Protecting Businesses From Industrial Espionage: Why Counter Surveillance is Important

1 Feb

In terms of the many different types of surveillance techniques being employed around the world, industrial espionage is unique for a few different reasons. Also called economic espionage, industrial espionage is often employed for commercial purposes instead of those of national security. It often occurs between two or more different corporations and is often used to gain insights that can be used to build a competitive advantage in an admittedly crowded marketplace.

Thanks to the global economy that we’re now living in, industrial espionage cases are also on the rise. In 2015, CNN reported that the FBI had seen a sharp increase in these types of cases – particularly notable due to their Chinese involvement. When technology has advanced to the point where even the smallest businesses can now compete on a global scale, industrial espionage has very much become an international concern.

When people turn to the topic of counter surveillance and protecting themselves from these types of incidents, they most often assume that their primary concern should be malware. Rogue computer programs, when downloaded to a system, can potentially compromise every last kilobyte of data contained on it. While this will always be a danger, in terms of industrial espionage the tools are often much more severe. Many spies in these situations choose to bypass malware altogether, instead getting the information they need via a variety of terrifying “black bag” tricks.”


One common black bag trick often employed in these cases is called smartphone piggybacking, using a feature built into a smartphone from the time of purchase against its users. Most modern day smartphones have the ability to set themselves up as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing the owner to use the phone’s Internet connection on a nearby device like a laptop or tablet. Many hackers often use these Wi-Fi hotspots in public locations as a way to trick people into connecting to them. You think you’re connecting to the Wi-Fi hotspot in your favorite coffee shop, but in reality you’re connected directly to someone’s phone.

Once that connection has been established, all it takes is the right piece of software to “snoop” on every piece of data you’re sending or receiving – no malware required.

Fake Cell Phone Towers

Another common technique employed in the case of industrial espionage is the fake cell phone tower. All smartphones need to use a nearby tower to send and receive not only calls, but information from the Internet via the cellular network. Every single piece of data you access on your phone at some point will make its way across one of these towers. If someone sets up a fake tower near your location and your phone connects to it, suddenly they have something more powerful than any strain of malware could deliver: they have all of your data and they can do anything they want with it.

Vulnerabilities = No Malware Required

Another unfortunately common tactic employed by hackers involves the use of a smartphone or other device’s own security vulnerabilities against it. There have been many reported cases of people gaining access to a smartphone via a network connection and using security holes to either gain undetected access to the device’s microphone, its camera or both at the same time. At that point, the user will likely never realize that they’re carrying a portable surveillance device around with them in their pocket all day long. By that point, the damage has already been done.

All of this goes to underline the importance of counter surveillance. In an age where more and more of our personal (and professional) information is being stored digitally, taking steps to protect yourself from prying eyes is more essential than ever. Understanding what you’re up against – and acknowledging the fact that it isn’t just malware that you have to worry about – is one of the keys to making sure that your confidential business information stays that way.


Best Practices for Hiding Your Nanny Camera to Avoid Detection

30 Jan

Technology has advanced to the point where the type of nanny camera that you can walk into a store and buy today would have been practically unthinkable even ten years ago. For just a few hundred dollars, you can buy something that is compact and wireless, easy to place and virtually undetectable to the naked eye. You can find models with motion detection, night vision, the capability to stream footage over the Internet, and more – all for less than the amount of money you paid for the smartphone you carry around with you all day long.
Yet, all of the technology in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t place your nanny camera in the right way.


The Problems with Placement

The most obvious issue with placing your nanny camera in the wrong location is that the person you’re trying to covertly watch is going to find it. A lot of this comes down to the type of camera you buy and the environment that it was designed for. If your nanny camera is hidden in a stuffed animal like a teddy bear, for example, it would probably go entirely unnoticed if you placed it in your child’s bedroom. The person you’re trying to watch would undoubtedly see it, but they probably wouldn’t think twice.
If you put that same teddy bear nanny camera in your kitchen, however, it’s probably going to warrant a closer look. A nanny camera built into a USB charger that plugs into the wall, on the other hand, would make perfect sense in a kitchen – someone would probably just think, “Oh, someone must charge a smartphone in the kitchen,” and would likely go about their business.
Equally important is the idea that you’ll harm the quality of the footage you’re able to get. If you aren’t acutely aware of things like camera lens angles, recommended distances and more, you could wind up with crystal clear footage of an empty corner of a room with your subject frustratingly out of frame the entire time.

