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Your Own Mini-Stalker 109

Posted by Zonk
from the keep-it-in-your-pants dept.
kashif.ahsan writes "A ComputerWorld article discusses the inherent privacy dangers of carrying around our ubiquitous technological assistants. They're like miniature stalkers, right there in your pocket. 'Camera phones contain all the necessary ingredients for completely invasive stalking: a microphone, camera, personal data on the user, location information, a chat and call history — you name it. And victims carry them everywhere they go. All that's missing is the software that lets stalkers take control ... new software, called snoopware, does just that.'"
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Your Own Mini-Stalker

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  • by Kelbear (870538) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @02:28AM (#19936031)
    Does this make me a celebrity?

    My god...then it's true! I /AM/ important on the internet! Woohoo!

  • by Zadaz (950521) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @02:47AM (#19936091)
    And carrying a remote control is like having a little telekinetic friend.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That means I have friends!
  • by zantolak (701554) <zantolak@comcCOWast.net minus herbivore> on Saturday July 21, 2007 @02:49AM (#19936097)
    Take out the battery and SIM card, and tape over the camera and microphone when you aren't using it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wwwillem (253720)
      Don't forget to put the SIM card in one of those alu-coated bags that you bought your RAM in.
    • by TEMMiNK (699173)
      Actually I think the most appropriate temporary fix would be to cover the device in tin foil, some may even decide to craft tiny hats for their phones...
      • You mean something like a Tinfoil Pope's Hat the PDA can ride around in on top of your head? Hmmm, time to start up a new religion! Move over "Flying Spaghetti Monster" (FSM), Theres a new Nutty Cult in town
    • Take out the battery and SIM card...
      I have a Verizon phone, you insensitive clod!
    • by bandmassa (951387)
      Wrap your head in tinfoil, too, I reckon. You never know when the scanners are tracking your thoughts. (Bloody 'eck, sometimes there aren't enough eyes to roll!)
  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @02:49AM (#19936099)
    So let's get this straight...

    - I'm already being spied on by close-circuit cameras planted everywhere short of the public toilet (may be wrong on that one as well)
    - Government agencies and their friendly associates already have records of my name, sex, DOB, address, occupation, salary, and other "general statistics"
    - Corporate spyware already records my keystrokes, browsing habits, shopping history, porn preferences, dubious sources of owned MP3s, financial credentials, political views, and probably things I don't even know about

    And now you are trying to tell me I need to be scared of my 4x3 inch PDA? Right, because OBVIOUSLY that's the only thing threatening my privacy!
    • by wiremind (183772)
      lol!

      thankyou.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @05:59AM (#19936687) Journal
      You're carrying a microphone that is made in order to transmit voice wirelessly, you probably have it on in your pocket, at voice reach during all of your private conversation and you rely on a non-disclosed, neither third-party-approved proprietary software running on proprietary hardware to prevent it from spying on you.

      Of course threats to privacy are multiple, but this issue has a very serious potential. It is good to educate people about this fact.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        When I was doing business in Russia in the early 90s, Russian businessmen regularly would take the batteries out of their cellphones when not using them in order to prevent GPS tracking and/or remote recording of conversations via the cellphone's mic.

        Paranoid or rightfully wary?

        (Or maybe just Russian?)

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Paranoid and pragmatic. In other words : Russian

          If I owned a private company providing cellphones and cellphone service, I would surely investigate if I could not put some clients on the spy list.
      • Good thing with some phones is that you can tell when they transmit by the annoying speaker buzzing.
      • by TaoJones (10412)
        You really should pay a bit more attention to Yvanhoe's words... I'll quote them again:

        You're carrying a microphone that is made in order to transmit voice wirelessly, you probably have it on in your pocket, at voice reach during all of your private conversation and you rely on a non-disclosed, neither third-party-approved proprietary software running on proprietary hardware to prevent it from spying on you.

        Add in the fact that you have (for the most part) no clue about the network protocols that make yo

      • Turn the phone off/pop the battery, if privacy is absolute required.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      lol.

      Privacy in a public space was always a bit of an illusion - the authorities can work out your position from the cell towers anyway, and how many people walk past you in a day, or follow you in their car for a few minutes? You could be being watched every minute of the day right now and you wouldn't know it.

