Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wireless at home or in hotels can be very loose; Blackberries can turn into spy microphones

The first topic I’ve covered before here. Wireless. If you use a free wireless service in a hotel, for example, it’s easy for a “spy” to record all of your web visits and key strokes on a laptop nearby. An NBC producer went to a home in Houston TX to show the homeowner the sites he had just surfed. Presumably subscription services (Verizon, etc) are more secure, as are sites that require a password (and https protocol). You can make your personal computer more secure by giving it an administrator’s password (and requiring passwords for all users, in XP, Vista or 7) even if you are normally the only one with access to it, too.

Some observers write that a laptop or PC equipped with wireless can be compromised even when Internet access is through cable, unless the wireless card is disabled.

NBC has also reported a story by Washington Post security writer Brian Krebs, about Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warning about a PhoneSnoop application that can be placed onto a Blackberry (not the president’s) to turn it into a microphone, as if the unsuspecting victim were wearing a wire (with no tape or stickers). A jealous spouse, for example, could use it to spy. The Post article is titled “DHS: PhoneSnoop app bugs BlackBerrys” with link here and refers to this CERT warning (link).

Update: Nov. 2, 2009

Switched has a story by Terrence O'Brien "Just How Risky Are Public Wi-Fi Hotspots?". The story was offered to AOL users today.

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