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Hackers Rebel Against Spy Cams 390

Posted by Zonk
from the damn-the-man dept.
Wired is running an article looking at the little ways in which Austrian technology users are striking back against surveillance. From the article: "Members of the organization worked out a way to intercept the camera images with an inexpensive, 1-GHz satellite receiver. The signal could then be descrambled using hardware designed to enhance copy-protected video as it's transferred from DVD to VHS tape. The Quintessenz activists then began figuring out how to blind the cameras with balloons, lasers and infrared devices. And, just for fun, the group created an anonymous surveillance system that uses face-recognition software to place a black stripe over the eyes of people whose images are recorded."
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Hackers Rebel Against Spy Cams

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  • Good going. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:40AM (#14377225) Journal
    Cracked by macrovision descramblers. Color me impressed.
  • Black stripe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by megrims (839585) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:41AM (#14377226)
    What's the purpose of a black stripe over the eyes?
    How effective is it in preventing recognition?
    Or is the reason less obvious than that?
  • Veils (Score:5, Funny)

    by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:41AM (#14377228)
    Maybe we should all just adopt a more modest dress code. We could obscure our faces with veils that only reveal our eyes.

    Then only those who wear veils will be criminals.

  • Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:50AM (#14377243)
    This is civil disobedience and hacking at its best. Good for them.
  • by Sensible Clod (771142) <dc-7@charte[ ]et ['r.n' in gap]> on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:52AM (#14377255) Homepage
    Looks like someone can't tell where this is happening. FTA:

    BERLIN -- When the Austrian government passed a law this year allowing police to install closed-circuit surveillance cameras in public spaces without a court order, the Austrian civil liberties group Quintessenz vowed to watch the watchers.

    Okay, so how is this about "Berlin technology users"? Or am I missing something?
  • Laughing Man (Score:5, Informative)

    by Intocabile (532593) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:52AM (#14377258)
    Albeit relatively low tech in comparison. A real life counterpart none the less.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laughing_Man_(ani me) [wikipedia.org]
  • RTFA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by avidday (671814) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:52AM (#14377259)
    The group in question is an Austrian civil liberties group, not German hackers and not based in Berlin. How do I know this? I read the first sentence of the article............
  • by Alcimedes (398213) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:54AM (#14377265)
    I think the only thing that MIGHT actually get the laws changed would be as one person suggested in the article. Turn the tables on those passing the laws. Find key political figures and start saving all the video footage of where they go. I'm sure with tens of hours of video footable between dozens of people you're bound to come across a wide variety of embarassing moments.

    Put those up on the web and away you go. Might actually get something changed then.
    • Re:Turn the tables (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bezuwork's friend (589226) on Monday January 02, 2006 @02:29AM (#14377332)
      While I'm with you I would guess that this would only result in the politicians exempting themselves by making it illegal to do this to them. You know, like how it's illegal to threaten the president of the U.S. but generally not to do so to an ordinary citizen, at least if you can claim it's in jest.

      Semi related story - after 911, I had to go to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (patent appeals court) to get a brochure of pictures of the judges for a partner at a big law firm. They made me get a signed letter of request on firm letterhead before giving it to me - for security reasons. Silly - they're public servants after all, we have a right to know who we're paying.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:54AM (#14377266)
    This reminds me of an old MIT article, The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove [mit.edu]. It describes what is involved in living in a surveillance society. It also defines the attributes of a surveillance society:

    1. Transcends distance, darkness, and physical barriers.
    2. Transcends time and its records can easily be stored, retrieved, combined, analyzed, and communicated.
    3. Is capital-rather than labor intensive.
    4. Triggers a shift from targeting a specific to categorical suspicion.
    5. Has as a major concern the prevention of violations.
    6. Is decentralized-and triggers self-policing.
    7. Is either invisible or has low visibility.
    8. Is more intensive-probing beneath surface, discovering previously inaccessible information.
    9. Grows ever more extensive-covering not only deeper, but larger areas.

    I think surveillance, even when used with the best of intentions, will interfere with people's lives. The authorities will investigate anyone that does anything different. Yet doing things different is what life is all about. When used with less noble intentions, surveillance could lead to a much more troubling society as the East Berlin residents. described in the article may well remember.

    • Eventually, the system will collapse in a morass of useless data. There is a big difference between data and information. Google converts data into information.
    • Interestingly enough, I used to use a saved google query to look for interesting Axis webcams.