      I went the other way. Downloaded bliin and have it on when I'm out of the house. Wanna spy on me? I'm telling everyone where I am... but is anyone going to bother? Probably not.
    • by Rick17JJ (744063)

      I am somewhat of a privacy fanatic which is probably a futile exercise in today's world. Here is what various on-line databases, shopping cards and cell phone tracking would probably show about my so called life:

      • A) My driving record shows no accidents or tickets in over 35 years of driving
      • B) I have never been arrested
      • E) I don't owe any money to anyone and always completely pay of my charge card bills off every month
      • H) My shoppers discount card record would show that I don't purchase junk food, liquor
  • One minor point... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekyMD (812672) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:07AM (#19936149)
    I can barely get my camera to sync with my computer with a wire, as it is I just yank the SD. Good luck getting software to make it wireless now.

    If someone is willing to violate my personal space and physically take my stuff, I might suggest stalking my filing cabinet instead.
    It never moves and has way more juicy data than my latest vacation photos and lunch planning.

  • FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:07AM (#19936151)
    victims? stalkers?

    Given that all of these appliances are carried voluntarily and have an off switch, this story has no merit at all.

    At best it's the basis for a (rather bad and technically unsound) horror story. At worst it helps spread fear and paranoia - as if we didn't have enough real problems to worry about.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mister Kay (1119377)
      according to various news outlets, turning a phone off doesn't solve the problem because the software is 99 parts code, 1 part magic
      example: here [consumerist.com]
      • Re:FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Saturday July 21, 2007 @06:52AM (#19936887) Homepage
        So they received an SMS from someone they didn't know. Clicked on it and it said that it wanted to install something. They said yes.

        It's very likely the app didn't have a legit certificate so the phone said 'this application is untrusted. continue anyway?' and they said yes.

        The app then installed itself.. now it has to send data to the internet. because it doesn't have a proper certificate every time it starts up it'll say 'allow access to the internet?' and each time they're *still* clicking 'yes'!!!

        (examples taken from symbian.. messages on Windows mobile are probably different)

        This isn't snoopware it's bloody stupidware.
        • by danbuhler (661233)
          Hey that's just like spyware..i mean cool awesome smilies for my MSN!!!111111

          And I've never heard of anyone stupid enough to install that!
    • Not sure if the article was on slashdot or somewhere else, but the FBI listened in on regular conversations while no phone call was happening because they had downloaded software (with a warrent) onto the person's phone allowing them to control it.
  • Open it up.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjh37997 (456473) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:15AM (#19936169) Homepage
    The stalkers of the world will always have the upper hand as long as we try and keep the genie in the bottle. We need to make the technology a two-way street and get rid of the myth of privacy. I don't have a problem giving away my personal infomation as long as I know who has access to it and I'm able to get the same back in kind. A battered woman is more empowered by knowing where her abusive ex-husband is at all times or knowing when he accesses information about her than she is by going undercover and into hiding.
    • by geekyMD (812672)
      I don't mean to be crude, but...
      While she may feel empowered, I'm sure that with your 'two way street' she is also much more likely to end up dead.

      Not only can her abuser track her, but so can the thugs he hires.

      Bilateral empowerment tends to only benefit the powerful while giving the weak only the illusion of power.

    • Hillbilly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sporkme (983186) *
      A battered woman is best off when related to a real man, a member of a dying breed. We remember how to disappear a guy. Counseling not required. Without a father, father-in-law, brother, cousin, close friend, or godfather in possession of Actual Real Testicles (TM). Sadly, a battered woman is best served with tartar sauce, justice system on the side. A stupid ass phone is a hill of beans unless 911 is dialed on it, and that usually happens when it is too late.

      I know what you're getting at with the tw
      • o.O

        Are you suggesting that if one of our loved ones is abused, we should go out and kill the abuser!?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by runep (159408)
          Sounds more to me like he's suggesting to nuke the site from orbit.
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          The one time in my life I was in that situation then yes if I'd seen the abuser at that time I'd happily have taken the jailtime for murder.. no kidding.

