Posted on 17/11/13, filed under Spy Equipment | No Comments
While viruses, malware and Trojan software have been a known and malignant software threat in the world of computers for over three decades, the landscape of using worms and Trojans has shifted greatly ever since broadband internet became a standard commodity in most households.
Many people these days are busy dismissing or outright ignoring warnings about malware and computer-internet activity tracking and surveillance, as quite a bit of the concern is channelled at government intrusion rather than the many unwelcomed wonders of spy phone software, also known as spyware and malware.
Spyware applications can pose a range of inconveniences that can go up to security threats. For one thing, they operate in the background and are notorious for lifting information out of your system and transmitting this information to third parties. In other words, systems are under surveillance when these kinds of applications are left unchecked. They can also be hard to detect in terms of how they are installed. The issue only becomes worse — and usually noticeable by the end user — when the malware application starts to hog system resources. As with any piece of software, including our advanced browsers, spyware and malware apps can be resource intensive. This issue can be seen in day-to-day use when netbooks and mobile CPUs tend to slow down to a crawl under excessive background application load without anything-substantial running on the system. No, it’s probably not the typical case of your browser needing a dire restart!
The good news is that malware often requires a substantial level of questionable internet activity, or actual installation of third-party software. So, extra vigilance and a keen discerning eye when installing all new software can greatly reduce the chance of your computer being reduced to sludge at the hands of background activity that isn’t relevant or authorised. Problem arises from the fact that a lot of new and legitimate software these days comes paired with invasive malware that may appear harmless on the surface, but can certainly pose convenience issues later down the road. Even spyware potential as private computer usage comes under surveillance of third parties interested in exploiting whatever information they can gain. The looming nature of these threats is worsened by the fact that with everything being rushed these days — and not everyone being tech-savvy — it becomes difficult for people to uncheck every little discrete permission check box that comes paired with the application installers. Ask yourself this: How many times have you ended up with those annoying ‘search bars’ on your browser, along with unsanctioned browser setting changes, after installing a completely irrelevant piece of software? It’s all too common an occurrence/issue these days.
So while good antivirus software can keep the system safeguarded from some serious software corruptions, it is almost equally important to have anti-malware/anti-spyware software running simultaneously. Such a well-paired protocol can prevent potential hackers, as well as information tapping and key-logging entities on the internet from stealing your personal information, spying into your online activities, or even seizing partial control of your machine.
This is an especially concerning matter and a pressing solution in light of how much sensitive data people keep on their personal systems these days, along with the adoption of online banking; you wouldn’t want to get compromised by your own lack of initiative.
It truly goes a long way for most to actually have a good spyware monitoring and blocking software along with an anti-virus kit, since the likelihood of installing something that isn’t necessarily a virus, but certainly invasive, is probable for most users. Just using a smooth combination of Malware Bytes with Avast can give the end-user an ample but limited demonstration of the benefits of having good spyware monitoring running in tandem with anti-virus software.
With high-speed internet becoming such a common commodity and integrated aspect of our common lives, we are at an even greater risk for unsolicited surveillance, cyber-invasion and spying. As always though, a bit of awareness and the right complimentary tools can more than deal with this matter and keep people on top of their internet security.
Posted on 15/11/13, filed under Spy Equipment | No Comments
Following on from our earlier post on Person of Interest, and tracking devices we’d like to investigate some of the other techniques they use on the show…
Microphone Bugging – Another nifty and alarmingly invasive feature boasted on this hit TV show was how the protagonists would use microphone technology on a nearby electronic device — typically a mobile — to evesdrop on their targets; essentially turning phones into portable and unsuspecting live spy bugs. This too is largely outdated technology, even though many of the ‘spy apps’ used for tracking also claim to offer this feature, but it’s not been seen to work effectively in many phones these days.
Phone Data Collection (SMS; Pictures; Data Entry, Browsing History) – Two particular spy apps — used often forreal time tracking — are SpyBubble and Mobile Spy. These are being brought up because they are indeed in widespread use and rather decent options for acquiring both incoming and outgoing text messages. This kind of information is also generally accessible to law enforcement through phone providers, which is a separate blog matter altogether with the recent Snowden saga (will it ever end?). It can also be vulnerable to hackers through the service provider’s database, which too, is a whole topic in its own right with some of the largest hacking attacks on some very high profile target such as SONY’s PSN and Yahoo! Networks, just to name a few. However, these applications can also transmit all other data on the phone such as pictures, emails, browsing history and data entries. This is indeed that one point where the sheer diversity, versatility and convergent nature of smart phones can also make users susceptible to personal data attacks. To put it another way: When was the last time someone casually checked their e-mail or logged onto PayPal using a Motorola Razr? With great technology comes great vulnerability as smart phone technology is rapidly overtaking portable computers, even going further and reaching a wider audience.