      I hadn't used it in a while and had forgotten about it until now but now google responds to the query [google.com] with this:

      We're sorry...

      ... but we can't process your request right now. A computer virus or spyware application is sending us automated requests, and it appears that your computer or network has been infected.

      We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, you m
      • More interestingly, the title of the error page is "403 forbidden." If this is really due to an overload of requests and they're trying to "restore your access as quickly as possible," then the error ought to be a "503 service unavailable."

        Somehow I wonder if there's a different reason why this particular query is "forbidden..."

        Reference: RFC 2616 Section 10 [w3.org]
        • by Anonymous Coward
          The reason is pretty obvious. Take a look at the search query and notice how it requests a list of sites that host a specific CGI program. Then read the text and let your gray matter work for the first time this year. Google is telling you that some current worm/virus/whatever is doing automated queries on Google to find new victims for a specific exploit in Axis webcams.

          This is a Good Thing (tm)...
    • Here's the deal. On one hand, you have your civil liberties. On the other, you have your personal risk.
      You'll enjoy being able to be who you are in a society where there isn't widespread survalence, but if you were attacked you might say to yourself, "Where were the cops when I needed them?"
      The survalence will give you the confidence to go into places you would ordinarily be too scared of going. Now, you may be as tough as old boots, a ninja, Batman, or whatever, but not everybody is. Remember to be compass
  • Who decides? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:55AM (#14377268) Journal
    This is a scary as the survaliance system is to me. If we do live in a democroacy then the people who put the survalence systems in were elected officials who we have decided are compenant to make improtant decisions. So a vigilante group has decided that they don't like this decision and have taken action themselves instead of organising a grass roots political oposition to the decsion. That is scary. We have as much to fear from vigilante groups of hackers as we do from overzelous goverments. I know I'll get the typical responses pertianing to the failure of democroacy and the lack of properly educated voters in the system, but on sheer principle its still scary. I also suppose that I could throw in a terrible potential if acts of this nature continue, but I think thats obvious and my example would be either too far fetched or too plausible, giving other people with a lower moral standard another idea.
    • Re:Who decides? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sensible Clod (771142)
      Did you know you'd get the typical responses pertaining to the failure to spell-check and the lack of properly educated posters in the system? Yeah, it's scary, all right.

      (You've got some interesting points, but if you want to be taken seriously, take your words seriously, okay?)
      • Yeah, actually I did. I thought about it for 2 seconds but spell chekcing for slashdot is like um I doun't know... Getting a hair cut before visiting your parents..? Spitting int he ocean? Seperating your trash before dumping it in the occean? You may or might not get the idea based on these. I'm just drawing blanks here. If I want to be taken serously.. I'm not going to stop at posting on slashdot.
    • Think about it for a second: a surveilance system like this requires vast capital and labor to implement. Generally speaking, vigilantes (or rather anti-vigilantes, since they're preventing vigilance!) are small groups with relatively few resources. At best, they'll only be able to destroy infrastructure, rather than create it, or they'll only be able to manage small things. In fact, if the activist group gets big enough, they'd be able to just elect themselves into office or overthrow the government ent
    • That is scary. We have as much to fear from vigilante groups of hackers as we do from overzelous goverments. I know I'll get the typical responses pertianing to the failure of democroacy and the lack of properly educated voters in the system, but on sheer principle its still scary. I also suppose that I could throw in a terrible potential if acts of this nature continue, but I think thats obvious and my example would be either too far fetched or too plausible, giving other people with a lower moral standard
      • "Right to alter or abolish"

        That means change. Because the authors did nto have any way under the current government to make any changes ( they were denied representation in parliment) they felt their actions were acceptable.

        Now, after they created a form of governemnt that allows us to make those changes in a peaceful way, there should be no need to perform such actions.
        • Re:Who decides? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrchaotica (681592)

          Now, after they created a form of governemnt that allows us to make those changes in a peaceful way, there should be no need to perform such actions.

          That's true, if the government doesn't change in such a way as to preclude that. For example, using gerrymandering, huge campaign funds, and excessive election rules to effectively give most incumbents lifetime positions of office, and forming powerful political parties (with powerful corporate allies) to create a ruling class that's capable of ignoring and

          • Re:Who decides? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:29AM (#14377550) Homepage
            could mean that violent revolution is justified even with a system that -- on the surface -- seems democratic and fair.