          Nowadays I'd simply leave him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

          Luckily perhaps for both of us the likelyhood of me meeting him is very low.
        • Maybe just break some bones, and tatoo "I like to hit women" on his forehead. Because if being gentle with him and quietly hopeing he would improve, or calling the police actually helped, then you loved one wouldn't be abused. And before you get all worked up about brutality and violence, consider what would happen if you follow the rules and he get's sent to prison. Well in short, he goes to prison. That place is far more violent,brutal, and humiliating than any single beating could manage.

          Yes the abuser
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      Me too.. I'm *extremely* easy to find out about - to the point where I broadcast my exact position over the internet (helps friends know where I am.. and anyone else that might be interested). We hide behind walls of fear all the time when privacy is a complete illusion outside your own home.

    • as long as I know who has access to it and I'm able to get the same back in kind.

      I think this is the gap. Just look at spam as an example. Someone had your information, likely you knew who it was at the time. But THEN... someone else had access to your information who you did not know, and you got no additional information in return. Well, except for how to get \/|/\6R4 or some other substance.

      Sure, "big Brother" or some other entity can easily track you and gather information about you. You may even

    • by robably (1044462)

      The stalkers of the world will always have the upper hand as long as we try and keep the genie in the bottle. We need to make the technology a two-way street and get rid of the myth of privacy.

      Completely 180-degrees wrong. Privacy is not a myth; it's something you have to continually work at, but that doesn't stop it existing. Throwing privacy away is not the solution. You may not care about your own privacy but seeing as many other people do, it makes sense to protect their rights and you lose nothing, in

    • Sometimes they like it, especially if you lick off the batter.

      Tip: don't put raw eggs in the batter, because the woman will probably object to being deep fried. (it doesn't hurt to ask though)

  • Forget Snoopware: What about the actual phone's OS? Proprietary systems like Microsoft's could very well call-home to update the location of the cell-phone. There aren't yet mobile firewalls to prevent internet, wap, or WiFi access by rogue programs, or the OS itself.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      The location of the phone is known by triangulation to within a few metres anyway.

      It's not down to the OS it's down to the design of the network. If that bothers you switch the mobile off and throw it in a river or something.
  • Your kids are going to have (at least) two people who are a) their history b) documented better than ever before.

    Their kids will have an amazing amount of data from 6 people. 10 generations in there will be a huge mass of mundane details for 2046 people just in their own family tree.

    Hopefully someone will invent a better search engine because otherwise it's going to be impossible for them to find the interesting things without being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of rubbish blog posts and bad photos post
  • That's a feature (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oheso (898435) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:23AM (#19936201)
    In Japan it's marketed as a feature. You can stalk your kids as they walk from school to home (with various detours into convenience stores to read the manga, etc.). There's an ad with some kid walking home and everywhere he goes there are black hats videoing him and speaking into lapel microphones.
  • by sporkme (983186) * on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:26AM (#19936221) Homepage
    There seems to be this ridiculous notion out there that you and everything about you is some kind of giant secret. Case in point, has anyone gone shopping for car insurance lately? Honestly, the password to your email account is the least of your concerns when compared to the way that credit scoring rapes you on something like that.

    If I have:
    A) No speeding tickets
    B) No DUI convictions
    C) No accidents
    D) An eviction five years ago
    E) A big student loan

    then I will have higher insurance rates than an 18-year-old with no credit whatsoever. ZOMG the insurance company is in my credits powning my billz!

    Furthermore, has anyone paid taxes lately? We carefully pen or key all of our vitals, all of our earnings and where we earned them, all of our expenditures and where we spent them, our political affiliations, our medical conditions, our contact info, our religion, our blood types, et cetera. Then what? We can but choose between the creepy old letter carrier, Chester, and the creepy old internet. Who gets all this juicy data next, we can only imagine. I promise, it is not good.

    Here's a tasty one for you... Homeland security. Had to get that phrase in there for all the conspiracy types on Google. Tracking your library card? To hell with that lame crap... to hear them tell it they are in your fone processin your data anyway.

    Speaking of Google... well... Google. Sign in to be mined^W Googled^w convenienced.

    There are a Segan Billion Billion data leaks out there, and you and your data don't exactly get to choose where to leak.

