FutureWatch – Microphone with an Ear and Brains, or how to stay ahead of the bad guys…

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Clients know how quickly technology advances, and they occasionally ask…

“Aren’t you always one step behind the bad guys?”

I’ve heard some colleagues agree, and even mention it themselves as a pre-sweep hedge against failure, along with the idiotic statement, “All bets are off once we leave.” Talk about defeatist logic.

The bad guys question is a good one, however, and there are several answers. All depend upon the mindset of the TSCM team…

  1. Yes, if you buy a detection gadget and only read the instructions.
  2. Yes, if you just surf the Internet for education.
  3. Yes, if you’re getting your education from an annual TSCM seminar, or occasional training course.
  4. No, if you pay attention to research papers, newly developing electronic components and processes, before they are used in surveillance devices.

Here is a Number 4 example I came across this week… a very tiny microphone with an ear, a brain, and almost no need to be fed electricity.

Piezoelectric MEMS MicrophoneWake-On Sound – Piezoelectric MEMS Microphone
PUI Audio’s ZeroPower Listening™ piezoelectric MEMS microphone designed for ultra-low power always listening solutions. 

PUI Audio’s PMM-3738-VM1010-R is a single-ended analog MEMS microphone with wake-on sound. The wake-on sound mode allows for detection of voice activity while consuming only 5 μA of supply current (9 μW of power). In wake-on sound mode, a sound in the vocal band above the level threshold instantly alerts a processor of an acoustic event. The processor (DSP or voice processor) then switches the PMM-3738-VM1010-R into normal mode, with full audio output within 100 microseconds. Fast enough for the microphone to capture the triggering sound and pass it along for processing. This is the system architecture for ZeroPower Listening. 

Wake-on sound delivers voice activation to battery-powered voice-interface consumer devices, such as smart speakers, smart TV remote controls, smart headphones, and IoT smart home products, while drawing nearly zero power. 

PUI Audio’s PMM-3738-VM1010-R, the first wake-on sound MEMS microphone, brings voice activation to battery-powered devices of all kinds. Drawing a scant 5 μA of current while in listening mode, PUI Audio’s newest piezoelectric MEMS microphone is the only device that uses sound energy itself to wake a system from full power-down. 

The PMM-3738-VM1010-R features a configurable voice zone, allowing voice in a 5 foot to 20 foot radius-zone to trigger the system and increase to a higher-power mode. When the environment is quiet, the system can enter the low-power ”wake-on-sound” mode.

Imagine the new types of eavesdropping devices this microphone will make possible.

Combine this with a battery powered bug that recharges using ambient radio-frequency signals, and you have a sleeper bug that could (theoretically) last forever. 

The bad guys probably haven’t built and deployed this yet. When they do, it won’t be a surprise to us.

The posts tagged FutureWatch you see in the Security Scrapbook are examples of Number 4 attention to detail. Here are some more…
https://counterespionage.com/futurewatch-cheap-difficult-to-detec/
https://counterespionage.com/solar-powered-smartphones-and-more/

New Clickless Bluetooth Attack – Billions of Devices Vulnerable

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Researchers have devised an attack that uses the wireless technology to hack a wide range of devices, including those running Android, Linux, and, until a patch became available in July, Windows.

BlueBorne, as the researchers have dubbed their attack, is notable for its unusual reach and effectiveness. Virtually any Android, Linux, or Windows device that hasn’t been recently patched and has Bluetooth turned on can be compromised by an attacking device within 32 feet. It doesn’t require device users to click on any links, connect to a rogue Bluetooth device, or take any other action, short of leaving Bluetooth on. The exploit process is generally very fast, requiring no more than 10 seconds to complete…

“Just by having Bluetooth on, we can get malicious code on your device,” Nadir Izrael, CTO and cofounder of security firm Armis, told Ars. “BlueBorne abuses the fact that when Bluetooth is on, all of these devices are always listening for connections.”

Patch now, if you haven’t already. more

Cautionary Tale: Spycams in Schools

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As the school season starts, unfortunately it’s time to remind children to be alert for spycams. Unfortunately, this is a story which pops up at least once or twice per month. Different players, same teacher v. student scenario…

Canada – A gymnastics coach who secretly filmed his young athletes using the toilet has received a two-year sentence for making and possessing child pornography. 

