Eavesdrop

Experts warn of ‘epidemic’ of bugging devices used by stalkers

More funding and legal powers are needed for police to stop a surge of stalkers using eavesdropping devices to spy on victims, experts have warned.

By James Hockaday for Metro.co.uk

 

 

Firms paid to detect the bugs say they’re finding more and more of the devices which are readily available on online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Jack Lazzereschi, Technical Director of bug sweeping company Shapestones, says cases of stalking and victims being blackmailed with intimate footage shot in secret has doubled in the past two years.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘The police want to do something about it, they try to, but usually they don’t have the legal power or the resources to investigate.

‘For us it’s a problem. We try to protect the client, we want to assure that somebody has been protected.’

 

People are paying as little as £15 for listening devices and spy cameras hidden inside desk lamps, wall sockets, phone charger cables, USB sticks and picture frames.

Users insert a sim card into a hidden slot and call a number to listen in on their unwitting targets.

People using hidden cameras can watch what’s happening using an apps on their phones.

Jack says the devices are so effective, cheap and hard to trace to their users, law enforcement prefer using them over expensive old-school devices.

Although every case is different, in situations where homeowners plant devices in their own properties, Jack says there’s usually a legal ‘grey area’ to avoid prosecution.

 

The devices themselves aren’t illegal and they are usually marketed for legitimate purposes like protection, making it difficult for cops to investigate.

There is no suggestion online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon are breaking the law by selling them.

But in some instances, images of women in their underwear have been used in listings – implying more sinister uses for the devices.

Even in cases when people are more clearly breaking the law, Jack says it’s unlikely perpetrators will be brought to justice as overstretched police will prioritise resources to stop violent crime.

Jack’s says around 60 per cent of his firm’s non-corporate cases cases involve stalking or blackmail.

He says it’s become an ‘epidemic’ over the past couple of years with the gadgets more readily available than ever before.

Victims are often filmed naked or having sex and threatened with the threat of footage being put online and in the worst cases children are also recorded.

Jack says UK law is woefully unprepared to deal with these devices compared to countries in the Asian-Pacific region.

In South Korea authorities have cracked down on a scourge of perverts planting cameras in public toilets.

James Williams, director of bug sweepers QCC Global says snooping devices used to be the preserve of people with deep pockets and technological know-how.

He said: ‘It’s gone from that to really being at a place where anybody can just buy a device from the internet.

 

‘Anything you can possibly think of you can buy with a bug built into it. I would say they’re getting used increasingly across the board.’

Suky Bhaker, Acting CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, warned using these gadgets could be a prelude to physical violence.

She said: ‘We know that stalking and coercive control are extremely dangerous and can cause huge harm to the victim, both in terms of their psychological wellbeing and the potential for escalation to physical violence or even murder.

‘The use of surveillance devices or spyware apps by stalkers, must be seen in the context of a pattern of obsessive, fixated behaviour which aims at controlling and monitoring the victim.

 

She added: ‘There should be clarity for police forces that the use of surveillance equipment by stalkers to monitor their victim’s location or communications is a sign that serious and dangerous abuse may be present or imminent.’

‘All cases of stalking or coercive control should be taken seriously and investigated when reported to police.’

The charity is calling for all police forces across the country to train staff in this area.

Earlier this month a policeman known only by his surname Mills was barred from the profession for life for repeatedly dismissing pleas for help from 19-year-old Shana Grice who was eventually murdered by her stalker ex-boyfriend Michel Lane.

 

A spokesman for eBay said: ‘The listing of mini cameras on eBay is permitted for legitimate items like baby monitors or doorbell cameras.

‘However, items intended to be used as spying devices are banned from eBay’s UK platform in accordance with the law and our policy.

‘We have filters in place to block prohibited items, and all the items flagged by Metro have now been removed.’

Amazon declined to comment.

Couple find “spy camera” hidden in clock at Airbnb flat

A couple claims to have discovered a secret camera hidden in a digital clock in the Airbnb flat they were renting.