    So when I see these articles about **DIGITAL DEVICES CONTAIN DATA AND THEY CAN SEE MEEE ZOMG** I tend to seriously consider going back to lighting my farts, just to cover the evidence. Plus, it is truly entertaining when compared to sweating about the spy in my pocket. Fsck my own mini-stalker, where do I get a mini-hooker [wikipedia.org]?

    Why bother being paranoid? They're going to get you anyway.
    • by SamP2 (1097897) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:57AM (#19936297)
      >18-year-old

      Way to contribute to the very same problem you are complaining of being treated with (prejudice and irrelevant facts being taken into account).

      It's sick to see governments repeatedly marginalize young drivers' rights by blanket higher premiums, harder process to get a car, tougher fines for exactly the same offences, and restrictions which don't apply to older drivers. And I'm not talking about "novice" vs "veteran", I'm talking about real age being taken into account (and even if you are above the legal age of majority you still may be considered "young" for these purposes).

      Look, just because there are SOME asshole teens who zip by your street in their pimped out Civic doing 160mph with music so loud you see the windshields vibrating, doesn't mean ALL young drives drive this way, and there should not be a blanket prejudice towards all younger drivers.

      Seeing you whine for suffering the consequences of people with big loans being put in the same category as bad drivers for insurance purposes, while implying young drivers should get higher premiums just because they are young, is hypocritical at best.
      • by Mizled (1000175)

        Way to contribute to the very same problem you are complaining of being treated with (prejudice and irrelevant facts being taken into account).

        Someone mod this guy up. If I had mod points to give you...I would give you all of them because you just served the parent thread his ass on a silver platter.

        I can't agree with you more. They also will give an 18 year old female cheaper insurance than an 18 year old male because studies show males are more likely to have wrecks and speed. Did they ever think that

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Whether you are more likely to have a accident because you are a worse driver or because you drive more often is irrelevant, either way the insurance company will have to pay up. Sure it sucks if you fall into a higher risk group even though you yourself may be a better driver and not likely to have an accident, but it is just the way insurance works.

          Insurance premiums are based on how much the insurance company is likely to pay out, that means higher premiums for groups that are likely to cost them more.
        • The insurance companies, like every other corporate company on Earth only care about one thing, money. They know, on average, what type of people wreck more often, and they know that they will earn more money by charging them a higher premium. It is like a bail bond, the higher risk gets the higher bond, even before it has been proven they're guilty of what they're being accused of. Presumed guilty until proven innocent, and in the case of driving, proven innocent for a guy doesn't happen until you've gone
    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      Furthermore, has anyone paid taxes lately? We carefully pen or key all of our vitals, all of our earnings and where we earned them, all of our expenditures and where we spent them, our political affiliations, our medical conditions, our contact info, our religion, our blood types, et cetera. Then what? We can but choose between the creepy old letter carrier, Chester, and the creepy old internet. Who gets all this juicy data next, we can only imagine. I promise, it is not good.

      You must live in a very stran

      • by cdrguru (88047)
        Who do you have to notify if you move? Do you have to ask permission?

        People move around in the US, enough that it is almost impossible for the government to know your current address.
  • by xk0der (1003200) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @04:00AM (#19936307) Homepage
    I still can't figure out how the hell the so called "hacker" was able to install the so called "snoopware" into their new phones?? ... were these people soooo stupid to have their Bluetooth turned on, or installing any xyz application sent by a person they don't even know??

    May be the MMS or SMS they received with the "snoopware" had the title "P0rn" ...

    Apart from this .. the article seems too far fetched from reality! (IMO)
  • The real trick is battery life, compression and sending it out in real time.
    No good getting something on tape and having it 'dropped' in front of you.
    One of the good examples of this was at the GOP debate with live net streaming.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4916858200 42435524 [google.com]
  • Sounds to me like what is happening now in Germany. In a recent article in a renomated german magazine, they describe how some policemen in one state already turn mobiles into a wiretap, even when the mobile appears to be off. The case of the arrest of New-York mafiaguy John Ardito is probably in the same direction: http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1035_22-6140191.html [zdnet.com]. If you can turn a mobile into a wiretap, and even fake that the mobile is turned off, you most probably can do much more like reading SMS, calend
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      To do that you'd have to have physical access to the mobile I'd expect. Bugging devices is not a new idea and is already controlled by various laws in most countries.
      • Somehow my reply went as reply to the article, not to your post, so here is the reply, sorry for the dupe:

        No, according to the article it's possible to program a mobile through air (as example they say that some providers do that for maintenance). So police and government can work with the provider to accomplish this.
        Alternatively, you have Bluetooth, infrared, WLAN.
        So from how i see it, it is technically possible that people can track my position (that's old), hear what i hear (hands-free-mode, article in
  • If they want a picture of the inside of my pocket, or a closeup of my temple when I'm using the phone, they're welcome.
  • I can barely get my own family and friends to download my photos. If some creepo wants them, woo hoo! =E=
  • No, according to the article it's possible to program a mobile through air (as example they say that some providers do that for maintenance). So police and government can work with the provider to accomplish this.
    Alternatively, you have Bluetooth, infrared, WLAN.
    So from how i see it, it is technically possible that people can track my position (that's old), hear what i hear (hands-free-mode, article in german magazine "Spiegel 29/07"), see my contacts, my calendar, my photos, and activate my camera (tfa).
    Th
  • ...Aluminum foil sales are skyrocketing. One person, who bought 100kg of aluminum foil, even wrapped his glasses in the stuff while franticly screaming something about miniature camera's.
  • Correcting a misconception: CID != ANI

    FTFA:

    Most carriers offer a "skip passcode" feature that lets you turn off voice mail password-checking when you call from your cell phone. But because carriers use Caller ID to verify the phone, cell phones "spoofing" another phone's number can get in, enabling hackers to access your voice mail and other features without ever knowing the password.

    If spoofed CID info allows access to YOUR mobile phone's voice mail, then (IMNSHO) it's time to change carriers!!!

    Background: I worked for a specialized PBX company, hardware and software, in the late 1990's. Things may have changed since then, but I have no doubt I'll get educated quickly if that is the case! :-)

    The quoted part from the article continues a common misconception. First, some definitions:

    • CID: "Caller ID". Just another call feature, can
    • It's harder to aquire the needed control, but certainly not impossible. There are places that will help you.

      There are so many ways. Be government. Pay off a phone company insider. Set up your own phony phone company even.
      • by martyb (196687)

        It's harder to aquire the needed control, but certainly not impossible. There are places that will help you.

        There are so many ways. Be government. Pay off a phone company insider. Set up your own phony phone company even.

        Thanks for the feedback! Your response got me to wondering, so I just did some googling. It appears from the first link I found: Automated Caller ID / ANI Spoofing [rootsecure.net] that it is relatively easy to spoof either of these, today, as long as one has access to a willing VOIP company. Didn't used to be so easy!

  • They're known to teenagers as 'helicopter parents'.
  • that someone might get to see how boring my life really is.
  • A tech support dwad I used to know called a boner a stalker. This was a while back and it seemed less weird than it would today. Well, kinda anyway. The term 'mini-stalker' instantly reminds me of this guy. "I've just measured it and I've got a mini-stalker!!! About 8cm!!! Woo-hoo! Does anyone need service pack two?"

    Made me laugh anyway. . . . . .

  • Yep, it's out there, and it's dead easy to do. Flexispy is a particularly insidious program that allows you to do it all, and do your spying on the tapped phone through a pretty web interface! Anyone can download it, and you only need to have the victim's phone a few minutes to install it! Currently available for all Blackberries, Nokia 60, and Windows Mobile phones, and they say that they are adding more all the time. Here's an article about it - where they are openly soliciting someone to test it out
  • Years ago I found a website (soon taken down) that had snoop recordings taken with "back orifice" (a Windows root-kit).

    Ever since that, the first thing I do when I get a laptop is open it up and remove the built in microphone.
  • of worms, rootkits and spyware uh snoopware to the masses?
    • by argent (18001)
      It's more likely to introduce new 976-style exploits, through autoloading form using "tel:" URIs. The iPhone is not a real smartphone because it has no native API.

      The silver lining in the dark cloud of the iPhone's lack of a native API is that there's no mechanism to install any kind of worm, rootkit, or spyware on the device.

      But of course it's silly to worry about the iPhone, not when there's so many REAL smartphones out there that actually have the technical capabiilty of supporting the kind of viral ecos
  • His name is Bonzi Buddy.

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