphone and camera settings. If you click the "Advanced" tag it will open a page explaining all:
http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager.html

Then if you have a Mac go to "Angry Exiles" place and check this post:
http://angryexile.blogspot.com/2010/02/im-pc-and-im-complete-bastard.html

Make sure you follow the link entitled "5 Reasons You Should Be Scared of Apple"

I'm glad my 3 year old laptop has neither camera or microphone.....

Anonymous said...

How difficult to turn on again remotely, anyone?

View from the Solent said...

Gaffer tape over the web cam, blue-tac (other products are available) over the microphone. Don't rely on switching them off in control panel.

microdave said...

I should have said "Even if you don't have a Mac", because that second bit also concerns Windows users.

hangemall said...

I just posted the following in your place, L-I in response to a comment by Fausty.


I put Ubuntu onto my my computer. Just to see what it was like. I visited OH's place a few times with it and even made at least one comment.

One day, I opened up the comments window to have a look at them. I accidentaly pressed the UP instead of the DOWN arrow. Near the top of the screen apeared the word "hangemall" in the colours of the "top bar" as I think of it.

How did it know who I was if I hadn't even posted anything on that occasion?

I removed Ubuntu pretty shortly after that. Better the devil you know......

caesars wife said...

Lurverly in eutopia isnt it !

Anonymous said...

With the right circuitry, speakers can also act as microphones.

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

laptops/desktops with integrated cameras, microphones and wifi/bluetooth (radio) networks are a nightmare.

all apparent "control panel" buttons and indicators that supposedly turn these things off or indicate their status can faked. they're pretty much the second thing you'd look at (after doing a hack at all) if you were even remotely serious (pun intended).

it is a fact that indicator lights on camers and other devices are often under software control (it's easier, cheaper and more flexible) and thus might provide no guarantee that a particular device is off.

hard drives are so big that days, weeks, even months of audio and/or time-lapse video could be secreted away and collected next time you plug in an internet connection. again, it is quite possible to fake the amount of disk space that is reported so a user won't notice that data is accumulating on their machine.

wifi/bluetooth links suffer from all the same problems (no way to tell if they're actually off) and any new holes that are found in common operating systems can be used to target particular individuals or locations. bluetooth can be used to track individuals and even populations.

computer monitors, and even LCD panels and some laptops, emit an RF signal which, in combination with a directional antenna, can be decoded to view the live picture on your computer screen using the same kind of technology as TV license detector vans (also known as a tempest attack).

a solution which might work against less sophisticated neerdowells is to disable the corresponding low level driver (ControlPanel/System/DeviceManager under windows) of audio/video/radio devices that are not in use. but, again, the apparent status could be faked so you'll never really know.

your best bet, if you're really bothered, is to use a desktop pc with external microphones/cameras that can be easily disconnected when not in use.

always use a 'secure' password for any wifi devices (like your broadband router/modem) - there are plenty of online guides on how to do this.

for computers with a built-in microphone/camera (laptops or macs), you're screwed unless you're prepared to open them up and fit a mechanical switch across the appropriate circuit (very difficult in most cases) or just break/damage the appropriate components with snipe nose pliers (only for the truly determined warranty voider).

even then, anything you type, store or view on your PC can be recorded and then downloaded next time you plug in an internet connection. there's actually nothing at all you can about this last point.

418 said...

@ caesars wife [sic]

In case you hadn't noticed, you apostrophe-challenged person, this story comes from Penn which is not in the EU.

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

almost forgot: even without an audio or video source, the current user of a PC (or who-typed-what in a keylogger record) can be determined from the unique (enough) cadence of their typing.

Anonymous said...

So "1984", that really WAS a primer and NOT a warning - after all.

This changes my opinion on George Orwell then.

Anonymous said...

Some laptops also have finger print readers now as well. Just a thought.

Billy The Fish said...

OH, Leg-Iron...I love you boys, I really do. You have opened my eyes and made me think in so many ways over these last few months, but you're deep into 'tinfoil hat' territory here.

