And why not? Spend some time here and you can feel as if you’d been admitted to the backstage preparations for a magic show. The difference is that in espionage, life or death and the fate of nations are at stake, rather than whether a woman can be successfully sawed in half or an ace of spades pulled from a shuffled deck. These magicians weren’t performing; they were dueling.
Here, drawn from the immense private collection of the intelligence historian H. Keith Melton, and the collections of the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Reconnaissance Office, are objects ranging from a poisoned needle, hidden inside a coin, to a fragment of the United States Embassy in Moscow that the Soviets riddled with bugs during its construction in the 1980s; two floors were razed and rebuilt.
There is a K.G.B. model of the umbrella that injected a poison ricin pellet into the Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov in 1978; a handmade pair of shoes made for a United States ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the 1960s that Czech intelligence officers bugged with a listening device in the heel; a Stasi-created molar that was hollowed out to allow microdots to be safely stored in a spy’s mouth; and a well-preserved rat with a Velcroed body cavity that was used by Americans in Moscow for exchanges of information without agents’ actually meeting. The rodent, treated with hot pepper sauce to discourage scavenging cats, was easily tossed from a passing car for these “dead drops.”
The gadgets here are full of concealments and misdirection; nothing is what it seems. And much of it is almost quaintly old-fashioned. There are some hints of technological experimentation: a Stasi attaché case fitted with an infrared flash camera that could take pictures in the dark, or the C.I.A. bug that was built inside a cinder block in the visitors’ area of a Soviet embassy and could drill its own listening hole.
But most of these objects, tools of the trade over a half-century, are not the stuff of the “Mission Impossible” franchise; they are almost all deliberately mundane. They are not meant to startle; they are meant to fade into the background. They work like tricks sold in a magic shop. And they must be used with similar skill.
Something else is similar: once explained, the magic is gone. The objects used in espionage can almost seem silly. Really! Grown people sprinkling dust (nitrophenylpentadienal) on objects to track the movements of whoever touched them? Using a hat, glasses and a fake mustache as a disguise? Employing a hollowed-out nickel to hide top-secret microfilm? All of espionage can easily seem like a kid’s game, except for the trails of blood and insight that are invariably left in its wake.
And this show, produced by Base Entertainment, contains more than enough to make it resemble a child’s game: interactive screens on which you can disguise a photo of yourself; kiosks where your voice can be distorted and filtered; a mist-filled dark room with shifting laser beams that challenge you to make your way across, without breaking the circuit. (A password-oriented interactive game is too lame for its climactic position in the exhibition.)
There are also larger objects here that reveal, more dramatically, that technological sophistication is not a requirement, nor is it something that necessarily increases over time. Next to a collapsible motor scooter with which Allied spies parachuted behind enemy lines during World War II is a saddle, draped with an Afghan blanket, that was used by a C.I.A. officer riding across the forbidding terrain during the first months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But the objects selected by Mr. Melton — whose collection of over 9,000 spy devices, books and papers has also helped stock the International Spy Museum in Washington — are not presented simply for sensation’s sake. There are very few weapons here, aside from the ice-climbing ax that was brutally smashed into Trotsky’s skull in Mexico — and we see it mounted near his assassin’s bloodied eyeglasses.
Mr. Melton also has stories behind his acquisition of such objects, though his reluctance to share his methods in too much detail suggests a firsthand experience with the world he is documenting. (How did an original K.G.B. model of the bugged American Embassy get into his hands?)
What happens along the way is that we gain an appreciation for the magic as well as the method; we end up glimpsing what these ordinary objects actually accomplished and what was at stake when they were used. The show could have been stronger if that context had been made clearer, but even with its gadget-centered focus, we learn that this great bag of tricks was no mere game.
“Spy: The Secret World of Espionage” is on view through March 31, 2013, at Discovery Times Square, 226 West 44th Street; discoverytsx.com.