            From the rest of your comment, I assume you're talking of the US system.

            I can assure you that for anyone not born, raised and indoctrinated in the USA your system seems neither particularily democratic, nor fair in the sligthest. Infact it's pretty close to the least fair imaginable system that can still claim to be "democratic"

            I'll give a few examples. There's literally dozens, but Slashdot ain't the rigth venue for a deeper discussion.

            One: If the citizens of say Florida vote (invented numbers) 40% Democrat, 35% Republican, 15% Green, 10% Others, how is it "fair" that the people of Florida then send 27 members of the Electoral College from the Democratic party ? Fair would be to divide the members as the votes are divided. Giving someone with 40% of the votes 100% of the influence is not my idea of "fair".

            Two: If you live in the state above, and are aware of the aproximate likely distribution, how can you vote anything except Democrat/Republican and not have your vote wasted ? The real question, for many of the voters is not "Which party do you prefer?" but instead: "Which of the two large ones do you dislike the least?"

            Third: If you live in a state where it's very very obvious that say the Republicans will win, then you are indeed free to vote for whomever you prefer, since your vote doesn't matter anyway!

            Basically *all* election-systems are more "fair" than the ones you use. Furthermore, your current system favours the two parties currently in power. And the only ones who can (peacefully) change your system are those two parties.

            Thus you've got the fox guarding the henhouse: The only two parties with a fair chance of changing the election-system are the only two parties with no interest whatsoever in doing so, since it'd lead to less influence for themselves.

    • Re:Who decides? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dangitman (862676)
      If we do live in a democroacy then the people who put the survalence systems in were elected officials who we have decided are compenant to make improtant decisions.

      What if we don't?

    • Re:Who decides? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smoker2 (750216)

      So a vigilante group has decided that they don't like this decision and have taken action themselves instead of organising a grass roots political oposition to the decsion. That is scary. We have as much to fear from vigilante groups of hackers as we do from overzelous goverments.

      Just 2 things:

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
      (Who watches the watchers ?) [farid-hajji.net]

      and ...

      ... so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those
      who wish to tyrranize(sic) will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent,
      a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @02:04AM (#14377292)
    Make a hat that has eyes painted on the top, the damn thing can't handle two sets of eyes. Two dots that look like eyes may work too and not get you busted so easy.

    Want to know why intersection cameras are everywhere?

    If you are going to track someone you need to aquire them first, probably near where they live, then it's easy to follow them from there because they can only go a few ways from there.

    Now you know why the cameras are in places where there's hardly any traffic, like near homes way out in the boonies.

    The way to get these taken out is to track or let the politicians know that they can be tracked this way, they hate it when we the people can track their bad habits even though they love being able to track ours.
  • by forgotten_my_nick (802929) on Monday January 02, 2006 @02:05AM (#14377295)
    In the UK on one of the CCTV cop TV shows they have there was a good instance of dealing with cameras. Basically the owner of a house had complained that every night the camera was pointed at his house. One instance he had even seen a mugging take place outside (in London) and the camera was busy looking at the mugging but no cops showed up for some time. So one night he dressed up like what can only be described as a cross between a demon/predator (really cool looking). And he wandered around where the camera was pointing. Within 5 minutes the whole road was cordened off by numerous cops.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nod, his point was that enforcement of the law was selective. If he wears a costume and wanders around, the police come a running. But their constant surveillance was not deterring actual crime. The police were choosing which laws to enforce and enforcing social norms instead. Or just gawking at the 'interesting' disturbances.
  • They are from Vienna, Austria, they just presented this on the 22C3. It's correctly written in the wired article though.
  • War on terror anyone (Score:3, Informative)

    by manavendra (688020) on Monday January 02, 2006 @02:25AM (#14377323) Homepage Journal
    The general perception about politicians lately is CCTV will eliminate all problems. After the London bombing on 7/7/05, the Met spent hundreds of man hours sifting through CCTV "evidence" to find more information about the hackers, while for all practical purposes is shutting the barn door after...

    Even the Dutch, once known as hacker-friendly, politically progressive Europeans, are now fearful and demanding more cameras on their streets.

    Whilst recording and monitoring activities in parts deemed dangerous, not easy to patrol, prone to mugging/thefts/incidents may be worthwhile, recording public spaces is similar to littering the motorway with speed cameras...
    • Surveillance cameras are on 24/7 speed cameras only when you speed.