Fact is, if you're even halfway pc-savvy, there's no way your microphone or webcam could be pinged without you being aware of it happening, either by means of a pop-up notification or an audible indicator. These are the basic default settings when installing Windows XP / Vista / 7. Unless you specifically disable these checks at the time of installation, that is. Or take ownership of a machine owned by someone else that has been pre-built and pre-installed with God-know-what. Even so, a quick nose through the registry will show you what's loaded and what's going on. Even if you're not that knowledgeable, a free program such as the excellent WinPatrol will put your mind at rest here, but the bottom line is this: if it's your pc and you know what's in it, there's no way it can be remotely accessed unless you have allowed it to be.

Macs are a different matter, and I freely admit I don't know much about them, other than they appear to be three hundred quid's worth of laptop components in a fifteen hundred quid box. They're blatantly aimed at the style-over-content brigade ("Ooh...shiny!"), but frankly, if you can't use it to play 'Crysis' in HD at better than 40 frames a second, then it doesn't interest me.

Look at the article again. These are students (and American ones at that) who have, I surmise, been caught cranking one out to porn they've been surfing on a laptop lent to them by their own school. We're not dealing with rocket scientists here, are we?

sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

It does make me wonder...

Since March of last year, I've had daily updates from Microsoft on my machine. Why from March of last year, I ask myself? What data are they collecting, whilst giving me my update? I've been told it's a security feature and for my own good. Why the need for everyday? Can't they update just once a month?

Of course when I complain, I just get the 'well, you're a dimwit and you couldn't possibly understand' routine.

Rogerborg said...

It's true, every single camera on every computer - and every mobile phone, don't forget them - is constantly on, and monitored 24/7 by the State.

They use huge vats full of clones to do it. So that they don't have to blink and miss anything, the Royal Family has donated some of their Reptiloid DNA.

It's all true, I heard it straight from David Icke. Through the fillings in my teeth.

Never fear though, there's still hope for us in Soviet UKistan. The free laptops for scroungers are just being pawned off. Hip, hip, huzzah.

Anonymous said...

If someone gave me a FREE laptop, first thing Id do is FORMAT the disk.

Anonymous said...

Much worse though are all the zionist run or owned "social networking" and search sites. Like facebook and google etc. Knowledge of someone is power over them, so when you google for ailments like mingemould or todger rot it's recorded too. Webmasters are even bribed into recording everyone's web movements via google analytics. Even your mobile phone billing is almost certainly done via Israeli owned companies.
Mentioning of such blatant truths attracts the "ant-semitic" libel though, so don't tell anyone or you're a neo-nazi skin'ed.
I'm less worried about inept big brother than Shlomo, his zionist extremist chum. The only thing he hasn't quite got yet is your DNA.
Ever heard of DNA targeting viruses?

Mr T said...

Having worked in IT for the last 30 years I have to agree with Billy the Fish: this post is tin foil hattery of the first order.

Sad to see this blog becoming so David Icke.

Someone who lives in the real world said: said...

@Mr T
So true mate. All OH posts now seem to have a bunch of nutters following along with their foil hats stapled to their heads. Just what are these paranoid halfwits doing in front of their lappy's that they are so frightened of the state finding out? Sure, we all crank one off to porn, sure we all say we hate the government and the lackies that support them. Dont hide the fact, tell everyone and if someone is recoding it all the better.
You lot really need to get out more, its not healthy crouched over the PC all day. Go and meet some real people and interact, you might even get your leg-over!
and as for the freeman shite, I take it you wont be wanting to use any part of the health system or when your house is burning down, you wont be calling 999 and so on....oh and dont forget all the other things you take for granted like water, electricity, flushing your toilet. You dont think your rates and bills actually pay for all that do you. It doesnt, all the utility companies rely on goverment investment paid for by the rest of us.

Old Holborn said...

Mankind is 2 million years old.