Best Practices for Nanny Cam Positioning

For the best results, always run a test with your nanny camera to help you determine ideal placement BEFORE you start using it in important situations. Remember that what you see with your eye might not be exactly what the lens is capturing, so run a test to check for obstructions and other issues that may harm recorded footage quality.
During your test run, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the viewing angle of the camera’s lens – both what space is in the frame from left to right AND from top to bottom. This is another reason why running an initial test is so important – if the environment you’re covering is a large one, you may have to place the camera much farther back in the room than you initially think to capture it all.
Regarding lighting, always make sure that you do not point the nanny camera’s lens directly at a light source like a desk lamp or overhead light. Even if you don’t think the light is too bright, it may significantly degrade the quality of the footage the camera can record from that angle. For the best results, either don’t aim the camera at the light source or move the light source before filming starts.

These are just a few of the key tips that you can use to help properly place your nanny camera to avoid detection. Remember that this is the key to successful surveillance – you’re trying to get a record of the way someone acts when they think that nobody is watching, which means that they think there are no consequences. By keeping these best practices in mind, you’ll be well on your way to getting all of the footage you need.

AT&T and Phone Spying: What You Need to Know

25 Jan

Phone spying has always been a very legitimate concern, but in the last few years that has grown tenfold – especially when you consider just how powerful modern day smartphones are. Decades ago, a phone was exactly that – a way to send and receive calls. If you didn’t say anything incriminating on a phone, phone spying wasn’t necessarily something that you were worried about – even IF you were up to no good.


Flash forward to today, and our entire lives are contained on a smartphone’s hard drive. People’s calls, text and other instances of their personal lives are present. Many people store credit card information, bank account data and other important financial items on them. Business professionals use them to access, edit and send mission-critical documents that would bring even the strongest company to its knees if they were to fall into the wrong hands.

So when a report surfaces that a major phone provider like AT&T may be spying on the American public for profit, it’s enough to get just about everyone to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what seems to have happened according to an incident that has been going on since 2013.

AT&T and Hemisphere

Project Hemisphere is the name of a secret program run by AT&T that was designed, in part, to search through trillions of calls and take a closer look at cellular data that was previously assumed to be private. Using this data, AT&T (or the authorities) could not only determine exactly where someone is located just based on their phone records, but they could gain insight into who they’re talking to. They could extrapolate WHY they’re talking to that person and what they may do in the future.

When Project Hemisphere was first uncovered by The New York Times in 2013, it was described as a “collaborative partnership” between AT&T and the United States government. Representatives from the Justice Department indicated that it was critical in terms of bringing criminals to justice. They also said that it was very selectively (and rarely deployed), and it was almost always used to fight drug-related issues in our communities.

As it turns out, that may not be exactly true.

Internal documents from AT&T obtained by The Daily Beast indicate that Project Hemisphere is used in a huge number of situation BEYOND combating drug crimes. Not only that, but it’s less a partnership and more a product. It’s a tool that AT&T designed, developed and marketed to the government – which the government then paid for using taxpayer money.

The factor that really had people worried is that according to AT&T’s own documents, NO warrant is required for law enforcement or government officials to make use of Project Hemisphere. Instead, they must agree to a simple rule: they will not disclose that Project Hemisphere insights are being used in an investigation, should that investigation go on to become public knowledge.

Almost instantly, this became the subject of great controversy. It was particularly troublesome to a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. It was specifically cited by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign as reasons why the merger should either be heavily scrutinized or stopped at all costs.

At its core, Project Hemisphere is just yet another example of the huge volume of information that companies like AT&T are collecting from smartphone users. Though Project Hemisphere is just the latest and the most widely known example of this, it is undoubtedly not the first – or the last. It all goes to underline the importance of taking steps to project yourself in the digital age, particularly as smartphones become a much more ubiquitous part of our daily lives. Certain devices do exist that can limit a person’s ability to spy on your smartphone, but people have to both know these devices exist AND understand the issues they’re facing before they can really do any good.