      You can easily avoid being recorded by a speed camera. Don't speed. I know, it is a difficult trick to figure out.

      Whenever you try a serious conversation about surveillance cameras an idiot like you bring up speed cameras and instantly show that only criminals are afraid of cameras. Nice way to cloud the issue.

      • Whenever you try a serious conversation about surveillance cameras an idiot like you bring up speed cameras and instantly show that only criminals are afraid of cameras. Nice way to cloud the issue.

        Actually I'd say it's a pretty good example. There are few things more arbitrarily illegal than "speeding" and ineffective as speed cameras.

    • After the London bombing on 7/7/05, the Met spent hundreds of man hours sifting through CCTV "evidence" to find more information about the hackers

      Hackers? Don't you mean "Bombers"?

      shutting the barn door

      How about following the evidence and identifying suspects?

    • recording public spaces is similar to littering the motorway with speed cameras...

      it's not really similar at all. The road cameras are usually for safety rather than surveillance. And you need to be licensed and follow strict laws if you want the privilege to drive. Walking down the street only requires legs, and doesn't put you in control of a lethal chunk of metal. The cameras on the roads have been used to enforce safety rules (unlike the ones on the street), and I haven't heard anything about them bein

    • The general perception about politicians lately is CCTV will eliminate all problems. After the London bombing on 7/7/05, the Met spent hundreds of man hours sifting through CCTV "evidence" to find more information about the hackers, while for all practical purposes is shutting the barn door after...

      I'm sure you meant bombers, not hackers, but anyway. So you think its shutting the barn door after the event. That certainly was not the case for the second set of (failed) bombing attempts a few weeks late

  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Monday January 02, 2006 @02:26AM (#14377326)
    "It is a period of civil war. Rebel starships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire." Yes, even the United States. And it will be bloody. Songs will be sung about this day...
  • by jjh37997 (456473) on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:00AM (#14377376) Homepage
    The rich, powerful or corrupt have always had the power to invade our privacy because it's just an illusion and will alway be so. Privacy laws just protect the powerful from being watched by the masses.

    Instead of fighting a lossing battle to stop this technology we need to ensure that it will be available to everyone and that the information will be open to the public. Put cameras on the streets, in the police stations and in government buildings. I don't mind being watched as long as I can watch everyone else. Living in a fishbowl can be a wonderful thing. Imagine a world where everyone is equipped with their own personal cameras and recording devices... with so many eyes spreading their light everywhere the world might become a more peaceful and civilized place.
    • The rich, powerful or corrupt have always had the power to invade our privacy

      "The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor" - or I suppose we all do now with reality TV.

      Put cameras on the streets, in the police stations and in government building

      And the images will be extraordinarily rendered! Law enforcement needs to be put firmly under the control of the state and information retrieval needs to be covered by the rule of law - but there are still those that will blow minor events out of

  • And, just for fun, the group created an anonymous surveillance system that uses face-recognition software to place a black stripe over the eyes of people whose images are recorded.

    I want my blue and white laughing man logo with "I thought what I'd do was pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes" spinning around.
    • And, just for fun, the group created an anonymous surveillance system

      It sounds a lot closer to "Platonic Chain" - a near future series where teenage hackers (not crackers really, someone else cracked the system) are using various hacks to get varied information from security cameras that are open to the net.

      One weird hack was to identify someone nearby, find out their phone ringtone then download it. The character would then walk next to the person then ring their own phone so she would have a conversation

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @03:38AM (#14377444)
    like a shotgun.

    Cheap. Effective. If the people really decide they've had enough of surveilence that's what will happen in urban areas too. It's why you don't see cameras in rural France or Spain, people just pop them and no society can afford to keep replacing a thousand dollar camera when a one dollar bullet will fix the problem.
  • Two points. . . (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday January 02, 2006 @09:42AM (#14378294)
    1. On the Fear side. . , people who rebel are among the first to be recorded as rebels and then collected when the hammer falls. It will fall.

    2. On the Light side. . , taxation is THE common denominator; it is the common woe and injustice felt across all racial and political/idealogical boundaries. Even Pro-Life and Abortionists both hate paying taxes to a corrupt government. This is one major spot where the mighty will begin to topple. --The growth of healthy community is where the elite begin to lose control.