Doesn't it worry you that we made it all the way until 100 years ago WITHOUT the state insisting we did it their way? Now suddenly we can't live without it?

I have a mutually negotiated contract with my electricity supplier, my water supplier and my health provider, my broadband supplier, my mortgage company, my insurance company.

The state should only protect the borders and police the streets. Everything else is available elsewhere at half the cost

Real world inhabitor said...

Have a word with yourself.
The first control that springs to mind was that of the Romans, I am sure some historians will come along with an earlier example. As long as there have been social gatherings there has been a need for order. You could always fuck off and become a recluse. Lay off the weed and change your freinds.

Gen.Wolfe said...

Getting worse ~ this Blog that is...
If you are that paranoid, you should,nt even been using a telephone, let alone laptop/pc.

Tin foil hat brigade - exactly.

OT: Im still waiting to see OH's disappearing act ~ well of course no one will no if he's gone or not. Thats the whole fuckin' point of this freeman crap.

Anonymous said...

David Icke walks amongst us yet again!

Anonymous said...

Bunch of pointless public sector employees commenting here again, by the looks of it.

BBAAAAHHHHHHHH said...

Not at all mate, I am a big bad corporate employee....think Oil.
We want to control your every thought while holidaying in the south of france in my yacht.
YOU WILL COMPLY!



You fcuking nutter.

Sectioned...you should be. said...

It's true, every single camera on every computer - and every mobile phone, don't forget them - is constantly on, and monitored 24/7 by the State.

Yeh of course they are... now get back into bed Mr Icke.

Anonymous said...

Attention:
This is the Mars Supreme Control, our Rocketships are now entering SEKTOR-7, establishing Earth Orbit in the 5th dimension.

Thats is ALL.

Reginald De Montard said...

Personally I use 'Bacofoil' from planet ALCAN.
It protects my brain from signals developed by the Marconi Corp for State 'transmissions'

I also have a lead covered Room in which to sleep without night-time signals disturbing my dreams.

Rogerborg said...

Hang on, OH, since when have you been in favour of the State policing the streets? I thought you were a Hue and Cry, drag 'em before the Sheriff for a good birching, sort of a chap. When did you become such a NWO fascist?

By the way, your list of what you pay for and what the State should provide is missing a few things: roads; pavements; public cleanliness and health; street lighting; parks; bridle paths; fire and rescue; ambulance service; chronic illness and palliative care; detection and prosecution of white collar and commercial fraud; courts; prisons. Just off the top of my head.

Dave said...

Noel's house party in the 90s and Ant & Dec in the noughties. Both shows made use of hidden cameras to watch on the unsuspecting in the name of entertainment.
We've been introduced to the idea of surveillance in our homes (or more truthfully- in other people's homes)in the guise of voyeuristic entertainment.
Only this ain't funny and these people aren't joking.

BillyBoy said...

There is no way for this Freeman existance to work. Its totally impractical, and one cannot simply disappear of the "radar" as OH has stated he's going to.

May have been alright in Robin Hoods time.

Does OH have a "contract" with the local Fire Station?

Anonymous said...

Dave@14.03
GROW UP!

And stop watch that TV shite!
Ant and fuckin Dec...

Mr Blobby said...

Look wot happened to Noel ~ mad as a fuckin hatter, and left blobbyworld totally derelict. Bastard!

Old Holborn said...

I think Billyboy means "I can't do it, so it can't be done"

the ONLY role of the State is to protect the borders, police the streets and uphold Common Law.

In response to "emergency services", it doesn't even provide a sea rescue service around this island. It is done by RNLI volunteers and donations. The same can apply to the fire service (as it does in most of europe).

Courts are corporations, designed to impose fines and earn revenue for the state. Look them up on dunn & bradstreet for further details.

418 said...

OH ur wrong. The state should confine itself to defence and foreign affairs. All the rest should be left to the citizens (who may prefer Sharia Law to Common Law).

BillyBoy said...