Scotland Is Using GPS Tracking and Other Technology to Fight Repeat Offenders

23 Jan

For years, people have been using GPS tracking for a lot more than just receiving turn-by-turn directions. Are you curious about what your cat is up to at night while you’re fast asleep? Just put a GPS tracker on its collar and let technology take care of the rest. Are you sick and tired of losing your keys all the time and finally want to do something about it? Put a GPS tracker on your key ring and, with the right app by your side, you’ll never lose track of them again.

scotland police

Law enforcement agencies around the world have also been using GPS technology to combat a wide range of issues in our society. Case in point: Officials in Scotland are using GPS tracking in association with alcohol testing to help keep an eye on offenders in the area. Their efforts, which are already a tremendous success, are directly responsible for bringing conviction rates for repeat offenders to a 17-year low.

GPS Tracking and Scotland: Fighting a Problem

The use of GPS technology is just one small but essential part of a much larger whole. People who have been convicted of alcohol-related offenses, particularly driving offenses, can be ordered to have their sweat tested for alcohol limits by the Scottish government as a part of their rehabilitation program. This, coupled with the GPS-tagging technology, helps keep an eye on their whereabouts. This is being done in an effort to avoid rushing repeat offenders to jail as the only option. Given the major declines across the board and the positive results with young people in particular, the program already seems to be working.

A representative from the Scottish government, Michael Matheson, said that there are always going to be crimes in which jailing someone is the most logical course of action to take. However, so many offenses — particularly those involving drugs or alcohol — need to embrace a much more reasonable response for long-term success. International research has long suggested that merely jailing someone is NOT the best way to prevent the person from offending again in the future.

In these cases, GPS tracking is less about being able to prove whether someone did or did not go to a bar but more about opening up new opportunities to help address the root cause of the issue at hand. A criminologist from Stirling University, Hannah Graham, said that GPS tracking helps to closely monitor someone and offer targeted support in the days or weeks leading up to their trial, all while continuing to guarantee public safety as a result. It isn’t about creating a situation in which committing a crime is impossible — this is woefully short-sighted on the best of days. Instead, it’s about offering the necessary rehabilitation to foster an environment in which an offender must leave crime behind.

It’s important to note that the alcohol problem in Scotland is a serious one. According to a group called Alcohol Focus Scotland, alcohol is a major contributing factor in more than half of the violent crimes across the country. The use of GPS tracking is not concerned about jailing someone until they no longer have a drinking problem; instead, it offers the offender the support they need to address those problems head on.

This is also not the first time that GPS tracking technology has been used in law enforcement in Scotland. A pilot program was instituted in recent years focused on both child sex offenders and in specific immigration cases. Similar programs are being carried out across the United Kingdom as well. The Scottish government indicated that they were so pleased with the results thus far that they have already begun to study how to roll out GPS tagging to a much wider audience. They indicated that they would like to get to a point that it is used in more than just cases involving specific offenses, such as drug and DUI convictions.


GPS Tracking: Geo-Locating Down to the CENTIMETER

18 Jan

If you had to make a list of incredible technologies that people tend to take for granted, the GPS would undoubtedly be right at the top. GPS became an important part of our daily lives over the last decade when consumer-level devices were able to provide us with turn-by-turn directions between any two points, completely eliminating the need for something like an atlas — and causing a significant amount of disruption at the same time.


Then, GPS devices were embedded inside every “smartphone” sold across the world — further advancing just what the tech was capable of and removing the need for standalone GPS devices practically overnight. Now, as the technology itself continues to advance, it seems as if global positioning systems are breaking new ground all over again. A team of researchers based out of the University of California say that they’ve discovered a newer, more efficient way to process data from GPS satellites — allowing them to enhance the overall accuracy of readings from a few meters (where they are now) to a few CENTIMETERS.

