TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cell Phones For Spies

Cell Phones For Spies

Michael Quinn (
Tue, 14 Jun 2005 13:57:57 -0400

This is an excerpt from a newsletter entitled "NETWORK WORLD
NEWSLETTER: M. E. KABAY ON SECURITY, 06/09/05" forwarded to me by a
colleague. I'm not personally familiar with the newsletter or Mr.
Kabay, but I thought the subject might be of interest to Telecom
Digest readers. Contact data for the author is listed at the bottom,
rest has been snipped in the interest of brevity.

Fair use caveat may apply.




Today's focus: Cell phones for spies
By M. E. Kabay

Anyone can use even an ordinary mobile phone as a microphone by
covertly dialing out; for example, one can call a recording device at
a listening station and then simply place the phone in a pocket or
briefcase before entering a conference room.

However, my friend and colleague Chey Cobb recently pointed out a
device from Nokia that is unabashedly being advertised as a "Spy
Phone" because of additional features that threaten corporate

This $1,800 device works like a normal mobile phone but also allows the
owner to program a special phone number that turns the device into a
transmission device under remote control:

In addition, the phone can be programmed for silent operation:

"By a simple press of a button, a seemingly standard cell phone device
switches into a mode in which it seems to be turned off.

However, in this deceitful mode the phone will automatically answer
incoming calls, without any visual or audio indications whatsoever
... A well placed bug phone can be activated on demand from any remote
location (even out of another country). Such phones can also prove
valuable in business negotiations. The spy phone owner leaves the
meeting room, (claiming a restroom break, for instance), calls the spy
phone and listens to the ongoing conversation. On return the owners'
negotiating positions may change dramatically."

It makes more sense than ever to ban mobile phones from any meeting
that requires high security.

David Bennahum wrote an interesting article in December 2003 about
these questions and pointed out that businesses outside the U.S. are
turning to cell phone jamming devices (illegal in the U.S.) to block
mobile phone communications in a secured area. Bennahum writes,
"According to the FCC, cell phone jammers should remain illegal. Since
commercial enterprises have purchased the rights to the spectrum, the
argument goes, jamming their signals is a kind of property theft."

Seems to me there would be obvious benefits in allowing movie houses,
theaters, concert halls, museums, places of worship and secured
meeting locations to suppress such traffic as long as the interference
were clearly posted. No one would be forced to enter the location if
they did not agree with the ban, and I'm sure there would be some
institutions catering to those who actually _like_ sitting next to
someone talking on a cell phone in the middle of a quiet passage at a

Bennahum mentioned another option -- this one quite legal even in the
U.S.: cell phone detectors such as the Cellular Activity Analyzer from

This handheld computer lets you spot unauthorized mobile phones in
your meeting place so that you act accordingly.

Finally, one can create a Faraday cage that blocks radio waves by lining
the secured facility with appropriate materials such as copper mesh or,
more recently, metal-impregnated wood:

A high-security version of such a room is called a SCIF (Sensitive
Compartmented Information Facility) in U.S. military security jargon.


Vendors tout vulnerability mgmt. wares
Network World, 06/06/05

Internet security ... writ very small
Network World, 06/06/05

To contact: M. E. Kabay

M. E. Kabay, Ph.D., CISSP, is Associate Professor in the Division of
Business and Management at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. Mich
can be reached by e-mail and his Web site

<rest snipped>

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