I think Billyboy means "I can't do it, so it can't be done"

To be honest, I would,nt even attempt to do it! I dont think its practical.
Great in Theory though.

Anonymous said...

Bleedin' Yanks - wot do ya expect!

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

there appears to be considerable confusion amongst slightly more tech-savy commenters - Billy The Fish, for example - about the actual guarantees offered by various firewall/security programs.

there is also a similar level of confusion over what guarantees you have that clicking buttons and seeing a pieces of text change from "on" to "off" actually gives you.

i refer these wide-eyed hopefuls to my previous comments. what i have said is a fact, you can count on it.

Intercepting WinAPI calls

Wiki: Zero Day attack

Wiki: Rootkits

those without cross-platform experience of system level programming would do well to limit their comments to subjects they are actually qualified to comment on.

computer security is not one of them.

commonly available computer security packages and software provide some measure of security against less sophisticated and/or less determined neerdowells, nothing more.

use them, by all means, but, unlike Mr Fish, appreciate their limitations.

Leg-iron said...

Tinfoil hattery.

Conspiracy theories.

Can't happen. Never happen. It's not possible to remotely access a webcam without the user noticing.

So, how did that kid end up in the Principal's office for disciplinary action for something he did at home?

What he did is irrelevant. The relevant part is how he was caught. By someone remotely accessing his webcam and recording what he was doing. Without his knowledge.

Paranoid tinfoil hattery, worrying about something that can never happen?

It just happened.

Laugh it off, ignore it, whatever you choose. Pretend the last 13 years never happened, none of those databases exist, nobody has had their DNA retained without charges being brought, nobody was ever fined for leaving their bin open, nobody could possibly be arrested for blowing their nose, none of it was real.

That list in OH's next post? Nah. Pretend it never happened.

Labour intend to.

Billy The Fish said...

Scope For Mischief...

Not quite sure where you're going with this, chief. Perhaps I didn't come across as well as I might have.

My point was that there is no way that your computer can 'spy' on you or be hijacked by a third party without leaving a visible trace that you could find in five seconds flat if you know how and where to look. Winpatrol is a real-time window into what's going on in your pc, not a generic firewall/security program a la Norton/Kaspersky/McAfee and the like, which can and do get bypassed and rendered useless by hackers and virus programmers a dozen times a day. This is why they end up checking and re-checking your system over and over again, downloading updates every few hours and generally slowing your machine to a crawl.

The point of my post was not to lull anyone into a false sense of online security by trumpeting the brilliance of all-in-one pc solutions, as they are - as you rightly imply - far from perfect. However, if the sum total of your online protection is the installation of Norton and a subsequent warm glow of smugness then, frankly, you deserve all you get.

No, my point was to debunk the myth purported by the 'X-Files' crowd that anyone, anywhere can spy on you through your computer without leaving a footprint the size of Bigfoot somewhere in your registry. It simply cannot happen.

Sure, if an agency is willing to, it can trace your online activity, read your email, know how many partially-clothed Asian ladies you've looked at, etc, but by far the easiest way to do this is with the willing compliance of your ISP. Why bother dropping malware at the front end and risk it being spotted when they can get all the information they want (should they actually want it) from the company managing your traffic?

But in all honesty, how much of this do you really think is going on? How many shady-looking men in black suits and dark glasses do you think are employed to keep an eye on the malcontents? Far easier to let it be known that Big Brother knows exactly what you're up to at all times and let the proletariat's own fear and paranoia do their job for them.

Peace. Billy out.

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

thanks for clarifying your position, Billy. i'll specifically address your latest comments to try to make mine clear:

"My point was that there is no way that your computer can 'spy' on you or be hijacked by a third party without leaving a visible trace that you could find in five seconds flat if you know how and where to look."

this is a demonstrably false statement with no basis in the reality of contemporary computer systems and their operating systems. it is wishful nonsense (and i mean no offence by this choice of words).

to be clear, i am not referring to officially sanctioned snooping where an ISP is party to the activity. i'm am talking specifically about an unrelated third party attacking your computer (at home, at work, wherever), taking control and then installing and running any snopping, monitoring, spamming software they please.

virus scanner, malware detectors, system monitors (like WinPatrol) and all the other security tools that are knocking around do provide an additional measure of security but only in a probabilistic sense. more is better, for sure, and the best tools in the hands of an expert user will provide the best security but it can be circumvented - both in principle and in practice.