Research Electronics International (REI), a leading manufacturer of security equipment to protect against corporate espionage, asserts that corporate espionage and theft of information is thriving. According to Frank Figliuzzi, FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director, the current FBI caseload shows that commercial secrets worth more than US$13 billion have been stolen from American companies. This number does not include the unreported or undetected losses, nor does it include the losses in the brand value of the victims. The sheer scale of economic espionage against the nation’s top companies threatens America’s economic and technical position in the global economy.
It is a common misconception that espionage only occurs at government agencies and does not affect the business world. However, REI has been promoting that companies should be aware that any information that might benefit a competitor is at risk of espionage or theft, including price lists, customer lists, marketing strategies, insider product information, and financial information. Recently, the FBI launched a campaign promoting corporate espionage awareness including billboards, signs in bus shelters, and website information educating the public about the real and present threat of corporate information theft, and encouraging companies to protect their information from theft.
Companies should be on guard and take the following steps to protect business related information, as stated on the FBI’s website:
1. Recognize there is an insider and outsider threat to your company.
2. Identify and valuate trade secrets.
3. Implement a proactive plan for safeguarding trade secrets.
4. Secure physical and electronic versions of your trade secrets.
5. Confine intellectual knowledge on a “need-to-know” basis.
6. Provide training to employees about your company’s intellectual property plan and security.
For more information on technical equipment to protect against corporate espionage, visit http://www.reiusa.net.
About Research Electronics International
For over 28 years, Research Electronics International (REI) has focused on protecting corporate information, designing and manufacturing technical security equipment to protect against illicit information theft. REI is recognized as an industry leader by corporations, law enforcement agencies, and government agencies for technical security equipment. REI’s corporate offices, RD, manufacturing facilities, and Center for Technical Security are located in Tennessee USA, with an extensive global network of resellers and distribution partners. For more information call +1 (931) 537-6032 or visit REI on the web at http://www.reiusa.net.
Contact Person: Lee Jones
Research Electronics International
Tel: +1 931 537-6032
RESEARCH ELECTRONICS INTERNATIONAL
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an Obama administration appeal arguing that attorneys, journalists and human rights groups have no right to sue over a law making it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on foreign communications.
The justices said they would review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York that the plaintiffs have the legal right to proceed with their challenge to a 2008 amendment to the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The section at issue allows intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on overseas communications, including phone calls and e-mails, more widely and with less judicial oversight than in the past.
The change meant the U.S. government does not have to submit to a special judge an individualized application to monitor a non-American overseas. Instead, the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence can apply for mass surveillance authorization from the judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the attorney general and the director of national intelligence in 2008 in challenging the law as unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs argued they had the legal standing to proceed with their lawsuit because they suspected their communications with people abroad were being monitored.
They said they had reasonable fear of injury from the surveillance and had to take costly, burdensome steps to protect the confidentiality of their communications.
The appeals court agreed and reversed a ruling by a federal judge who dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue because they could not show they had been actually harmed by the surveillance.
The appeals court did not address the merits of the constitutional challenge and that issue will not be before the Supreme Court either.
But even on the standing issue, the Obama administration cited national security in its appeal.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said Congress in adopting the law regulated “the nation’s exceedingly important need to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance” targeting certain non-Americans. The litigation threatened to disrupt important activities “protecting the national security,” he said.
The ACLU opposed the government’s appeal.
“It’s crucial that the government’s surveillance activities be subject to constitutional limits, but the administration’s argument would effectively insulate the most intrusive surveillance programs from judicial review,” Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case during its upcoming term that begins in October, with a ruling likely early next year.
The Supreme Court case is James Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, No. 11-1025.
(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Vicki Allen)
The security threat to mobiles has just stepped up.
Phone crashing regularly? Strange SMS bothering you for an update or a juicy link? It’s time to wise up to mobile malware.
Security experts have shown that iPhones and Android phones are vulnerable to the same type of “drive-by” attacks that have long plagued PC users.
A team of researchers infected a Google Android smartphone on Wednesday, live, in front of a packed audience of computer security buffs to prove how mobile malware is now on the cusp of the big time, after so many years of unfulfilled predictions.
