Vladimir Putin's old Stasi ID card discovered

What a wonderful time to be alive. Read the rest

Trump administration considering deep background checks on Chinese students

If you want an example of how big of a problem Chinese espionage is, you needn't look any further than the warnings that Canada and the United States have been throwing at corporations and governmental organizations about the use of gear built by tech companies with ties to the Chinese government.

Apparently, the issue extends beyond the use of smartphones and cellular networking hardware built by Huawei and ZTE: the US Government is thinking about conducting deep background checks on Chinese nationals coming to the United States in pursuit of their education. Spies! They're everywhere!

From IntelNews.Org:

...the Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of imposing deeper background checks and additional vetting on all Chinese nationals wishing to study in the US. Citing “a US official and three congressional and university sources”, Reuters said on Thursday that the measures would apply to all Chinese students wishing to register in undergraduate and graduate academic programs in the US. The news agency quoted a “senior US official” as saying that “no Chinese student who’s coming [to the US] is untethered from the state […. They all have] to go through a party and government approval process”. Reuters reported that the proposed plan includes a comprehensive examination of the applicants’ phone records and their presence on social media platforms. The goal would be to verify that the applicants are not connected with Chinese government agencies. As part of the proposed plan, US law enforcement and intelligence agencies would provide counterintelligence training to university officials.

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Russian agents allegedly tried to hack lab associated with Skirpal poisoning investigation

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been elbows-deep in the investigation of the Novichok nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skirpal. As part of their investigation into where the nerve agent may have originated, the OPCW sent samples of the chemical weapon to a number of independent labs.

Using multiple labs provides a fail safe against false positive results and bias – two things you'd want to avoid considering the fact that the results of the tests could trigger a significant international incident. One of the labs that the OPCW may have used (I mean, they're not going to come right out and say that this is where they're sending dangerous shit) was Switzerland's Spiez Laboratory. Since Russia has denied that it had any role in the poisoning of the Skirpals and the other collateral victims of the Novichok attack, it's really really surprising to be surprised by the surprise expulsion of two Russian intelligence agents (surprise!) from The Hague, where OPCW is based. Apparently, they were trying to tinker with Spiez Laboratory's computers.

From NPR:

Swiss and Dutch authorities did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. Andreas Bucher, a spokesperson for Spiez Laboratory, also declined to comment on the deportations. However, he confirms the laboratory's computer systems have been probed by unknown hackers in recent months.

"We've had indications that we were in the crosshairs," Bucher says. No data has been stolen from the lab, he adds.

Although Spiez Laboratory has not officially acknowledged receiving a sample, it is widely believed to have done so, according to Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent chemical weapons expert based in France.

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Umbrella-camera and other Soviet spy cams up for auction

Next Thursday, Aston's auctioneers will sell off a private collection of cameras including some fantastic Soviet-era spy cams. According to the auction house's camera specialist, the most curious item is a camera containing a second camera (image below):

At first glance this appears to be a normal Zenith E camera it it's case, but opening it reveals a hidden miniature F-21 AJAX-12 camera. The camera is mounted so the f2.8 28mm lens is pointing out of the side edge of the case. On pressing a small button on the bottom of the case the internal mechanism cleverly raises a hidden internal flap, the camera shutters fires and the flap immediately closes shut. The user simply carries the camera over their shoulder in the normal way, but can take pictures at 90 degrees without raising any suspicion as it looks like the camera is in it's case and not being used. The camera uses 21mm film and has a clockwork drive for multiple shots without detection.

" Read the rest

Spanish football app turns users into unwitting surveillance operatives

Spain's got a stiffy for football, or soccer, if you must.

When a football match is on, just about everyone in the country loses their minds. TVs are gathered round, siestas are forgone, and team songs, in any bar you chance, will be full of scarf-swinging loons banging on tables and screaming for every goal. It’s loud, chaotic and lovely. For many Spaniards, catching a game while on the go involves downloading a smartphone app fronted by Spain’s national football league, Liga de Fútbol Profesional. Available for iOS and Android handsets, the La Liga app is not only licensed to stream football games, but also lets users keep track of the stats for their favorite teams and players.

Oh, it also tracks your every move and taps your smartphone's microphone, supposedly in the name of helping to root out unauthorized match broadcasts in bars, restaurants and cafes.

From El Dario, via Google Translate:

The Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the body that runs the most important sports competition in Spain, is using mobile phones of football fans to spy on bars and other public establishments that put matches for their clients. Millions of people in Spain have this application on their phone, which accumulates more than 10 million downloads, according to data from Google and Apple.

All of these people can become undercover informants for La Liga and the owners of football television broadcasting rights. If they give their consent for the app to use the device's microphone (which is common in many applications), they are actually giving permission for La Liga to remotely activate the phone's microphone and try to detect if what it sounds like is a bar or public establishment where a football match is being projected without paying the fee established by the chains that own the broadcasting rights.