By Zoe Drewett

Dougie Hamilton and his girlfriend say the camera – which was pointed towards their bed in the holiday apartment – was disguised as a clock but looked suspicious. The 34-year-old said he started investigating the clock after a day of exploring in Toronto, Canada.

He had recently watched a YouTube video on secret ‘spy’ cameras hidden in cuddly toys and buttons, Dougie said. But when he picked up the clock he managed to slide its face off quite easily and was horrified to find a tiny lens that may have been recording them.

On September 7, Dougie, from Glasgow, posted about his discovery on Facebook, writing: If you use Airbnb, then you’ll definitely want to read this and possibly stop using them.’

He explained: We booked a one night stay in a lovely apartment in the center of Toronto last night (September 6). We had a crazy busy day around the city and finally were able to get to the Airbnb and relax or so we thought. I was laying on the couch and this digital clock is facing into the living area and open plan bedroom Left with my thoughts, that video pops into my head, “imagine if it was the spy camera in the clock”.

 

After removing the clock’s charger and discovering a lithium battery in the back of the device the front face of the clock cam off and revealed the camera. The couple have since alerted Airbnb and police in Canada, who are both investigating. Speaking to the Daily Record, Dougie said: (Airbnb) told us the property owner has six other properties and hundreds of reviews, so it looks like we’ve been lucky. We were only in the place for 20 minutes when I noticed the clock. It was connected to a wire like a phone charger which wasn’t quite right. I felt a bit weird even thinking it and I kept telling myself not to be daft. But there was just something.

 

Dougie and his girlfriend – who asked not to be named – said they found the encounter ‘creepy’. A spokeswoman for Toronto police said: We received a call last Thursday regarding what appeared to be a video camera in a clock in an apartment. The investigation is continuing. Airbnb has also told Dougie its security team are looking into the claims and offered him a full refund. They said they would be canceling upcoming reservations for the owner’s properties, he added. A spokesperson for Airbnb said: We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for this behavior. We have removed the host from the platform while we investigate and are providing the guest with our full support.

 

STALKER HELL Ex-boyfriend spied on lover by hiding secret cameras and listening devices in her home

Wayne Bamford, 47, was told he faces a ‘significant custodial sentence’ because of the risks he faces to women

By Robin Perrie

JEALOUS Wayne Bamford is facing jail after he placed covert listening devices in his ex-partner’s bedroom during a stalking campaign.

Bamford, 47, refused to accept their relationship was over after Joanna Dawson ended it and launched a “highly sophisticated” covert operation to keep tabs on her.

He was able to phone in to the devices which then provided a live feed so he could hear what was going on in her bedroom.

Over a period of 15 days he connected to the devices 1,600 times, a court heard.

But the surveillance op was foiled when mum-of-one Joanne sought advice from a spy shop after suspecting he might have bugged her home.

He was told he faces a “significant custodial sentence” because of the risks he faces to women.

His case was heard on the same day that Corrie Star Kym Marsh backed our Stop a Stalker campaign.

Kym, who has twice been targeted, urged readers to sign our petition backing an MP’s bid to increase police power to combat stalkers.

Bamford and Joanne began a relationship in May 2016 and started an accident management business together six months later.

But their relationship quickly turned sour and ended in January 2017.

Prosecutor Anthony Moore told Bradford crown court that Joanne’s suspicions were raised when Bamford appeared to comment on her movements.

She became even more concerned when she contacted a locksmith to boost security and Bamford texted her saying: “There is no need to change your locks”.

She visited a spy shop for advice and was told her what to look for. She returned home and found a listening device in her bedroom.

Joanne told the court: “He played me a recording in my own house and told me he had paid someone to place a device on the outside of my house which I did not believe.

“I went to a spy shop in Leeds and asked them, ‘if I wanted to bug someone’s house what do you do?’ “He told me what to look for.” She later found a second device hidden behind a TV in her bedroom and Bamford, of Gildersome, near Leeds, was arrested.

Bamford admitted stalking causing serious alarm or distress but a trial of issue was held yesterday after the prosecution and defence could not agree on the basis of his guilty plea.

He claimed to have fitted only one of the listening devices and said she had fitted the other to keep tabs on another ex.