    Without interference, people can quite easily build and maintain healthy community. I've witnessed it. Politics and divisive issues, media and the highly manipulative/manipulated economic forces are primarily designed and maintained to keep people disconnected. --To keep them in tightly controlled boxes so that they don't do exactly what the elite fear; come together to communicate rather than yell at each other, to solve problems and grow in body, mind and spirit. This kind of growth leads to real freedom, and real freedom leads to the elite loses their slave nation and status as the 'popular kids'. (Hm. It occurs to me that the elite really are like the popular kids in high school; they like the artificial environment where they 'rule', and they want to maintain it. It has always amused me how most popular kids are really upset when they graduate to discover their artificial power status dropped to zero and having to work on themselves in real ways like everybody else. --Usually several steps behind the curve because of the wasted years riding egotism bourn on their parent's money rather than working to actually improve themselves and learn skills beyond fashion sense and one-upmanship through gossip.)

    Anyway. . . taxes are the one area where the elite will simply not be able to let up, and it is the one area which hurts unilaterally across the board, and where people from all the different boxes can truly come together to form real community.

    Re-read the story about the British group destroying surveillance cameras [guardian.co.uk]. Their motives are not privacy related. They are destroying traffic cameras because they believe them to be an unfair form of taxation.

    "The more you tighten your grip, they more systems slip through your fingers. . ." (Or something like that. The princess said it better.)


    -FL

  • by goon (2774) <goonmail&netspace,net,au> on Monday January 02, 2006 @07:14PM (#14381321) Homepage Journal
    (sousveillance) '... watchful vigilance from underneath ...' [0] and (shootback) turn camera back on them

    Steve Mann [wearcam.org] [1] has a lot of intelligent things to say on surveillance [idtrail.org] [2], sousveillance [sousveillance.org] [3] and the intersection of technology & privacy. The earliest I can find is in a 1995 paper [wearcam.org] [4]. In an article predating the Austrians, Mann advocates shooting back [wearcam.org] (with your own camera) [5].

    More links can be found here [del.icio.us]. [6]

    Reference
    [0] Steve Mann, 'definition from Sousveillance as an alternative balance':
    http://wearcam.org/sousveillance.htm [wearcam.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [1] Steve Mann, 'Cyberman':
    http://wearcam.org/steve.html [wearcam.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [2] Steve Mann, 'Identity Trail - Stream 3 - technologies that identify, anonymize and authenticate':
    http://idtrail.org/content/view/47/43/ [idtrail.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [3] Steve Mann, 'Sousveillance: A Gathering of the Tribes':
    http://sousveillance.org/tribesissue/ [sousveillance.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [4] Steve Mann, 'PRIVACY ISSUES OF WEARABLE CAMERAS VERSUS SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS, Feb. 24, 1995':
    http://wearcam.org/netcam_privacy_issues.html [wearcam.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [5] Steve Mann, 'Shooting back article & pictures':
    http://wearcam.org/shootingback.html [wearcam.org]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]

    [6] Delicious 'my delicious links on steve.mann':
    http://del.icio.us/goon/steve.mann [del.icio.us]
    [Accessed Tuesday, 3 January 2006]
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Tuesday January 03, 2006 @09:30AM (#14384090) Homepage Journal
    All I can say is I just tried to renew my U.S. driver's liscense, which is harder than entering the country with a U.S. passport. You need for example a passport, proof of billing address, social security card (which nobody I know even has), old college photo ID, etc. totalling 6 points or more (that is 7 points I think above) where different kinds of documents are assigned different point values. I believe this is because the driver's liscense is likely a major the key to surveillance across databases, you know what used to be illegal. This struck home when I realized the EZ Pass system used for automatic toll payment in your car is quite useful in tracking where you move and when linked to gas station payments, credit cards, and photo ID it comes full circle and is perfectly enabling for facial identification over the innumerable security cameras you come across even in suburban life.

    Personally I just wanted to update my liscense so I can rent a car when I come back home (I live overseas most of the year) and get a local driver's liscense to rent a car here. It is not impossible but obviously the country takes it much more seriously to be able to track people's movements than actually entering the country per se. As far as I can see every U.S. driver now has to supply these various documents each time he or she wishes to renew a driver's liscense.

    It was not so clear to me how well this in fact would catch a terrorist especially one who was planning a suicide attack, and only hope it is just one of the more visible ways they are trying to make the country safe and not in fact the key to the whole strategy.

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud

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