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WWII living legend finally given the honors he deserves

Frank A. Gleason may not be a name that you're familiar with. But, given his contributions to the allied war effort during World War II, you should be. During the war, Gleason, now 97-years old, worked for the Overseas Strategic Service (OSS), an intelligence organization that was superseded by the Central Intelligence Agency. It was never his intention to become a spy but, smart as a whip and tough as nails, he was a perfect fit for the gig.

From Task & Purpose:

A native of Marietta, Georgia, Gleason was freshly armed with a chemical engineering degree from Penn State University when he was recruited into the OSS. It was a tight-knit, exclusive group: When the agency was founded, director Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan famously said, “We need Ph.Ds that can win a bar fight.”

During the year he and his team operated behind enemy lines in China, they were responsible for disrupting enemy communications and the destruction of railway lines, and blew up over 100 bridges. They generally made life for Japanese troops stationed in the areas where they worked a living hell. The dangerous services that Gleason rendered on behalf of the Allies has gone all but unrecognized over the past 74 years. Unlike soldiers, spies generally don't get parades. According to Military Times, Gleason's time in the shadows has come to an end: Congress has recognized the veteran's service during the war with the award of a Congressional Gold Medal – the highest award that can be given to a civilian in the United States. Read the rest

Creepy new spy camera is so small it could be hiding anywhere

If you're not already wearing a tinfoil hat, it may be a good time to start: a pair of engineers based out of the University of Michigan have figured out a way to create a light-powered camera sensor that's only a millimeter in size: small enough to be practically invisible to a casual observer.

According to a paper published in IEEE Electron Device Letters by Euisik Yoon and Sung-Yun Park, the new camera has the potential to not only be insanely small, but also, self sustaining, thanks to a solar panel placed directly behind the camera's image sensor, which is thin enough that light, in addition to what's needed to create an image, is able to pass right through it. This could provide the camera with all the power it needs to be able to continue to capture images, indefinitely.  At a maximum of 15 frames per second, the images it captures aren't of the best quality, but they're more than adequate for creeping on an unsuspecting subject.

The good news is that, for the time being, the camera is nothing more than a proof-of-concept. In order for it to be deployed in the real world as a near-invisible surveillance device, someone a lot smarter than me will need to figure out how to store image data and transmit it using hardware that's just as discrete as the camera's image sensor and power source are.

Fingers crossed that it'll take them a while to work those issues out.   Image via pxhere Read the rest

New Zealand: we'd expel Russian spies but there don't seem to be any here

New Zealand set about expelling any Russians who might be spies, but couldn't find anyone who fit the profile. Apropos of nothing, there is a subreddit called "Maps Without New Zealand" dedicated to world maps that omit the island nation, as if the creator simply forgot that it existed or never knew in the first place. Read the rest

Global spy agencies meet for "Five Eyes" intel-sharing network in New Zealand, including U.S. FBI, CIA, NSA

Intelligence officials from the so-called "Five Eyes" network, which includes the United States' FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, are gathering for an annual intelligence-sharing exchange today in New Zealand. Reuters confirmed the get-together, at which spy agency reps from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will also gather. Read the rest

'Utterly ridiculous': GCHQ shreds Spicer's claim that UK spy agency wiretapped Trump

Officials with the British government complained to the White House today after Donald Trump's spokesliar Sean Spicer cited a bogus Fox News report claiming that former President Barack Obama got help from U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ to spy on Donald Trump. Read the rest

Justice Dept. to charge 2 Russian spies and 2 criminal hackers with 2014 Yahoo breach of 500 million accounts

Before today's anticipated announcement by the Justice Department, more details are already leaking out about who they're after: “two Russian spies, and two criminal hackers.” Read the rest

U.S. spies are withholding intelligence from Donald Trump, who has none

Capping off Donald J. Trump's No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don't trust him. Today's report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy. Read the rest

Brazilian domestic spies use Tinder to infiltrate protest movements

Brazilian Army Captain Willian Pina Botelho posed as Baltazar "Balta" Nunes in a fake Tinder profile and set out to seduce members of left wing anti-government protest movements in order to infiltrate them. Read the rest

UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal says GHCQ illegally spied for 17 years

The independent tribunal ruled on a case brought by Privacy International, concluding that the UK spy agency GCHQ was acting illegally for 17 years while it amassed huge databases of "bulk collection" data of cellphone location and call-data -- a practice revealed by the Edward Snowden docs. Read the rest

SeaWorld secret agents go deep undercover

Sounding like something out of a mediocre Hollywood movie, SeaWorld has copped to infiltrating animal rights groups and spying, under the guise of protecting them selves from "credible threats."

I also enjoy that "certain employees" were directed to these tasks. Seal trainers? Cotton candy spinners?

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Reading from a statement while speaking with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said SeaWorld's board of directors has "directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal-welfare activists. This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats."

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Women In Espionage trading card set

Mary Yordy made a set of 16 cards called Women In Espionage. You can buy them through Etsy. Read the rest

Hamas claims Israel is using dolphins as spies

According to an article in the Palestinian daily al-Quds, Israel has "recruited a watery pet, the dolphin, known for his friendship with humans, to use for operations to kill Qassam Brigade Naval Commandos." Read the rest

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