But the judge, Recorder Anthony Hawks, said: “I find the complainant entirely plausible.

“I find the defendant evasive and dishonest. I totally reject his account that the complainant was responsible.

“I’m very concerned about the risk you may present to people. You were prepared to engage in a highly sophisticated way to stalk that woman.

Why Do Ordinary People Commit Acts of Espionage?

Political ideology and money serve as motivators for some people to commit acts of espionage, but they’re not the only factors involved.

By Jerad W. ALEXANDER

In mid-July, 2018, Mariia Butina, a 29-year-old assistant to the Russian central bank and long-time Vladimir Putin ally Alexander Torshin, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on a charge of “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government,” according to the U.S. Justice Department. Per the affidavit, Butina was allegedly involved in an operation lead by officials within the Russian government to infiltrate the Republican party, including members of the Trump campaign, and the National Rifle Association, for the purposes of aligning right-wing political interests with similar interests in Russia. Butina’s actions dovetailed with continued efforts by Russian operatives to commit cyber espionage to influence U.S. elections.

According to the affidavit, two American citizens provided Butina intelligence and guidance on her efforts in the United States.

 
MI5, the intelligence agency of the United Kingdom, defines espionage as “the process of obtaining information that is not normally publicly available, using human sources (agents) or technical means (like hacking into computer systems). It may also involve seeking to influence decision-makers and opinion-formers to benefit the interests of a foreign power.” As Butina and countless others throughout history, such as spies like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, have discovered, espionage is a dangerous game, one that can lead to imprisonment or even death. What motivates people to commit acts of espionage is as important as the ramifications of their actions.

Naturally, simple ideology serves as a motivator to commit espionage, but it’s not the singular cause. According to a Spring 2016 article of The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies, ideology “is adopted by an individual to the degree that it reflects the individual’s ego. In that sense, an ideology is like another motivation – money – in that it serves as a vehicle for the individual to express a personal value or belief; an ideology is chosen in order to confirm conscious or unconscious beliefs the individual has already internalized. In the case of espionage, a particular ideology may serve as either the actual motivation for a spy to breach the trust placed in them or simply as a means of rationalizing that behavior.”

A Combination of Factors


Three concurrent elements need to exist within an individual to make them prone to acts of espionage — a personality dysfunction, personal crisis and opportunity.

According to Dr. Ursula Wilder, a clinical psychologist with the Central Intelligence Agency, four personality elements are essential to the entry into espionage: psychopathy, narcissism, immaturity, and grandiosity.

“A psychopathic person is a person whose approach to reality is ruthless and cold,” she stated in an interview at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. “They have no conscience, or they have very limited capacity to feel guilt. So, their whole approach to life is predatory. They’re excitement seeking. They love to con people. It’s a game. This is all they can do to connect with other human beings. So that kind of person will commit espionage either flat-out for self-interest or because it’s fun, or both.”

“The next is narcissism,” she explained. “A narcissistic person is fundamentally ego-centric. They can only experience the world with themselves at the center. They are very much needy for and will provoke circumstances that will permit them to be at the center of attention. They believe that what they need, want and desire is the truth. They will get greedy for attention. That kind of person will commit espionage as a grab for fame. Someone like that will commit espionage because it makes them feel big and important.”

Regarding immaturity, Wilder explained an individual prone to commit acts of espionage (in comparison to a professional intelligence agent), either for or against their nation, is “an adult who can only function as an adolescent. These people live their lives in a blend of fact and fantasy. They do have a conscience, they can feel deep guilt afterwards, but fantasy is much more real to them than it is to adults who are grounded to reality, so to them committing espionage is a bit of a game, a fantasy, and online they have this illusion that if they do it online, if they just turn off the machine it goes away. They have a fantasy about the implications of their actions, and although on some level they might grasp the reality of it, it’s not real to them. The grandiosity applies to all three.”

