Who’s Watching Who In the Surveillance Society?


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By Carl Weiss

Smile You Are On Camera
Smile You Are On Camera (Photo credit: IntelFreePress)
Have you noticed that everywhere you look CCTV cameras are popping up?  You see them at intersections, on buildings, at intersections and even dangling beneath helicopters and UAVs. Casinos are chock full of them, as are banks, department stores and the corner 7-11.  Not only is it getting to the point where you can no longer venture outdoors without being watched, but the technology now exists where clothing, car doors and the walls become transparent.  If you want to know who could be watching you and how you can fight back, read on and learn the truth about our surveillance society.

Even the President Thinks Big Brother is a Good Thing


At least one world-renown author has written about a society beset by them and the current President of the United States recently spoke about them when he said, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."  

The author I mentioned is George Orwell, who penned a novel about the very thing that President Obama was talking about.  "1984," was the novel that depicted a police state bent on tracking the movements and thoughts of its citizens. The novel’s rallying cry was one of, "Big Brother Is Watching You."  This is the very same Big Brother that the President called by name in one instance only to shrug it off at the next.  

Move Over George, Here Comes "More Well"


Category:George Orwell Category:Nineteen Eight...
Category:George Orwell Category:Nineteen Eighty Four (Original text : George Orwell, 1984. This self-made image is based on a picture that appears in an old acreditation for the BNUJ.) Picture of George Orwell taken from File:GeoreOrwell.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While the Commander-in-Chief was talking specifically about the exploits of the NSA, what most people do not understand is that the spy agency is only the tip of a vast surveillance iceberg that operates with impunity on a worldwide basis.  Sometimes it’s big government watching us, whether it be various federal, state or local government agencies.  Sometimes the surveillance is perpetrated by big business, (see our article, Is Google Watching You).  At other times, it can be under the control of everyone from snooping ex-spouses, to nosy neighbors, prying teenagers or a criminal element that intends on doing you harm.  What we have today is not George Orwell’s 1984, we “More Well 2014," where everybody and their brother is watching somebody!

Prepare for the Coming Hackathon


English: OpenBSD hackers at c2k++ at MIT. Phot...
English: OpenBSD hackers at c2k++ at MIT.
Photo by Dug Song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The fact of the matter is that it’s almost too easy to spy on the public these days.   Not only are surveillance products  cheap to own and operate, but they are now built into every laptop, tablet and Smartphone on the market.  Many automobiles come from the factory with them already installed.  There are even industries built around installing them in and around homes and offices.  Since most of these devices are Internet-enabled, this means that off-the-shelf software is all it takes to hack into and take control of these cameras.

Watch Out for the RAT Hack Attack!


Think that sounds more than a little paranoid?  Tell that to Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, who was blackmailed by a hacker who used her laptop’s webcam to take nude photos of her without her knowledge.  The hacker used what’s known in the industry as a remote administration tool (RAT) that is able to not only remotely operate a victim’s webcam, but is also capable of disabling the little light that lets someone know that their webcam is on. (And to think that not too long ago, celebrities had only to worry about pushy paparazzi trying to catch them in compromising situations.)

In September, the FBI arrested a 19-year-old man named Jared Abrahams from Temecula, California, on charges that he hacked into the social media accounts of several women, including Wolf, and took nude photographs of them by remotely controlling their webcams. He then allegedly contacted the victims and threatened to post the pictures on their social media profiles unless they sent him more nude photos and videos or did what he demanded for five minutes in Skype video chats. http://www.macworld.com/article/2081940/researchers-older-mac-webcams-can-spy-without-activating-warning-light.html

Ancient Greeks Had a Trojan Horse, We Have to Contend with Trojan Emails


Trogen Horse
Trogen Horse (Photo credit: mnassal)
While ratting has gotten much of the notoriety when it comes to using a target’s own camera to spy on them, it is not the only way to break and enter digitally.  One of the easiest ways to break into a computer is via email.  Just before Christmas 2013, staffers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Dedicated to Defending Your Rights in the Digital World) received an email purportedly inviting them to a conference in Asia hosted by Oxfam International.  The email directed EFF’s staff to click on a pair of links that purportedly contained information regarding the conference.  When they realized that the links were not hosted on Oxfam’s domain, but resided instead on Google drive, they smartly did not click on the link which in all likelihood contained malware.

Countries Spying Everywhere Without Remorse


EFF has written extensively about the worsening situation for bloggers in Vietnam, supporting campaigns to free high-profile bloggers such as Le Quoc Quan and Dieu Cay, and criticizing the Vietnam’s Internet censorship bill.  Vietnam’s Internet spying campaign dates back to at least March 2010, when engineers at Google discovered malware broadly targeting Vietnamese computer users. The infected machines were used to spy on their owners as well as participating in DDoS attacks against dissident websites. 

Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game)
Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last year the Chinese made headlines for about two months with all there escapades. See our article Chinese Hack Attack for more details. In addition, Richard Snowden's security leaks shed a lot of light on just how much our government was spying on everyone, including US citizens.

Of course, the majority of the public are not on the blacklist of unfriendly governments.  So why should the average family worry about their privacy being invaded by hackers?  Because some hackers make a tidy living from this kind of activity, that’s why.  And I’m not talking about sextortion here.

If Only We Had a Digital Neighborhood Watch


As long as there have been homes and businesses there have been burglars.  In the past, thieves had to risk being detected while they cased a home or a neighborhood in search of targets of opportunity.  (This is why the neighborhood watch program was invented.)  The problem in the digital age is that thieves no longer have to prowl the neighborhood to determine a victim’s patterns.  That’s because your home or business may become their unwitting accomplice.

The latest things to hit the market are smart appliances.  Everything from smart lighting and entertainment centers, to wireless security devices and the networks upon which they operate are subject to being hacked.  As a rule, if you can use your smartphone to set your home’s thermostat, open your garage door, or let you view your home when you are away, then so can a hacker bent on stealing your goods.  While “Smart Homes” are all the rage, a number of people in the know consider them to be a major chink in your home’s security armor.

Forget the Attack of The Clones, Watch Out For The Household Appliances

Samsung to Join International Smart Home•Build...
Samsung to Join International Smart Home•Building Show 2013 (Photo credit: samsungtomorrow)
Could hackers gather information from smart lighting, entertainment, or security devices – or the networks on which they communicate – to determine patterns of when you are home, when you are likely to have company over, and when your house is empty?

"Internet enabled appliances, which run operating systems like Windows or Android, can be co-opted by hackers’ malicious code in the same way your computer or phone can be hijacked. Once taken over by the hacker software, the appliance is used to send spam (containing virus links, for example) or to mount denial-of-service attacks. A hacker who had co-opted multiple Internet-equipped refrigerators and garage door openers could use their combined power to inundate an Internet target with email or other malicious activity."  Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/01/is-your-fridge-sending-malicious-emails/#1fRkHMH7DX8YpXIC.99

Now Your Car is Spying on You


English: 2008 Triple Black smart car 451
English: 2008 Triple Black smart car 451 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So does the prospect of your fridge spying on you freak give you the chills?  Then just wait until you hear what the government has in store for your car.  Called Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology, or V2V, it is being touted as a way of making driving safer by enabling vehicles to communicate with one another in real time.  This means the addition of such things as motion detectors, radio beacons and, you guessed it, cameras that are designed to help drivers avoid collisions by warning them audibly or by forcibly taking control of the vehicle to avoid a crash.  (Didn’t we all see "Minority Report" to know what else this technology could be used to do?)

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the Obama administration decided to announce its intention to require the technology in new vehicles in order to "send a strong signal to the (automotive industry) that we believe the wave of the future is vehicle-to-vehicle technology."

Read more: 
http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/national/v2v-technology-us-unveils-plan-for-cars-of-the-future#ixzz2sJcamcLp

This is on top of all the automated surveillance being used in shopping malls and big box stores. Not only do shopping centers' eyes-in-the-sky watch for shoplifters and observe employees, but they can also be equipped with face recognition software, or be programmed to observe and track shoppers as they window shop and make purchases.  Coming to a mall near you is a new technology that will allow store owners to tailor ads displayed in strategically placed kiosks that match a shopper's demographics.

Shoppers at the new International Finance Center Mall in Seoul can find their way around the four-story complex by approaching one of 26 information kiosks. When they do, they also are being watched. Just above each kiosk's LCD touch screen sit two cameras and a motion detector. As a visitor is recorded, facial identity software estimates the person's gender and age.  The system's makers, two companies from South Korea's SK Holdings Co. conglomerate, plan to allow advertisers to tailor interactive ads on the kiosk by those attributes.  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444897304578044322254166986

Kiosk
Kiosk (Photo credit: compujeramey)
So to sum it up, when it comes to who’s watching you in the digital age, know that it's “More Well” (everybody), not just Orwell. You can’t take a walk, you can’t go shopping, you can’t take a drive or stay home.  You can’t even spit outside of the tracking area of the surveillance society.  Or, to put it bluntly, when it comes to "Eye spy, with my little eye,"  I see George Orwell was an optimist.

In this article I covered a multitude of ways, (even levels) that the surveillance society employs to track our lives. I have covered aspects of how everyone is spying on someone, in some way or another, including: individuals spying on each other, businesses spying on employees and or customers, governments spying on other governments (and their own citizens), and last but not least, the criminal element spying to get our money and goods. If you found this article to be useful or entertaining -- or disturbing -- pass it along to your friends and co-workers.  If you have a comment relating to this article, leave it in the section below.  Thanks for sharing this journey with me. Until next time, watch out for the "Watcher of the Skies."

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If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below. I hope you have found these questions and answers useful. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

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Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.com.


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