You go into a store, and what you thought was just a camera they used to catch thieves is actually sending your face to a mainframe in order for it to always recognize your face. You think logging into Facebook is safe, but your password is being stored in a security station all the way in Beijing.
It sounds like something from a bad comic book, but this stuff is real, and it’s happening to you all the time.
Most people don’t know or really care that they’re being constantly monitored every day. It doesn’t have to be at a secure base, either. You go to the store and you’re monitored. You make a deposit and you’re being watched. Even talking on your phone could be the grounds for a monitoring from phone spy apps.
So how do you prevent this? Well, the first step you’ve already accomplished. You know you’re being monitored now, so you’re ready to protect yourself against those who are out to spy on you. So in this article, you’ll learn how to protect yourself against all sort of ways people can spy on you.
As we’ve said, the camera in the store is no longer there to catch thieves anymore. In 2013, UK retailer Tesco was in the process of installing OptimEyes. OptimEyes is a face-scanner that they were going to use for marketing. As you expect, the scanner scans your face and determines your gender and age, and in the petrol stations, it would give you ads based on products they thought you’d be interested in. You can see how this can go wrong.
This isn’t just one case, however. Face First, a facial recognition company, is offering more surveillance so that retailers can use your face. If you’re a shoplifter, they can figure that out and be aware of your presence. If you’re a loyal customer, they can use this to give you special treatment by giving you good offers so that you keep shopping.
This doesn’t sound too bad at first. Criminals can be easily caught, and you can get more offers with products meant for you. But for many, this is a definite privacy concern, and it’s easy to see how this can be used for malicious purposes. In 2012, as this was being developed, the Consumers Union told the FTC that this technology could be a privacy reach for customers.
In that letter, they said this:
“The ubiquitous installation of facial recognition devices in malls, supermarkets, schools, doctor’s offices and city sidewalks could seriously undermine individual’s desire and expectation for anonymity.”
The CU mentioned that advertising products to children could cause obesity to worsen, and if a teenager is targeted weight loss products, they could feel more self-conscious. These sound like slightly silly concerns, but they have some serious issues as well.
There are no rules in place that prevents companies from collecting this data and storing it, putting all your behaviors in their own personal database.
In that letter, they continue:
“Facial detection and recognition software could offer consumers a number of tangible benefits. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that these technologies pose significant privacy risks and seriously threaten consumers’ right to anonymity.”
Of course, you can’t wear a mask in a store to hide your face. Just beware of stores that use this technology. Research and make sure that you don’t have your privacy breached.
Once upon a time, there was a company called Blackshades. Blackshades made and sold software that allowed hackers to breach into people’s webcams if they’re running Windows. This allowed hackers to control people’s webcams.
In May of 2014, 90 people involved in Blackshadeswere arrested. One college student who ran the program was arrested for hacking a webcam to get nudes of Miss Teen USA.
Is this a concern, or is it just something public figures should worry about? Consider this: over $350,000 in sales were made for this program, with thousands of different sales. Over 700,000 people in 100 different countries have been hacked, most of them ordinary people like you. It’s possible for someone to hack your webcam.
So all you have to do is turn off your webcam and you won’t have to worry about this software, right? Not so fast. The program also grabs your keystrokes and passwords, screenshots your computer, and snoops through your files.
Thankfully, they only way you can install it is by falling for a phishing email that gives you a link to install that software. If you know how to recognize phishing emails, you should be safe from this threat.
But even then, it’s still possible. Don’t think that only computer illiterate people can fall for this stuff. Telegraph writer Sophie Curtis tried to get her hacker friend to hack into her computer. They learned about Sophie, and then they made an email that matched her personality. This caused Sophie to click on it, and soon everything in her computer was hacked. So remember that anyone can be fooled.
False Cell Towers
It was September 2014. There were rumors about fake cell phone towers that listened in on phone calls across the entire country. It sounds like a poor conspiracy theory, but investigator Aaron Turner, who owns the security firm Integricell, discovered they were real.
Turner revealed to The Blaze this information, which showed that these towers were built to deceive your phones to think that the tower was the only one they could access in your area.
Turner quotes this:
“These towers are tricking your phone into saying ‘I need to talk 9-1-1 information to you,’ but then it doesn’t.”
These towers are mostly in Pennsylvania and the downtown of Washington DC, and they can infiltrate your communications and look at the contents of your phone.