An individual must be up against some form of personal crisis that produces distress. According to a paper released by the CIA titled “Why Spy?”, a survey of agency employees “identified emotional instability related to ambition, anger leading to a need for revenge, feelings of being unrecognized and unrewarded, and loneliness as the top vulnerabilities on the road to espionage. They ranked such problem behaviors as drug abuse and illicit sex as second, and various mental crises or stresses brought on by debt, work issues, or psychological factors such as depression as third.” Regarding opportunity, access matters. An individual must have access to sensitive information of some caliber that could be of use to a foreign power. All three combined — the personality, the crises, and the access — serve as fertile soil for acts of espionage.

It’s important to make the distinction between ordinary people who commit espionage and individuals who join intelligence services.

“People who join the intel community spent years preparing themselves — school, applying, screening — there’s a huge amount of drive and ambition, identification, pride,” says Dr. David L. Charney, a psychiatrist with the National Office of Intelligence Reconciliation, known as NOIR, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the intelligence community on the management of insider threats. This would include people with access to sensitive information who flip, such as Edward Snowden or Reality Winner. “They’re not coming in to be spies; they join for loftier reasons. The question is what makes a person go bad. That’s when you have to get more psychological.”

According to Charney, at the core of espionage can be an intolerable sense of personal failure, and not necessarily a shifting ideology. “Going back to the ideological spies of the 1930s and ’40s, we run across people all the time who you know have personal demons that are driving them, but they wrapped their demons into the current issue of the day to give it a higher-minded packaging. Any time you try to understand you have to dig a little deeper.”

Amazon Echo turned into snooping device by Chinese hackers

‘ALEXA, SNOOP ON MY WESTERN BUDDIES’ is potentially a command Chinese hackers barked at an Amazon Echo after they managed to turn it into a snooping device.

By Roland Moore-Colyer

Cybersecurity boffins from Chinese firm Tencent’s Blade security research team exploited various vulnerabilities they found in the Echo smart speaker to eventually coax it into becoming an eavesdropping device.

The hackers showed off the snooping speaker at the DefCon security conference, reported Wired, using it as a demonstration for the potential for smart home devices to be used for surveillance.

 
But before you boot your Echo or Google Home out of the nearest window, the hackers noted that getting into the Echo was hardly an easy process, and Amazon now has fixes for the security holes.

“After several months of research, we successfully break the Amazon Echo by using multiple vulnerabilities in the Amazon Echo system, and [achieve] remote eavesdropping,” a description of the hackers work, provided to Wired, explained.

“When the attack [succeeds], we can control Amazon Echo for eavesdropping and send the voice data through the network to the attacker.”

The hackers first needed to create a spying-capable Echo, which involved a multi-step penetration technique with enough intricacies to get past the device’s built-in security. This included taking apart the Echo, removing its flash chip and writing custom firmware onto it before remounting the chip.

Once done, the Echo then had to be connected to the same network as a target device Echo device. From there, the hackers could exploit a vulnerability in Amazon’s Whole Home Audio Daemon, which can communicate with other Echo devices on the network, and gain control over targeted Echo gadgets.

And, from there, they could then snoop on their victims and pass recording back to the malicious Echo or pipe all manner of sound through the hijacked Echo.

The technique is hardly an easy or particularly remote way to hack an Echo, but it does conjure up some techniques spies could apply in surveillance operations, providing they have permission to sneak into a person’s house, or they could go rogue like Ethan Hunt does in pretty much every Mission Impossible flick.

The whole situation also highlights how security in such devices needs to be given as much attention as other smart features, as there’s already been a swathe of examples where lax security in smart or connected devices has lead to hack attacks.

Creepy hostel owner caught using remote-controlled cameras hidden inside shampoo bottles to film women in the shower – and then put the clips on porn sites

New Zealand man pleaded guilty to charges related to secretly filming guests 
The court heard the man would film female guests at his homestay property 
He would put hidden cameras in shampoo bottles and upload footage online 

By ADAM MCCLEERY

A New Zealand man has pleaded guilty to secretly filming female guests while they showered at his homestay property by using cameras hidden in shampoo bottles. 

The Hawke’s Bay man faced the Hastings District Court and pleaded guilty to a combined 51 charges. 

The court heard he had made up to 219 recordings of 34 different women who had stayed with him before uploading them to a porn website. 

