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Cover Your Computer Mics and WebCams

by Ward Carroll on April 14, 2008

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The NSA is not the only agency with advanced eavesdropping capabilities.

Cyber espionage is getting renewed attention as fresh evidence emerges of computer spying against corporations and government agencies here and abroad. Late last year MI5 warned British companies of Chinese espionage activities. Computer Security Professionals have stated there is growing evidence of attacks from China and other countries. Zhao Shangse, an official from the Chinese embassy in London, has denied the allegations. This is not new. Way back in 2001 when we were preparing for my congressional testimony and demonstration we considered hacking the computer and using the webcam and built-in PC microphone to look and listen in. We had to scrap that plan when we found out that we had to use a dial up modem to connect in the hearing room.

Now many more people have caught on to our tricks. Numerous news stories report the use of Trojans and Worms using webcams to spy on users. In one case it was college students spying on female students.

Other stories report that similar malicious code is in use by corporate and government spies alike. With the growth of VoIP this takes on a new and more significant risk. In November of 2007, CISCO Systems confirmed it is possible to eavesdrop on remote conversations using Cisco VoIP phones.

Multiple computer manufacturers admitted that microphones attached to their workstations can be used to eavesdrop on conversations near the computer. I discussed cyber spying with the experts at Spy-Ops and they strongly recommended microphones on systems in sensitive areas be either physically switched off or totally disconnected from the system. In addition, they told me that last year the global cost of industrial espionage topped $1.5 trillion dollars.

Kevin Coleman

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