Other investigators have revealed that these towers were real. People began speculating what they were. Was it a secret government conspiracy intending to spy on your phone? Is it espionage by another country? Is it just a group of hackers?
Two months later, we might have found the answer. In November, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Department of Justice placed mobile towers on planes and used a device known as DIRTBOX. This was made by Digital Receiver Technology, and it acts as a phone tower to mobile phones. It’s like a middle man, and it breaks through your phone’s security and extracts info from it.
The Department flew these planes around cities so that they could get as most info as possible from people’s phones.
“Planes are equipped with devices—some known as ‘dirt boxes’ to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.”
This means that the towers can find the phone’s identity and location info. This means that the law could track anyone who has a phone, which is a majority of people. The ACLU, thankfully looked through the documents and revealed where these devices are being used. So you can look at those and turn off your phone when you’re near them.
The laws can’t keep up with the advancement in technology, allowing authorities to use loopholes to spy on people as much as they can. Look at the ACLU investigation page if you’re concerned about their efforts. If you live in the area on the map, odds are your phone’s data has already been looked at by the law.
Hacking from China’s Cyberwar
So you probably think that only your country’s government is the only entity that spies on you. However, other countries can do as well. In October, the Washington revealed that security research had revealed a group called Axiom, which was a Chinese cyberespionage group.
Axiom tried attacking western government so that they could get as much info about policies about China as they could. Shortly before the Washington Post revealed this, the FBI had given warnings to US industries about Axiom, telling them to be alert and make sure they weren’t hacking sensitive information.
The FBI says that this group is state-sponsored, and that it’s been around for around four years, hacking different companies. So if you work for a major corporation that has lots of secrets, you may be in Axiom’s crosshairs.
Axiom uses zero day exploits of the Windows OS, which is one of the most advanced hacking skills you can do. They can hack your computer and gain access to the company’s secrets. Your computer can be at risk as well.
So your best bet is to talk to your security group about this and make sure everything is safe.
Business Conference Spying
Congrats, you’ve been chosen to be at your company’s conference! It’s set in a cool location, and you’re raring to go. You pack your stuff, including all your company supplied accessories, such as your laptop and your phone. However, by doing so, you’re actually putting your company at risk.
You see, if you don’t secure your devices while traveling, you’re at risk. The hackers know that travel is when a company is most susceptible to hacking. Conferences are always when they’ll strike and gather as much valuable data as they can.
You, however, can play the part and avoid these security weaknesses when you have to travel. For instance, you should not hold a videoconference over a hotel network. It’s insecure, and allows hackers to get in.
Hotel rooms are always easy for thieves to steal your devices from as well. Do not open you r company devices in public, as people can see what you’re doing from behind, and never call someone, either, unless you’re in complete privacy. When presenting, make sure that your presentation is scanned for any viruses that could potentially leak it.
Does this sound a bit paranoid for your tastes? Well, according to Carl Roper, who wrote the book, “Trade Secret Theft, Industrial Espionage, and the China Threat”, there’s a Chinese espionage effort going on that wants to get your information from presentations in conferences.
In the book, he says this:
“Conferences with such subject areas as composite materials, missiles, engineers, lasers, computers, marine technology, space, microelectronics, chemical engineering, radars, armaments, and optical communications are just some of the more interesting ones that the Chinese will try to attend. Data from these types of conferences will be among the most significant contributions to their projects.”
In truth, it’s unknown if conference information in a presentation will actually provide agents with secrets of the trade, but presentations that are uncensored can reveal some huge clues about the company’s secrets.
So if you’re presenting for your company, show it to the Legal or Communications department for approval. Many companies require you to do this, so not only does it protect the company, but your job as well.
Install laptop theft devices that will indicate if someone’s stealing your laptop. Keep it locked up, and make sure all data is encrypted. If you have a USB drive or a memory stick, encrypt and password protect it. Make sure your cellphone screen is protected as well.
Don’t Be Paranoid. Be Aware!
People seem to think that being aware of ways they can be spied means that they have to don a tinfoil hat and worry constantly about people listening in and reading their emails without their consent. It does not. All it means is that you should always take precautions if you’re in a situation where you need to transmit sensitive or personal data.
All you need to do this is just encrypt your data and use different resources to do so. There are plenty of ways to do this, including improving your security. You can evade hacker and even government surveillance by making sure your devices are locked down.
After that, do not be too afraid. This will make your life much worse. Instead, live your life the way you want to, all without worrying about people who are out to get you. You’ve done all you can to protect yourself, after all.