Cell Phones For Spies

This is an excerpt from a newsletter entitled "NETWORK WORLD NEWSLETTER: M. E. KABAY ON SECURITY, 06/09/05" forwarded to me by a colleague. I'm not personally familiar with the newsletter or Mr. Kabay, but I thought the subject might be of interest to Telecom Digest readers. Contact data for the author is listed at the bottom, rest has been snipped in the interest of brevity.

Fair use caveat may apply.




Today's focus: Cell phones for spies By M. E. Kabay

Anyone can use even an ordinary mobile phone as a microphone by covertly dialing out; for example, one can call a recording device at a listening station and then simply place the phone in a pocket or briefcase before entering a conference room.

However, my friend and colleague Chey Cobb recently pointed out a device from Nokia that is unabashedly being advertised as a "Spy Phone" because of additional features that threaten corporate security.

This $1,800 device works like a normal mobile phone but also allows the owner to program a special phone number that turns the device into a transmission device under remote control:

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In addition, the phone can be programmed for silent operation:

"By a simple press of a button, a seemingly standard cell phone device switches into a mode in which it seems to be turned off.

However, in this deceitful mode the phone will automatically answer incoming calls, without any visual or audio indications whatsoever ... A well placed bug phone can be activated on demand from any remote location (even out of another country). Such phones can also prove valuable in business negotiations. The spy phone owner leaves the meeting room, (claiming a restroom break, for instance), calls the spy phone and listens to the ongoing conversation. On return the owners' negotiating positions may change dramatically."

It makes more sense than ever to ban mobile phones from any meeting that requires high security.

David Bennahum wrote an interesting article in December 2003 about these questions and pointed out that businesses outside the U.S. are turning to cell phone jamming devices (illegal in the U.S.) to block mobile phone communications in a secured area. Bennahum writes, "According to the FCC, cell phone jammers should remain illegal. Since commercial enterprises have purchased the rights to the spectrum, the argument goes, jamming their signals is a kind of property theft."

Seems to me there would be obvious benefits in allowing movie houses, theaters, concert halls, museums, places of worship and secured meeting locations to suppress such traffic as long as the interference were clearly posted. No one would be forced to enter the location if they did not agree with the ban, and I'm sure there would be some institutions catering to those who actually _like_ sitting next to someone talking on a cell phone in the middle of a quiet passage at a concert.

Bennahum mentioned another option -- this one quite legal even in the U.S.: cell phone detectors such as the Cellular Activity Analyzer from NetLine:

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This handheld computer lets you spot unauthorized mobile phones in your meeting place so that you act accordingly.

Finally, one can create a Faraday cage that blocks radio waves by lining the secured facility with appropriate materials such as copper mesh or, more recently, metal-impregnated wood:

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A high-security version of such a room is called a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) in U.S. military security jargon.


Vendors tout vulnerability mgmt. wares Network World, 06/06/05

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Internet security ... writ very small Network World, 06/06/05
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To contact: M. E. Kabay

M. E. Kabay, Ph.D., CISSP, is Associate Professor in the Division of Business and Management at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. Mich can be reached by e-mail mailto: snipped-for-privacy@norwich.edu and his Web site

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*** FAIR USE NOTICE. This message contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This Internet discussion group is making it available without profit to group members who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information in their efforts to advance the understanding of literary, educational, political, and economic issues, for non-profit research and educational purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner, in this instance, M.E. Kabay and Network World.

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