The State of GPS Today

The implications of this new computational method go far beyond consumer-level applications. This technique won’t necessarily provide us with more accurate GPS-generated directions, as we’ve really already pushed that particular benefit as far as it will go. Instead, this will be a massive advantage to industries in which precision is essential — namely, in terms of technology such as aviation, naval aviation, self-driving cars and others.

Consider the example of the self-driving car. It’s one thing for an autonomous vehicle to know that it’s supposed to go north for 500 feet, then take a left at the next major intersection. It’s another thing for it to try to do this while in traffic, mere inches from other cars and obstacles at any given point. With GPS tracking that is accurate to just a few centimeters, the chances of that same self-driving car getting from “point A” to “point B” without getting into an accident are much, much greater.

This will also be a huge boon in terms of asset tracking and protection, something that is particularly necessary as more and more factories and warehouse environments across the country turn to automation in an effort to increase efficiency and cut costs. GPS tracking tags have long been used to identify everything from merchandise on store shelves to equipment in a warehouse. Now, an employee will be able to see EXACTLY where something is at any given time, all with the right GPS tag and an app on their smartphone or other mobile device.

The experts at also indicate that this advancement will generate a significant boon to the wearable technology industry. Centimeter-level accurate location data being shared between a mobile phone and a wearable device such as a smart watch will not only increase what these two devices are able to accomplish when tethered together, but it will do it WITHOUT increasing the demand for power at the same time.

Let Math Be Your Shining Light

None of this would be possible without the team of researchers led by professor Jay Farrell. The approach itself is advanced, but it’s actually based on some fairly straightforward math. A series of common equations are used to determine a GPS receiver’s position, which is then compared against data being received by the connected satellite. Making just a few basic adjustments to those equations helps make it easier to determine exactly where the GPS receiver is, improving accuracy as a result.

In just a few short years, GPS accuracy has gone from approximately 10 meters to 2 meters and now to just a few centimeters. As global positioning system technology continues to advance at the breakneck pace it currently enjoys, it’s exciting to think about just what is in store for us tomorrow, five years from now and beyond.


Airbnb and Hidden Cameras: A Match Made in Disaster (and Lawsuits)

16 Jan

Airbnb has been a controversial topic for much of its existence. For those unfamiliar, it’s a service that essentially lets you “sub-let” your home or apartment whenever you want. Are you going to be out of town for a few days? Let a visitor to your city stay in your place while you’re away, helping someone to score something much more affordable than a hotel and letting you make a few extra dollars in the process.


Naturally, landlords have a lot to say about this – as do insurance companies. Airbnb is likely expressly forbidden by your lease agreement (or if it’s not, it will be soon). However, this doesn’t stop would-be entrepreneurs from doing it anyway. Likewise, if anything happens to your home while you’re away, you’re probably facing an up-hill battle in terms of renter’s or homeowner’s insurance claims.

There’s also the curious case of “what happens if you hide a camera in your Airbnb rental, which your tenant then goes on to find?” That’s exactly what happened in Irvine, California in 2015 in a case that is currently playing out in the public court system.

The Hidden Camera

In 2015, a German woman was visiting the Irvine, California area to take in the sights and visit some friends. She was planning on visiting for a month, so instead of staying in a hotel she found a great deal on an Airbnb in the area and went about her business – or at least, that’s what she thought.

The woman indicated during an interview that she likes to sleep at night without any clothes on, which is partially where her problems began. After staying in the home for a few days, her partner discovered a hidden camera concealed beneath a pile of candles – which is when the horror set in.

She realized that in addition to nude footage of her – which she feared could easily make its way onto the Internet – the camera also recorded audio. This meant that all of her personal conversations – both on the phone and in the room – could also be “up for grabs,” so to speak.

The Legal Implications

The woman wasted absolutely no time filing two lawsuits – one against the owners of the home and one against Airbnb itself. In terms of the owners, the suit alleged invasion of privacy and emotional distress. The Airbnb suit took things a step further, alleging negligence. She argued that this is exactly the type of thing Airbnb should be working hard to protect against in the first place.

