The FBI can secretly turn on laptop cameras; mobile makes things tough

surveillance servers

Sigh. Yes; the FBI are indeed looking for a man called Mo. It cannot be me. It is certainly not me. I have never set foot in the US of A. More importantly, I am not a criminal element. So, chill. Anyway, reports about the investigation reveals that the FBI are able to switch on laptop cameras remotely – and without the end user being aware – to spy on him. Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post report:

The FBI’s elite hacker team designed a piece of malicious software that was to be delivered secretly when Mo signed on to his Yahoo e-mail account, from any computer anywhere in the world, according to the documents. The goal of the software was to gather a range of information — Web sites he had visited and indicators of the location of the computer — that would allow investigators to find Mo and tie him to the bomb threats.

Such high-tech search tools, which the FBI calls “network investigative techniques,” have been used when authorities struggle to track suspects who are adept at covering their tracks online. The most powerful FBI surveillance software can covertly download files, photographs and stored e-mails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers, say court documents and people familiar with this technology.

But Mobile Changes The Game

What happens though if Mo were to sign into his Yahoo account on a smartphone or tablet and click on the link from there? Perhaps the download system recognises the mobile platform and delivers a download that is compatible with it, say an Android app?

Also read:  Why mobile apps may kill Google

While the report does not shed light on this, it does state that the move away from traditional computing makes things tougher for the FBI:

The FBI’s technology continues to advance as users move away from traditional computers and become more savvy about disguising their locations and identities. “Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas said, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”

I find the whole thing fascinating. You can read more on the pursuit of Mo on the Washington Post.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

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