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Anti-surveillance device kicks drones, phones and Glassholes from Wi-Fi networks

Sep 10, 20144 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

If you are seriously opposed to drones or Google Glass, and would like a countermeasure option available, then you might be interested in Cyborg Unplug.

If you consider “any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat,” then you might be a critical engineer. If you stop to consider it, most all technology can used for good and for evil. Most surveillance started off with a good reason, such as stopping terrorism, but then ends up being abused due to mission creep. Some might call that paranoid, but as critical engineer Julian Oliver said:

If you are seriously opposed to drones or Google Glass, and would like some countermeasures options available, then you might be interested in Cyborg Unplug; it’s a “wireless anti-surveillance system” created by Oliver, who previously came out with, an app to kick Google Glass off Wi-Fi networks.

If you owned a bar or a restaurant, you could block Glassholes across the board. No, the device can’t stop drones or Google Glass from recording. But Cyborg Unplug can detect and kick “devices known to pose a risk to personal privacy from your local wireless network, breaking uploads and streams. Detected devices currently include: Google Glass, Dropcam, small drones/copters, wireless ‘spy’ microphones and various other network-dependent surveillance devices.” That list will continue to grow as new wireless devices hit the market that “could be used to threaten your privacy.”

The device will come in two flavors, available for pre-order on September 30. The $50 “Little Snipper” can alert you to nearby surveillance devices via a blinking LED; the $100 “Axe” can also send an audible beeping alert through speakers as a warning before kicking the offending device from your network. “Your” network in this case would be one that is used by a pack a people such as at a “school, office, library, bar, or café” and you are the admin.

In theory, it is just as legal to use on your own network as blocking specific devices via blacklists would be. However, it operates differently “only in that it takes a ‘direct action’ approach to wireless defense: a detect-and-disconnect routine, alarm system and an automatically updated list of devices able to be banned.”

From the Cyborg Unplug FAQs:

Can it be used to disconnect devices from any network?

In short yes. But be sure to read on to understand the implications…

Cyborg Unplug can be operated in two modes. The recommended mode is Territory Mode, disconnecting target devices from selected network(s) owned and operated by the user. The other mode is All Out Mode, which disconnects all detected target devices from any network they are associated with, including paired connections with smartphones. Please note that this latter mode may not be legal within your jurisdiction. We take no responsibility for the trouble you get yourself into if you choose to deploy your Cyborg Unplug in this mode.

Don’t call its capabilities “jamming” as jamming is a violation of federal law; the FCC warns U.S. consumers that it is against the law “to use a cell jammer or similar devices that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications such as cell phones, police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi.” Yet the creators of Cyborg Unplug claim, it is not a jammer “in any stretch of the word.” They added:

A jammer disrupts all signal within a given (radio) band by flooding it with noise. Cyborg Unplug does not do this. Rather, it detects and targets a specific device and disconnects (only) it in turn by sending the same, legal, de-authentication packets a router sends when it disconnects a device.

Oliver is also an artist responsible for other trippy and controversial projects such as Newstweek, a device that could be used at a Wi-Fi hotspot to “change anything on a webpage” and thereby manipulate the news and freak out the reader. That gives new meaning to “don’t believe everything you read online.”

As another example, Oliver also created The Transparency Grenade.

Transparency Grenade Julian Oliver

This grenade has “a tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna” so it can capture “network traffic and audio at the site and securely and anonymously” stream it to a dedicated server where it is mined for info like usernames, hostnames, IP addresses, unencrypted email fragments, web pages, images and voice.” The results can be shown on a public map.

Those are but two examples of Oliver’s other tech toy projects, so don’t expect Cyborg Unplug to be his last.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.