Blue Jacking – Lastly, there’s the recurring term called ‘Bluejacking’, and it can be argued that this isn’t something exclusive to the Person of Interest mythos. Apparently, using Bluetooth and similar remote radio transmission technology to hijack electronic equipment is far from a novel concept; remember those infrared TV remote hacking wristwatches from the 90s? What fun! And these were practically children’s toys. The thing about bluetooth hacking is that while it’s very much possible and can be used to pretty much hijack an entire phone while also remaining untraceable, it is also extremely hard to implement without — yet again — proper hardware level access to the phone. Pulling off a bluejack would most likely involve the owner’s consent, which is why it is generally used for pranks between friends where such level of access is consensual, so this one’s a great feature for the techy pranksters. One would have to be a very fast, very efficient, and exceedingly charming hacker to bluejack anything, so such tricks on the fly — as seen in the show — are a gross exaggeration of something that is exceptionally difficult although technically possible with today’s technology and hacking knowledge.
So there we have it: the end of our round-up of the spying and hacking technology in a rather successful fictional crime fighting show that plays it cool and real by simply over-exaggerating familiar technology and phone hacking that would could imagine doing ourselves – although within reason! Perhaps this is the subtle charm of the show, in that it engages the viewers on a level that helps them appreciate the potential of their day-to-day computer hardware technology, especially the all too common smart phone.
Posted on 13/11/13, filed under Spy Equipment | No Comments
What hit US TV show Person of Interest tells us about phone hacking potential…
Jonathan Nolan’s Person of Interest has certainly carved a niche for itself with audiences in the US, UK and many other areas. Having premiered its 4th season recently, it certainly has a lot to boast about! Viewers like the show’s premise of the theme of ordinary methods of spying technology and hacking being used in rather creative ways by a group of vigilantes towards crime prevention rather than crime reaction.
The basic gist of the show operates on the idea of the protagonists having access to a highly advanced and covert computer with artificial intelligence. This computer has every phone, camera, computer and electronic piece of equipment hacked to survey the public with the acute ability to predict when a certain individual might be on the verge of committing a crime. The protagonists of the show receive a heads-up from the machine on their likely ‘person of interest’ with the aim to prevent that person from committing the crime in question. It’s actually quite nifty, and despite many technical details and loop holes overlooked, it can get people to think very differently about their day-to-day smart phones, laptops and cameras that are often taken for granted.
Now, some might assume that a lot of the hacking and spying that goes on in this show is in fact too far-fetched and unrealistic. However, as facts would have it, aside from the central artificial intelligence network at the heart of the plot, the rest of the spying tricks and strategies are actually reasonably plausible with some even being outright obsolete by today’s technological standard. So let’s look into what the show boasts and how far ahead we already were by last year’s standards.
Phone Cloning – Our smart phones today, paired with the rapidly evolving cell phone service, in many respects, is more secure than an older phone unit operating on a more redundant form of network. You heard that right; it’s actually old stuff that is more vulnerable. Readers should recall the typical ‘phone cloning’ technique on the show that allowed the hackers to create copied profiles of the phone units held by their targets and persons of interest, which would then allow them to essentially send and receive calls from another individual’s number. This is actually quite an outdated technique used by phone bill scammers — with the intent to make unlimited calls with the actual owner incurring the charge. Fortunately, our phone services today are much more secure and robust against this tactic and it’s virtually impossible to clone new smart phones. In fact, this problem is only prevalent in India where the general phone-cloning tactic is in decline anyway.
Real-Time Tracking Devices - Real time tracking of the phone activity is also possible as there are plenty of apps available that transmit location data of the phone to the supposed hackers. It’s all in the name, essentially: real time tracking. Using this approach, however, requires a knowing and willing installation of certain apps on the phone with the sanctioned permission to transmit data. So, needless to say, any reasonably guarded individual isn’t just going to hand over their phone to a potential hacker – and even so, the likelihood of a phone returning with a strange new app doing real time data transmission would probably not bode well! It’s a technique that requires the explicit consent and awareness of the phone’s owner, so one wouldn’t just have to be a very fast hacker, but probably a very good pickpocket and distracter as well. Perhaps street magicians have a future as hackers?
We’d love to tell you some more about the techniques used on our new new reason for staying in, so keep an eye out for the next installment of our Person of Interest special.