Grabbed: a screenshot of the researchers’ Command Control server shows a person with an infected phone traveling around Washigton DC. The blue P pin shows where he placed a phone call. Clicking on this icon would play the recording.
George Kurtz, co-author of Hacking Exposed, former McAfee security champion and now at the helm of CrowdStrike alongside former McAfee leading researcher Dmitri Alperovitch, demonstrated how the team designed a smartphone remote access tool (RAT) and eavesdrop operation.
They then set about buying the necessary items to make it happen, later coding, then executing the attack on their demo phone.
“We believe we are here today and on the cusp of what we’re going to see in the future. If you think of what a smartphone has the capability to do, it’s the ultimate spying tool. Always powered on, always connected, travels around with us at all times,” Kurtz began.
“If you haven’t figured out privacy is dead, this is going to do it for you.”
The scenario was a competitor wanting to intercept calls and text messages on Kurtz’s phone and the attack was Webkit-based. Webkit is a tool used by Apple, Google and RIM to render HTML websites in Safari, Chrome and Android, and the latest versions of the BlackBerry, respectively.
The team bought 20 Webkit vulnerabilities – or bugs – in the underground for $US1400, spent approximately $US14,000 developing the malware code (“weaponisation phase”) and engineering root access, as well as building their own command and control centre to be able to harvest the fruits of their exploits.
The attack followed several steps: the first was a text message delivered to the smartphone appearing to come from the mobile carrier requesting a system update via a link. Once clicked, the drive-by link delivered the first part of the malware to the phone to elevate access (root) privilege, then cause it to crash.
It then automatically rebooted, executing the second part of the malware and hijacking the phone’s communications.
When Kurtz made a call to Alperovitch, the audience could hear the live conversation – as well as what was said before the call connected. On the command and control centre’s screen, a map positioned Kurtz and Alperovitch’s locations, the start of transmission, and the text of a subsequent text message Alperovitch sent Kurtz.
They said the attack did not require a phone be jailbroken and would work on any of the devices using Webkit – although this particular code was customised for the Adroid 2.2 (Froyo) version.
Kurtz told Fairfax Media such an attack would be possible on the iPhone because of the root access obtained via the browser vulnerability.
“We would have to get code execution via the browser, then escalate our privilege to root and totally bypass the app store [as we did] with Android.
“This is the point we are making: drive-by attacks will hit the phone just like the PCs,” he said.
But he said he didn’t want the audience to develop a bout of paranoia.
“The sky is not falling, these are very targeted attacks.”
The Government on Friday denied reports of bugging devices being discovered in some offices in South Block including that of the Defence Minister, Mr A.K. Antony. The offices of Prime Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister are all located in the South Block.
“Routine checks are conducted in the offices of Defence Minister and other officers in South Block. Nothing has been found in these checks,” the statement said.
This follows reports that the Defence Ministry had detected alleged bugging in the office of Mr Antony and sought a probe. The reports claimed that the Intelligence Bureau was being asked to conduct the probe.
The latest incident was said to have been brought to the notice of authorities by two Army personnel manning the phone lines in South Block after which IB was asked to conduct a probe.
This is not the first time that reports have surfaced about bugging devices being allegedly discovered in the corridors of power in Delhi. Last year, there were reports of alleged bugging devices being found in the office of the Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.
ashphadnis [at] thehindu [dot] co [dot] in
Jayde Consulting's team are experienced practitioners of technical surveillance countermeasure (TSCM) sweeps, vulnerability assessments and counter-espionage consulting. We work within Australia and regularly internationally. We also maintain close associates in Europe and the USA.
Please telephone us on our Sydney number for a confidential discussion:
Posts By Month
Keep it Confidential
Jayde Consulting are the preeminent providers of services to protect against information theft both physically and electronically. We are the preferred choice for a significant number of global corporations. Discretion is assured.
Don't risk your most sensitive corporate information to fly-by-nighters or inexperienced operators.