"No, my point was to debunk the myth purported by the 'X-Files' crowd that anyone, anywhere can spy on you through your computer without leaving a footprint the size of Bigfoot somewhere in your registry. It simply cannot happen."

if you look into the details of rootkits, you'll see that an often employed strategy is to immediately hijack/subvert the filesystem, registry and task manager of the host operating system so that the user (and security tools) cannot 'see' files that have been added or modified as part of the attack and cannot see additional processes that might be running either during or after the attack.

here is a 2006 article that describes a specific example.

there is a black market in "zero day" exploits for criminal and other nefarious purposes. once a new way to exploit a target operating system is found and charaterised, an attack can be constructed which uses that exploit to inject an *invisible* back door into your system. that back door is a gateway through which any software can be installed and run on your machine.

attacks are getting more sophisticated all the time as a result of selective pressure. the view you see of your machine (filesystem, registry, tasks, device status etc), which is exactly the same view that scanner and monitor tools see, is already being faked and falsified by previous and current generations of rootkits.

i'm an not expressing an opinion here. i'm am relaying to you the known and verifiable facts.

sure, do your research, pick the best tools, learn how to use them, keep your eyes open, follow the security debate and do as much as you think is necessary for your own peace of mind but don't indulge in wishful thinking when the facts are easily and readily available to you for free.

Fausty said...

For the trusting souls who believe it couldn't happen to them, download Security Task Manager, to see just how many programs are loaded on your PC, and compare the list to that in Windows Task Manager.

Note the number of programs which have no visual interface.

Then try to close a program or two, which do have visual interfaces.

You should notice that while some of them do close, many of them leave a stub open. A stub can do anything the programmer of that application chooses it to do. It can be a listening device. It can hide itself. It can activate other programmes.

Can you begin do see the possibilities?

Can't happen? People are not that vile? Well, what about the virus developers? And who writes/commissions/uses viruses? Why, those who want something from you that you are not inclined to give them.

And there's no reason why that wouldn't include some government agency, at some point. Or the police.

The police are on our side, I hear you say? Not according to the millions of people who have been wrongly targeted by the police. The police are only human - they make mistakes. But in all walks of life, there are those who have their own agenda and will use the agencies for whom they work for their own twisted reasons.

To blindly trust is to ask for trouble.

If you've ever had a boot sector virus, you'll know what I'm talking about. And that's a walk in the park compared to what could happen.

Billy The Fish said...

Scope for Mischief...

You raise many an interesting - and, I've no doubt, factual - point, and I'm not that precious that I cannot appreciate an alternative point of view. I'm by no means a computer expert, but I like to think I know enough to keep myself safe whenever I'm surfing the interweb.

Am I 100% convinced I could stop any hijack of my computer? Hell no, but I like to think I could spot it based on what I know and shut the door quickly enough to prevent a 'fire-sale'. I also like to think I could track down and eliminate any 'known' malware and erase it from my system, as indeed I have done several times before. I keep coming back to the registry, you see. Anything that occurs in my computer, there will be a record of it in my registry. If I know how to read this data, I can take appropriate steps to make myself safer. And I do.

I suspect the point you are making is this - are there ways and methods that I don't know about that could be used to intercept my data? Undoubtedly; as I said, I'm no expert, but I have to balance this against my skepticism that anyone would actually want to, along with my own (perhaps misguided) belief that I could spot this happening - if not in time, then at least soon enough after the event to avoid a catastrophe.