Airbnb was, not surprisingly, non-committal in its response. In an official statement issued to its website at the time, representatives from the company said that “We expect hosts to respect their guests’ privacy. Although we can’t provide you with specific legal advice, the use of surveillance equipment may violate the law in your jurisdiction.”

The law that Airbnb was referring to is very much in place in the state of California. California is a two-party consent state, meaning that any recorded conversation where both parties (or at least two parties depending on the size of the conversation) are informed is absolutely against the law. So at least from that perspective, the woman does seem to be on valid legal ground.

Unfortunately, this is also not a unique problem – at least as far as Airbnb is concerned. Earlier in 2015, another hidden camera was discovered in a rental property – this time in Canada of all places.

As hidden camera technology becomes more advanced and more affordable at the same time, you can absolutely expect this type of thing to continue to happen. Anyone renting ANY property that others have access to – be it an Airbnb or a more traditional hotel – should take steps to protect their privacy at all costs as a result.

Six Spy Gadgets Ripped From the Movies That Actually Exist  

11 Jan

One of the most exciting elements of every spy movie isn’t necessarily the surveillance that is constantly going on, but rather the state-of-the-art gadgets used by the main character to conduct that surveillance in the first place. James Bond has had an endless number of advanced gadgets over the years, and even Batman has his utility belt filled with everything from trackers to audio recorders. You may be surprised to learn that not all of these devices are science fiction — thanks to the break-neck pace at which technology has evolved, many of them have become science FACT.

Here is a list of six spy gadgets that may feel like they were ripped straight from a Hollywood feature film but that are available for you to buy right now.


Clear HD Video Glasses w/ 8GB Internal Memory

If these eyeglasses with an HD video recorder inside look familiar, it’s probably because one of the main characters uses something very similar in the film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” The camera lens is hidden in the bridge of the glasses, making them perfect for discrete face-to-face recording. They can capture faces very clearly from across a room thanks to a 720p HD resolution and even have 90 full minutes of battery life.


HD Spy Watch with Night Vision

James Bond regularly uses spy watches throughout his daily life, though most of those have lasers hidden inside. Though the HD Spy Watch with Night Vision won’t let you break into a safe, it WILL allow you to capture crystal clear, 1080p HD video even in total darkness. It stores one hour of HD video with no memory card, has a two-hour battery life and is even water resistant — allowing it to record in a wide range of conditions.


Paraben iPhone iRecovery Stick

On the TV show “Breaking Bad,” Walter White once used a simple USB device to monitor his DEA-agent brother’s investigations of his criminal empire. Sounds like a plot device, right? Wrong. You can essentially do the same thing right now with the Paraben iPhone iRecovery Stick. This spy device recovers ALL deleted data from iOS devices like iPhones and iPads and can even help restore lost voicemails, social media messages and more in a way that won’t leave a trace.


Executive Digital Audio Recording Pen – MQ72

On the recent HBO show “Vice Principals,” one of the main characters uses a spy pen to record the illicit activities of their boss with the intention of later using that data for blackmail. It becomes a pretty significant plot device, but what you may not realize is that similar pens exist in real life right now. The Executive Digital Audio Recording Pen captures crystal clear audio, even across a large room. It’s voice activated, stores 16 hours of audio and features an astounding 12-hour battery life.

720p HD Wi-Fi IP Light Bulb Camera

Just about every room you walk into has a light bulb in it, but what you may not realize is that every room may ALSO have a camera as well. The 720p HD Wi-Fi IP Light Bulb Camera doesn’t just include 720p HD video recording capabilities, but it can also live stream video to a phone or tablet for covert surveillance. This is exactly the type of thing that a movie spy would use to get a leg up on the international terrorist he was trying to bring down once and for all.

Xtremelife Smoke Detector Camera with 30 Day Battery Vision

Finally, we have the Xtremelife Smoke Detector Camera — a motion activated camera that records astounding 720p quality video, even in total darkness. It features a 30-day battery life and can store up to 19 hours of HD video with a 64GB memory card. Q from MI-6 was great at hiding cameras and other surveillance equipment in everyday items, so we’re honestly a little surprised that he didn’t come up with this one first!