Just one of many disguises.

Angelo Despotas, 48, betrayed the trust of the students he was supposed to be teaching, guiding and inspiring, provincial court Judge Jim Threlfall told a sentencing hearing in Kelowna, B.C.

“The damage done to the victims is incalculable,” Threlfall said. “Many of the victims had trained with him for years.”

Despotas earlier pleaded guilty to the charges and received two consecutive sentences of 14 months for making child pornography and 10 months for possessing it. more

The Good News, Bad News VPN Joke

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In January this year, China announced a 14-month campaign to crack down on VPNs in a bid to tighten online surveillance
ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China which opens in October….

Unlike individual users, multinational firms operating in China are still permitted to use VPNs in what amounts to something of a legal grey area, but it is likely that this usage will be restricted to software approved by the government, which will presumably have backdoors installed to allow eavesdropping, raising fears of an increase in industrial espionage activities. more

Apple Watch is Center of Sports Spying Scandal

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For decades, spying on another team has been as much a part of baseball’s gamesmanship as brushback pitches and hard slides. The Boston Red Sox have apparently added a modern — and illicit — twist: They used an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees and other teams.
Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter…
The
Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’ stealing
catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of
the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout
. The
trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in
turn, would signal teammates on the field about the type of pitch that
was about to be thrown, according to the people familiar with the case.

Baseball
investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the
commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts
, the people
said. more

What’s with Boston anyway?!?! Spying football team. Spying baseball team. Ugh.  

Extra Credit: Turn Your iPhone into a Spy Camera Using Your Apple Watch [How-To]
Put this in your pocket to be extra covert. ~Kevin

“So, we created a picture of our suspect from DNA sweat found on the bugging device.”

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Damn interesting...
Identification of Individuals by Trait Prediction Using Whole-genome Sequencing Data

Researchers from Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) have published a study in which individual faces and other physical traits were predicted using whole genome sequencing data and machine learning. This work, from lead author Christoph Lippert, Ph.D. and senior author J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Click to enlarge.

The authors believe that, while the study offers novel approaches for forensics, the work has serious implications for data privacy, deidentification and adequately informed consent. The team concludes that much more public deliberation is needed as more and more genomes are generated and placed in public databases. more

Eavesdropping Boss Must Pay for Unjust Dismissal

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A woman whose boss used to eavesdrop on her phone conversations with clients has won €10,000 in compensation after she was sacked illegally five years ago.

An industrial tribunal heard how the firm’s managing director also installed monitoring software to see if she accessed Gmail and Facebook.

He continually victimized her and expected her to obey his orders unquestioningly, because, as he said, “I’m the boss!”

The MD regularly changed the password of her work e-mail and often called clients behind her back. He would turn up at meetings with them after listening in on her conversations, the labour tribunal heard. more sing-a-long

These Companies Can Track Any Phone Anywhere

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Tracking or tapping phones across the planet used to be a niche capability. Now, a myriad of for-profit spy companies sell border-crossing surveillance of mobile phones. 

As soon as the target switches the phone on, it’s already too late. Digital spies have pinpointed the phone’s location and, without hacking the device itself, are tracking it from tens of thousands of miles away. This is not a capability limited to superpowers—private firms now provide global phone tracking and interception. more

Spy Tech Talk – A Method to Detect a Wiretap Attack

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…encryption and other forms of protection are important for fiber optic/copper communications, but there is also the need to consider physical protection for the infrastructure where those cable are installed. Many communication wires could be at risk of being physically tapped…

RBtec has introduced a new system dedicated to protecting physical connections such as conduits, cable trays and any other means that hold communication cables. A new protective sensor has been introduced with a layout that links directly to a wire setup as a means of ensuring data is less likely to be tampered with. The design of the system is used to ensure that data is not going to be lost or harmed in any manner.

The sensor wire is a vibration sensor capable sensing the unique vibration associated with tampering. This is attached outside the pipe, sneaked inside the pipe or tray that a wire connection is linked up to. This connects right onto an alarm system through a series of relay outputs. It analyzes any vibrations on the conduit that cause mean someone is trying to accessing the data pipe and stops outside forces from getting in. more