Spies, Lies and Damned Help Desks


Essential Member
By now everyone has heard about the alleged secret agents arrested in the USA. If you haven't had a chance to read the criminal complaint against them, you're missing out on some interesting revelations.

Revelation 1: Mission Completely Possible

Unlike James Bond (or, heck. Austin Powers), these alleged spies had a mission with boatloads of promise. Were they scoping out weapons programs? Stealing military secrets? Designs for nuclear bombs? Nope - they were tasked with gaining access to U.S. policy makers. Well, hell - a few suitcases of cash and a some stiff drinks is half the battle. was this really a challenge?

Revelation 2: The Alleged Spies Communicated by. AdHoc Wireless LANs

You heard it right. when passing information between persons, they set up ad-hoc wireless LANs and utilized custom communications software to transmit information back and forth. This is the equivalent of a digital briefcase hand-off.

Yahoo recently reported:

The alleged spies communicated with their handlers by special wireless computer networks set up through their laptops. Through that network, they were able to exchange data without meeting. FBI surveillance of Chapman showed her going to coffee shops and bookstores in New York at the same time that a representative from the Russian consulate was in the immediate vicinity; both would allegedly open their laptops and exchange data without speaking or being in the same room.

I can think of about. I dunno. a million better ways of doing this. Come on Kremlin, get with the times!

Revelation 3: Don't Trust the Help Desk

I love how Yahoo describes how the FBI posed (I'm not making this up) as the Russian Spy Help Desk. or at least someone that could "escalate" the issue to Tier 2:

But, like all computer programs, the spy software was bug-ridden, and complaints about it helped two undercover FBI agents convince Chapman and Semenko, a D.C. operative, that they were working with the Russians. One undercover agent posing as a Russian met with Chapman and asked how everything was going: "Everything is cool apart from the connection," she replied. "I am not the technical guy. I don't know how to fix it," the agent said. "But if you tell me, I can pass it up."

Surely there were protocols set up ahead of time describing what to do in the event they had technical difficulties? Something aside from passing a message through a barely-known Russian contact? I suppose 1-800-CALL-DELL begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-CALL-DELL end_of_the_skype_highlighting was out of the question.

Revelation 4: That's No Moon! It's a.

The most interesting thing in the entire complaint is the fact that, for the first time (AFAIK), the US Government has verified that a foreign intelligence group is using steganography to pass data cryptographically hidden in pictures and other file types. You may remember that years ago suspicions were raised regarding suspected terror organizations communicating through embedding information in pornographic images. No proof was ever provided - however this case may change all of that. I'm can't wait to find out the details around this, what tools the alleged spies used, and what type of information was passed


Extraordinary Member
think that's bad? England airport customs let about 20 frauds into the country on tuesday morning posing as professional football players, and some italian guy with them that looks like postman pat.