Ultimately, if anyone wants something badly enough, they are going to find a way to get it. I'm just not convinced that anyone - be they individual, Government agency or sinister third party - would give enough of a rat's arse to invest in this sort of subterfuge when there are far easier methods available to them, such as having you arrested on a trumped-up charge and detaining you indefinitely. Weigh this against the hassle of creating a back-door trojan, targetting a specific PC, cloning and strip-mining any information and then encoding the trojan to self-terminate and remove all traces of its prescence. That's an awful lot of programming prowess required there. And these would be people hired as 'computer experts' by the current Labour government, would they? Chap, I work for our local authority and our IT department takes half a bloody day to reset a password!

Security systems are built to cater for 99.9% of occasions, but nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently determined fool. For most of us however, living our lives on eBay, Amazon, a blog or three and a quick search for filth when the fancy takes us - is it really worth the while of the 'powers-that-be' engaging in such surrepticious surveillenace? This evening, I've searched for a recipe for chili-con-carne made with lime and chocolate, the alternative endings for 'Bioshock 2' and the complete discography of Kate Bush. Would you pay someone to monitor this sort of shite?

Enjoying debating with you, fella. Be well!

Fish x

Leg-iron said...

Billy the Fish (I was a big fan of your goalkeeping prowess in the old days, by the way) -

This evening, I've searched for a recipe for chili-con-carne made with lime and chocolate, the alternative endings for 'Bioshock 2' and the complete discography of Kate Bush. Would you pay someone to monitor this sort of shite?

Of course I wouldn't. It's inconsequential stuff, other than the Kate Bush discography which should be taught in school as a core subject.

I wouldn't pay anyone to build a database of the DNA of non-criminals either. I wouldn't pay anyone to record the details of every child in the country. I wouldn't pay anyone to record every phone call and every chitter-chatter Email either.

But then, I'm not the one running this show.

Billy The Fish said...

I do wonder sometimes, Leg-iron...

Any employee of the State paid to profile me based on my internet activity would swiftly come to the conclusion that I like food, beer, pc gaming, Japanese ladies with an aversion to clothing and the odd cigar. It'd also be apparent that I'm not particularly fond of the Labour Party. Then again, if they came out and asked me for this information, I'd happily tell them. As I'm convinced it covers about 70% of the adult male online demographic, I'm buggered if I can see why they'd resort to such snooping. Perhaps they're trawling cyberspace for evidence, not of vociferous dissent, but of outright support. It's the only way I can see them finding anyone suitable to run their joke of a Party come May...

You're quite correct about Kate Bush. The sum total of my sex education (back in the days before it was indoctrinated into infants) was watching the Babooshka video until my head swam. Marvellous!

Billy.

PS - completely off-topic, but I had a go on a mates Electrofag the other day. Frankly, I'll stick with standing outside in the cold with an Old Port on the go...

Rog said...

Slightly OT, but can I recommend that Firefox users install an add-on called "Betterprivacy"?

Most people are unaware of Flash "super cookies" that are permanently stored on their computers, and are used to track their surfing habits, and exchange this information to god-knows-who.

Rog said...

Didn't the East Germans used to compile vast dossiers on large proportions of their population?

Imagine what they would have done with current technology.

Couldn't happen here! Paranoid nutters!

...is exactly the type of language people interested in snooping on you would encourage.

Anonymous said...

Best way to protect your privacy is:

Cut your ethernet/interent cables, bury your PC in the garden, and set two ex-East German alsatians (or their offspring) guarding it.

Anonymous said...

If you dont want The Man looking at what you are doing, dont accept his free laptops.

Simples.

