- 11:52 AM
Buried in the 150 pages of CIPAV spyware-related documents released by the FBI Thursday is a tantalizing nugget that indicates the bureau’s technology experts have more than one way to hack a suspect.
In early 2007, FBI agents with one of the bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Sections sought hacking help from the FBI’s geek squads. The agents were working a case in Pittsburgh, which is not described in the documents, and wanted to know "if [a] remote computer attack can be conducted against [the] target."
The FBI’s Cryptographic and Electronic Analysis Unit, CEAU, responded with two options. One of them was redacted from the released document as a sensitive investigative technique. The other is described this way: "CEAU advised Pittsburgh that they could assist with a wireless hack to obtain a file tree, but not the hard drive content."
Wi-fi hacking has featured prominently in some big cybercrimes, including the attack on TJ Maxx that exposed at least 45 million customer credit card numbers and other data. In that case, Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez and associates allegedly cracked the retailer’s WEP key and used it to gain entry to the corporate network, where he planted packet sniffers to scoop up the data.
But this is the first evidence that the FBI is using the same tactics. Presumably, suspects using one of the better encryption options — like WPA-2 — are immune.
It’s not clear why the FBI said it could only obtain a file tree — a hierarchical list of directories and files. It could be to avoid the risk of a judge later ruling that the search warrant was unconstitutionally over-broad, and consequently throwing out the evidence. Or maybe the bureau’s hackers don’t want to consume all of a target’s bandwidth while copying his entire porn directory into the FBI van on the street.
Homebrew "cantenna" photo courtesy Clicknmiken