[LINK] FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Sat Dec 2 20:57:40 AEDT 2006


> update 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.

> 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 spyware 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.

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
Ph/F: +61 2 62577881 M: +61 417820641
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.
                           -- Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Analog, Apr 1961

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