Saturday, December 7, 2013

FBI Able "For Several Years" To Secretly Turn On Laptop Cameras

image credit: Dom W/Flickr
Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

In a recent report by The Washington Post, it was revealed that the FBI has been able to secretly activate a target’s laptop camera “without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording” for several years.

While this may be surprising to some, it really shouldn’t be. Previous reports revealed that the FBI employs hackers to create software to remotely activate the microphones on laptops and cell phones as well as cameras. The U.S. government has also become the world’s largest buyer of malware. The NSA also recommended physically removing the webcam from Apple laptops for security reasons.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI has developed hacking tools like this for over a decade, though they rarely are discussed publicly.

The Washington Post cites Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, who said that the remote activation of cameras is used mostly in serious cases.

Thomas, who now sits on the advisory board of Subsentio, a company that helps telecommunications firms comply with federal wiretap laws, told the Post that the bureau uses the technique “mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations.”

As technology advances, the FBI’s surveillance techniques do as well.

“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.

Indeed, in January of this year a report indicated that all data stored on cloud services could be accessed by the U.S. government without a warrant.

In the past, a federal magistrate rejected the FBI’s attempt to get authorization to activate the laptop camera of a suspect. The magistrate ruled that it was “extremely intrusive” and could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Federal magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith also said the Texas-based court did not have the jurisdiction to approve the search of a computer in an unknown location.

Yet, another federal magistrate approved sending surveillance software to a target, though it did not involve remotely activating a computer camera.

The surveillance software gave the FBI a detailed account of the computer of the target – a federal fugitive – including his hard drive space, the chips used on his computer and a list of installed programs.

In the case the Post was reporting on, an individual calling himself “Mo,” probably located in Tehran, made a series of bomb threats.

The FBI obtained a warrant to send surveillance software to Mo’s computer when he sign in to his Yahoo email account but the program “never actually executed as designed,” according to a handwritten note by a federal agent given to a court.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

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Anonymous said...

Whan apple first announced the camera's built into their laptops they claimed that the camera and the green LED were wired in series so that when the camera was turned on the LED had to light up, they're was no way the camera could get power without the LED lighting up too. Any comments?

Anonymous said...

Tape over the lens. Game over. There was a law suit filed against Arron's Home Furnishings over this same issue.

Tatiana Covington said...

A roll of black masking tape will thwart the Feds for like $2.

Carroll said...

Duh! Put a small piece of black electrical tape over your camera.

Dr. Goldstein said...

Yep. I have had bandaids on all my laptop webcams for many years.

It used to be the "evil" Soviet Union where people would step away from phones and windows, then turn up some music before discussing delicate subjects.

Now it's the United Police States of America, and all NATO countries, where we have to use these procedures we learned from the Soviets.

Peace to all from Canada

Anonymous said...

Use a VirtualBox VM, LiveCD or some other non persistent session to check your email and browse the web or connect to the internet. ....and disconnect/tape over the camera and microphone while you're online.

There are plenty of hackers out there that can install junk on your machine, and if you have a non-persistent session that disappears when you turn off the machine, they can't completely hijack your machine, only a single session!

Anonymous said...

I swear if they have fucking pics taken from my camera of me naked and/or having sex I will fucking sue (when I had one and was unaware of what's going on so didn't know to cover my camera)

Ed Hurst said...

Always be aware of where links are taking you. Learn to use multiple browsers, multiple profiles within a browser, each with different capabilities and limitations. Turn off stuff like plug-ins, graphics, scripting; install advertising blockers, flashblock, Ghostery, Click&Clean. Learn to use cache cleaners to kill "evercookies" (CCleaner, Bleachbit). Learn to use plain text browsers like Lynx; learn to run emulators like Cygwin and run Lynx from there. Best of all, if you can get away from running Windows, try something different: Linux. BSD, etc. Learn to run a live-CD OS like Knoppix; boot it up when you feel the need to do something risky. Get an old laptop and install a low-spec OS (Puppy Linux, for example) and use random open wifi hotspots. If the Net is important to you, put some effort into using it with low risk.

Anonymous said...

I addition to taping over the lens take an 1/8 inch sony mini jack adapter or old connector that the wire is worn and no longer works from an old set of headphones or ear buds and put that in the microphone jack of the device in question. This disables the internal mic.

Anonymous said...

or just disable your microphone in the settings lol


Stare back at them using a clip, piece of wire, a bit of duct tape and a fake eyeball.

Anonymous said...

How far we have fallen from when we were a free country.

Anonymous said...

Google: camJAMR Webcam Covers - they work on all devices with built-in cameras.


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