Yes, Virginia, even the LED lights might be 'listening'

As if a person might not be concerned enough about privacy and surveillance, the improvements to electronic spying tech and the drop in price for digital storage will soon allow governments to hoover up all data in the here-and-now but execute retroactive surveillance. The government's domestic spying and e-hoarding epidemic will worsen. According to a Brookings Institute report "Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Government [PDF], by 2015 it will cost only two cents to store all phone calls made by the average mobile phone user. Now picture this, a city with a population of 12 million which has about 500,000 video cameras, one video cam for every 24 people. By 2020, the declining costs for digital storage will make it possible to store all of that video acquired, in high resolution, for about a quarter per person. As for other types of digital communication, don't count on encryption not to be cracked.

John Villaseno concluded [PDF], "In countries where there is no meaningful public debate on privacy, there is no reason to expect governments not to fully exploit the ability to build databases containing every phone conversation, location data for almost every person and vehicle, and video from every public space in an entire country." The consequences of the "coming era of ubiquitous surveillance" to countries with a "complete absence of privacy considerations" will affect all of us.


Regarding global scale surveillance for real-time video streaming, DARPA is working on a space-based spy telescope that can hover in orbit to "take real-time images or live video of any spot on Earth." While it's not DARPA-sponsored, there were other methods for being bugged and counter-bugged. TSCM (technical surveillance counter-measures) were posted on Cryptome from the TSCM-L Google group. The group is described as being "sponsored by Granite Island Group to improve the profession of hunting spies, and to educate the security industry in the craft of technical counter-intelligence, TSCM, and the hunting of spies by targeting the tools they use to eavesdrop on thier [sic] targets."

For the past several months I have been diligently, and with Law Enforcement approval, researching several 'exotic modulation' audio surveillance devices that have been seen in Europe and are now in North America. The devices included high quality Ultrasonic, inductive and light modulated listening devices. Some of the results were stunning, and the standard sweep tools most of us buy in North America simply can't detect them. For example, there is one modified LED bulb that will send audio over 300 meters, a nasty ultrasonic audio implant that sends room audio via fortuitous audio pathways, and a kit that allows the attacker to modify any color LED light found in a common appliance and turn it into an audio transmitter.  The last and most important device for those of us who work with high threat levels is the inductive device. It literally goes through anything and it is very scary. Qualified sweepers can view these new and significant devices at in the government and LEO restricted area.

The Canadian company Waypoint Counter Surveillance sells a Universal Exotic Modulation Detector (EMD) which claims to allow "when checking radiating fields within a room, to detect, localize and demodulate unusual technical surveillance systems including visible and non visible bulb, LED, IR, UV and laser light, ultrasonic audio transmission and induction audio transmission."

At this time of year when many of us are surrounded by an inordinate amount of LED bulbs via holiday decorations, the idea of Christmas lights spying on anyone by potentially "listening" for audio seemed extra creepy. This sent me on a search for other technical surveillance counter-measures (TSCM) equipment that had "restricted" access to the details.

Global Security Solution's government audio surveillance methods have restricted access to keep you from learning more about them unless you are a governmental law enforcement officer or authorized military personnel. The site lists all kinds of national security tech solutions like "completely stealth" cell phone interceptors to record all "conversations between the two targeted phones simultaneously, and save them to a standard WAV file." Additional security solutions include the GSS Wi-Fi Interceptor which taps wireless WEP communication and decodes it "without losing any intercepted data," and other undetectable MASS monitoring solutions.

After reading all this, all I want for Christmas is an industrial-strength tin foil hat. Don't worry, that was joke . . . sort of. For those who might really freak out at the possibilities and develop PTSD, perhaps they should hold out for the Pentagon's memory adjustment pills to rewrite traumatic memories and overwrite those fear?

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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