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

Billy, i think we're a little closer if you accept that you can't be 100% secure.

one point i'd make is that you shouldn't equate the sophistication of an attack with the sophistication of the attacker. just one guy might sit for months in a darkened room cooking up the actual attack strategy; he then sells it on to spammers and bank-detail harvesters who could never write it themselves but who immediately put it to use against thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of unsuspecting users.

also, i don't see the value in mixing up State sanctioned surveillance with run of the mill (and far more likely) criminal interest in your financial affairs.

as things stand (and that's a rather important qualification to note, given the subject of the main post) the State almost certainly wouldn't bother trying to *secretly* plant any kind of code on your machine. they already (at the very least) have access to all your phone, internet, financial and travel information. i would, however, be quite surprised if, for instance, the UK intelligence services didn't have the ability to remotely plant a very high quality rootkit/backdoor into a target machine as part of a crucial investigation: it can be done; it could be of huge value; they'd be idiots to ignore the option; it's their *job* to do stuff like that; i'd bet my pants that they can do it and have done it.

"Anything that occurs in my computer, there will be a record of it in my registry. If I know how to read this data, I can take appropriate steps to make myself safer. And I do."

you're mistaken - that's what rootkits are about. they falsify the apparent status of your filesystem, registry, tasklist etc. to present a view of your (now infected) machine that shows nothing untoward.

i think the most important thing i'm trying to convey here is that smart, financially motivated coders can, and are, putting together attacks that can slip silently past the security of even the most diligent user. modern attacks have to remain invisible, so they do. it's an arms race so no attack stays effective forever but, conversely, nether does a particular security measure.

if you're not 100% secure, which, realistically, you can't be, then you're not secure at all and you shouldn't think you are. it goes without saying that the attack which really gets you is the one you don't see - the latest attacks are specifically designed to be invisible to modern security tools.

if it's any consolation, i run very light security on my internet pc (just a free email virus scanner and an aftermarket software firewall). i have an external microphone and camera that are only connected when in use (which is hardly ever). i don't use any wireless network equipment (wifi/bluetooth etc). my BT modem/router has wifi (which i don't use) so it's wrapped in tinfoil (honestly).

i do quite a bit of programming but i have a completely seperate machine for this that i never connect to the internet. i transfer stuff across via a pen drive, when i need to, which is rare because i have both monitors sat next to each other so i can read articles on one screen and program on the other.

"Enjoying debating with you, fella. Be well!

same here, hope this's been of some use.

microdave said...

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

"my BT modem/router has wifi (which i don't use) so it's wrapped in tinfoil"

You can't be serious?? For someone who clearly knows his stuff, the very least you should do is make sure its WPA encrypted, or just turn the wireless broadcast option off. If BT don't allow this, change to a different make of router.

Otherwise I have found your comments very informative.

microdave said...

OH, and I hope you are aware of the risk posed by "Autorun" if you're transferring files by pen drive....

I have a little freeware programme to disable that feature on all my P.C's

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

microdave said... You can't be serious??

completely serious. i disabled wifi in the config screens but, in line with my previous comments about what guarantee you actually get from software driven indicators, there is no reason to take them at face value if you don't have to.

you should know that wifi encryption has been broken in the past. WPA2 (the latest) "is considered secure, provided a strong passphrase is used", but so what?

today's story of a hacked wifi device inevitably concerns a device that was previously considered secure, does it not? do you suppose that there will never be another story about how wifi security was hacked?

i didn't want wifi in the first place but the free modem/router came with it. if BT homehub routers had a mechanical switch on the side that disabled wifi by breaking a circuit, i'd use it; but they don't.

as i said, i actually run very light security on my network PC because i'm not that bothered. i do, however, regard wifi/radio devices with special scepticism.

i appreciate that there's quite a bit of fluff being blown around the net about tinfoil but it's a quick and easy way to put a Faraday Cage around an unwanted wifi device. it provides something that no software indicator can: a think-no-more-about-it guarantee.

"Otherwise I have found your comments very informative."

if you're put off by my elegant suppression of an unwanted wifi device, you can check everything i've said elsewhere.

microdave said...

O.K. Fair comment - but with WiFi you can at least test if it's transmitting or not with any laptop, or even a key ring Hotspot "Sniffer" A Faraday gage is fine, but actually wrapping it with foil is asking for overheating problems, if nothing else. If you only use a single P.C. with it why not get a simple modem with no router/WiFi?

