'Slurping' and other cyberspying expected at Olympics

U.S. intelligence and security officials are concerned that spies in China will be targeting U.S. corporate and government officials at the Beijing Olympics, according to a Wall Street Journal report (17 July 2008).

"[S]o many people are going to the Olympics and are going to get electronically undressed," said Joel Brenner, the government's top counterintelligence officer.

[Brenner] tells of one computer-security expert who powered up a new Treo hand-held computer when his plane landed in China. By the time he got to his hotel, a handful of software programs had been wirelessly inserted.

The spy tactics, according to the article, include the following:

  • copying information contained in laptop computers at airport checkpoints or hotel rooms;
  • wirelessly inserting spyware on BlackBerry devices;
  • and a technique dubbed "slurping" that uses Bluetooth technology to steal data from electronic devices.

Experts suggest leaving the company laptop at home, or using a special, stripped-down, encrypted "travel laptop" that doesn't have sensitive data and can be sanitized when you get back home.

The Wall Street Journal article continues:

Some companies are taking steps to increase security. General Electric Co. encourages traveling employees to leave laptops behind or use a stripped-down travel laptop and encrypted hard drives, said spokesman Jeff DeMarrais.

Pfizer Inc. is evaluating a policy that would require employees to take travel laptops to a number of countries, including China, said spokesman Chris Loder.

A spokesman for China's foreign affairs ministry called the allegations "entirely fabricated, and seriously misleading."

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