Stuff reported that the man would allow guests to us the shower in the property, but had to organise times first. 

Once those times were organized, the man would place shampoo bottles with hidden cameras around the bathroom and shower, the court heard. 

He would then use a remote control to turn them on, catching guests in the shower and undressing. 

He would wait until his house guests left the bathroom before retrieving the hidden cameras and uploading footage to his personal hard drive.

Once he had uploaded the videos online, he also encouraged users to leave ‘positive comments’, it was reported.

The court heard the man would caption the videos and describe his victims by race and occupation. 

In one case the man also added his own commentary to a video. 

The man’s identity was suppressed by the court, despite the pleas of crown prosecutor Steve Manning. 

‘There are 34 victims whose most intimate images have been spread all over the world,’ he said.  

The man’s lawyer, Matt Phelps, requested the suppression order to protect the man’s wife who he said suffers from a condition which would be compounded if he were identified,’ the New Zealand Herald reported.

Judge Geoff Rea imposed the suppression order and also granted the man bail pending his sentence at the Napier District Court in October.

The most serious charges the man faces carry a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Mystery surrounds device found in wallet near playground at Hamilton park

The person who discovered the wallet believes it housed a pinhole camera

Hamilton police detectives are trying to unravel a mystery after a strange electronic device was discovered hidden in a wallet left near a playground in an east end park.

By Adam Carter

A Reddit user who said they discovered the wallet posted that they believe it housed a pinhole camera and a battery, but police were not able to confirm that Friday afternoon.

“We’re not sure what this is,” Const. Lorraine Edwards told CBC News. “We can’t confirm that it’s a camera.”

Police say the wallet was found by park staff at Sam Mason Park near Queenston Road and Nash Road North.

Reddit user Jdm67 posted photos of the wallet Friday morning.

The poster said he or she opened up the wallet looking for a driver’s licence, but instead found what the poster believed to be a pinhole camera, a battery, and a memory card.

“It was set up near the playground with a hole for the camera to view through,” the post reads.

“It was still on, and it seemed like it may be streaming because the WiFi light was on still.”

Edwards said investigators are now trying to figure out who left the wallet there and why.  

She also said a wallet seems like an odd choice to house a device to surreptitiously record someone.

“If somebody meant harm by this, a wallet is the first thing that would be picked up at a park,” she said. 

Are millennials keeping their data safe?

Norton reports one in three millennials use the same password for all accounts; 53 percent have shared passwords with friends or family.

By DECCAN CHRONICLE

While the awareness level in millennials is high about the latest trends in technology and gadgets, it is alarming to see how the knowledge is not being translated well into practice, making them an easy prey for hackers. According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, one in three millennials use the same password for all accounts; approximately 53 percent of millennials have shared desktop passwords with friends or family members. These trends, witnessed amongst millennials, seem to have put them in a vulnerable position and a common victim of cybercrime.

“Despite a steady stream of cybercrime sprees reported by media, millennials appear to feel invincible and skip taking even basic precautions to protect themselves,” said Ritesh Chopra, Director, Norton business for India.  “This disconnect highlights the need for consumer cyber safety and the urgency for consumers to get back to basics when it comes to doing their part to prevent cybercrime.”

This International Youth Day, Norton would like to share tips on how millennials and consumers can take a few steps towards building a more secure online presence.

Craft a strong, unique password using a phrase that consists of a string of words that are easy for you to memorize, but hard for others to guess. Don’t tie your password to publicly available information as it makes it easier for the bad guys to guess your password. The longer, the better! Additionally, if your account or device enables it, consider two-factor authentication for an extra layer of security. Finally, once you’ve created a strong password, stick with it until you’re notified of a security breach. If you feel overwhelmed, use a password manager to help!
Using unprotected Wi-Fi can leave your personal data vulnerable to eavesdropping by strangers using the same network so avoid anything that involves sharing your personal information when connected to an open Wi-Fi network. If you do use public Wi-Fi, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure your connection and help keep your information private.
Make it a habit to change default passwords on all network-connected devices, like smart thermostats or Wi-Fi routers, during set-up. If you decide not to use Internet features on various devices, such as smart appliances, disable or protect remote access as an extra precaution. Also, protect your wireless connections with strong Wi-Fi encryption so no one can easily view the data traveling between your devices.
Think twice before opening unsolicited messages or attachments, particularly from people you don’t know, or clicking on random links.
Protect your devices with a robust, multi-platform security software solution to help protect against the latest threats.