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

i did consider getting a non-wifi modem/router (the router part is handy for laptop internet) but the freebie works perfectly well and is a doddle for BT to diagnose if ever there are connectivity problems (which's only happened a couple of time, admittedly) and it was free.

to be clear, only the antenna part is covered, and only to the degree that was required in order to kill the wifi signal during a quick test.

the problem with doing a one-off test of whether wifi is enabled or not is that it only informs you of the status at the time you do the test and not forever afterwards.

interestingly, there's quite a bit of work going into wifi blocking paints and wall panels because it's such potential risk in commercial (or government) environments. even without malicious intent, a member of staff could leave a company laptop plugging into the internal lan with wifi enabled and cause the whole network to become vulnerable.

wifi poses some special problems because it's a way to make geographically targeted attacks without advance knowledge of someones email address or IP number (which is usually dynamic anyway). not that i'd be any more likely to be the subject of that than anyone else, but a successful wifi attack and subsequent bin rummaging could be extremely damaging to the target.

for those who find wifi so convenient that they're prepared to live with the risks, *properly* configured WPA2 is almost certainly good enough, for the time being.

anything less is asking for it and i'd advise everyone to disable unused wifi functionality using whatever options their devices provide, especially if they have an aluminium phobia =)

microdave said...

I have mine set to WPA2, with MAC code addressing, and the SSID broadcast turned off. I can't easily do much more than that.

You presumably know of the handy little programme "NetStumbler"?

And you didn't answer my question about the risks of "Autorun". Our local schools network was severely disrupted after a pupil plugged in a compromised pen drive.

Our host must be wishing he'd never made this post.....

Leg-iron said...

I have wireless on my router, and use it. Encrypted of course - I'm not letting the twat next door have free broadband! I change the encryption key once I a while, just in case some local parasite has found a way to freeload.

Mine isn't left on when I'm not using it. No matter what the software is capable of, it can't do any of it once the plug is out of the wall.

If I don't need the wireless, there's a little aerial I can unscrew. I know it doesn't totally stop the wireless but it seriously restricts the range.

I'm considering just using wired internet, because as a smoker my house will soon be worthless anyway so I might as well drill holes in it. The wire connections are more reliable, at least it seems so to me.

the scope for mischief is enormous said...

microdave said...

i didn't know about NetStumbler. big thanks for the recommendation!

sorry about the autorun question. i actually thought it was directed towards our host (Mr OH).

you're quite right about autorun; my non-internet PC is currently vulnerable to infection via this route so i'll sort it out (i heard about it a bit ago but never got around to taking any action).

your WPA2 config sounds spot on (particularly with MAC filtering and broadcast disabled). a "strong" password is required though (maximum practical length and completely random).

it's also worth doing a search to see if your particular modem/router/wifi device has any known exploits (these can make a complete mockery of even the best configured setup):

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/09/bt_home_hub_hole_response/

http://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&q=wifi+vulnerability

"Our host must be wishing he'd never made this post....."

wouldn't have thought so (and it seems not, anway). it's not that kind of blog =)

Leg-iron said...

i did consider unscrewing the antenna (it was suggested by a mate) but a quick wrap with a bit of tinfoil killed the signal so i left it at that (i'd probably mislay the antenna and/or screw anyway).

even worse than letting next door use your broadband is the fact that you can end up liable for any piracy that happens over it! (seriously)

as far as i know, the new, incoming laws on all this (Mandelbum's laws, in fact), include a 'strict liability' clause for internet connections. i.e. it doesn't matter if it's a guest, a visitor, your kids or a hacker on your internet account.

microdave said...

If you want to stop Autorun very easily, the little tool I use is produced by Uwe Sieber. He seems to do a lot of useful software and tips.
His homepage is here:
http://www.uwe-sieber.de/english.html

The tool is here:
http://www.uwe-sieber.de/files/autorunsettings.zip

Hope this helps.

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