Creepy cab driver used hidden camera to secretly film under clothes of passengers

Cops only discovered the covert device after raiding David Whitehead’s home in connection with vile child sex abuse images.

By David Meikle

A taxi driver who installed a hidden camera to film under the clothing of unsuspecting passengers has been jailed for 22 months.

David Whitehead, 53, set up the covert device in a twisted bid to record members of the public as they traveled in his vehicle.

His seedy spying operation saw him capture footage of a passenger but it only came to light when police raided his home in connection with extreme child pornography.

Officers launched a dawn raid at the property in Cumbernauld, after a tip-off and discovered sickening clips and images.

The disturbing haul of 2503 photos and 1529 videos included extreme footage of abuse.

Whitehead appeared at Airdrie Sheriff Court and admitted taking or permitting indecent images of children between August 2005 and August 2017.

He also admitted having the hidden camera in his car between August and September 2013.

He was jailed for 22 months by Sheriff Derek O’Carroll who also placed him on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

The court was told Whitehead was stripped of his taxi license soon after his arrest last year.

Ross Brown, defending, said: “It is always very sad to have to represent a client who at a mature age comes before the court for the first time. In pleading guilty, I would reiterate that he takes full responsibility for his misdemeanors.

“I have spoken to him about the charge involving the taxi and he says there had been a number of attacks on colleagues and that was the primary reason for the installation of the camera but when it comes to the positioning of it, there was a secondary purpose for that.

“This was not an easy matter for him to come to terms with and have to disclose to his immediate and wider family. While not condoning it, they are supporting him in his recovery.

“He was formerly a good man but his fall from grace has been a significant one having to admit to these offenses.”

Depute fiscal Agnes Meek earlier told the court police raided Whitehead’s home after receiving information a device at his address had indecent images of children available for sharing.

She added: “A systematic search was carried out and a number of devices were seized. The accused, while standing in his kitchen in front of officers, stated, ‘It is all me, nothing to do with my boy’.”

Sentencing Whitehead, Sheriff O’Carroll said: “The placing of the camera with the view to take images of those using your taxi and also the fact that you were in a position of trust which you abused by placing it to take indecent images means there is no alternative to a custodial sentence.”

Man stalked ex-partner using car tracking device and hidden camera

James Austin Yarwood was upset when his six year relationship hit a ‘rough patch’, court told.

A man who monitored his ex-partner’s movements using trackers and hidden cameras has pleaded guilty to stalking.

By Derek Bellis

James Austin Yarwood placed a tracker in her car’s glove compartment and a hidden camera beneath her TV so he could see her sitting on the sofa chatting to a visitor – even though he was at his father’s home in Leicester.

Llandudno magistrates court chairwoman Janet Ellis told the 30-year-old: “We are quite shocked at some of the things we have heard.”

The court heard the 30-year-old monitored the movements of his ex-partner with the aid of electronic devices because he was upset by a “rough patch” in their six-year relationship.

Gareth Parry, prosecuting, said Yarwood had also bombarded the victim with phone calls and texts.

Yarwood, of Lower Denbigh Road, St Asaph, pleaded guilty to stalking teacher Keilah Stewart at her home at Abergele between May and mid-June and was given a year’s community order.

He must pay his victim £200 compensation and costs of £170, with 100 hours of unpaid work and he must undertake a “building better relationships” programme with the probation service.

But she didn’t want a restraining order so he could maintain contact with two children.

Craig Hutchinson, defending, said Yarwood had a good job with a motor company.

“These were the actions of a desperate man trying to keep his relationship together”, he said.

He added: “There may be a time when the relationship will rekindle. The hope is that everyone will put this behind them.”