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Does Wiretapping Require Cell Company Cooperation?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the plumb-the-depths-of-your-cynicism dept.

Communications 174

decora writes "Recently the dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, accidentally admitted to wiretapping journalist Irina Khalip. Khalip is the wife of Andrei Sannikov, one of the many opposition presidential candidates who was imprisoned after the election in 2010. I am wondering how Lukashenko did this? Can a government tap a modern cellphone system without the company knowing? Or would it require cooperation, like when AT&T and others helped the NSA perform warrantless wiretapping on Americans?"

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It's called spying (2)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948384)

It's what they always do to neutralize opposition in politics. They'll find dirt and they'll use it.

Kinda (2)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948426)

If the government took the time to build a mainframe to crack the encryption keys, theoretically they could do it with little more than a partyvan equipped with a few dozen microwave radios or cell phones.

Re:Kinda (2, Insightful)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948462)

Keep in mind I'm talking out of my ass here.

Re:Kinda (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948518)

Hmm... Belarus... If they're still on old analog cell phones, no. If it's earlier GSM, I think most/all of the secret keys have been figured out w/o insider information. With newer stuff, they might have "friends" (Russia, China) who were able to reverse engineer the keys out of the switch hardware and gave them that info w/o help from the switch manufacturer (or they just nicked them). I'm going to hazard a guess that someone probably have equipment that lets them listen to cell phone conversations over the air or they just patch into the calls somewhere between the tower and central offices...

Or, they just paid for the necessary info when they bought the hardware, or it was a necessary bribe to be paid by Vodaphone or whomever to do business there.

Re:Kinda (4, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949512)

Why is this even a question for slashdot. A quick google will inform you that Belrus has a state owned telco.

Nuff said. They own the telco, they'd have access to all traffic across it.

Re:Kinda (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950082)

Nuff said. They own the telco, they'd have access to all traffic across it.

Between your post and elucido's first post [slashdot.org] , this question is now answered. The conversation is over. You have got the how and the why.

The only question remaining is how the phrase "Alexander Lukashenko openly stated that the phones of Irina Khalip...were being monitored by the special services" can become "Alexander Lukashenko, accidentally admitted to wiretapping journalist Irina Khalip" in the summary.

"Openly stated" is nowhere near the same as "accidentally admitted".

Re:Kinda (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948658)

If the government took the time to build a mainframe to crack the encryption keys, theoretically they could do it with little more than a partyvan equipped with a few dozen microwave radios or cell phones.

Seems easier to just pay a cleaner some money to let you in after hours and plant a few bugs around the places where phone conversations are likely to be held.

Re:Kinda (4, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949340)

Actually it turns out the easiest way is simply to tell the corporation you want the information.

That's all it took here in the US and we were ostensibly a dictator-free country with laws against it. So in a country with a dictator, it's a no-brainer.

Look at Cisco/China etc.,

Expecting ethical behavior from a corporation is like a duck expecting a piggyback ride across a lake from an alligator.

Re:Kinda (3, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949508)

Expecting ethical behavior from a corporation is like a duck expecting a piggyback ride across a lake from an alligator.

Which is not to say that it will never happen [blogspot.com] it is just unlikely....?

Re:Kinda (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949986)

Good grief, that's not a duck! What a totally irrelevant pic.

Re:Kinda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948994)

If the government took the time to build a mainframe to crack the encryption keys, theoretically they could do it with little more than a partyvan equipped with a few dozen microwave radios or cell phones.

Assuming by "took the time to build a mainframe to crack the encryption keys" you mean something not even ranking as high as an Alienware laptop - yes. Cellphones use pathetically weak encryption and the only real pain to spying on one, or even forging calls and intercepting/rerouting them is in getting the correct tower.

Re:Kinda (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949562)

Thats not even a pain anymore. Location-based services are all the rage these days.

Re:Kinda (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949540)

A big mainframe... like this [nextbigfuture.com] one?

Re:Kinda (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949656)

quiet you. INGSOC

Re:Kinda (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949888)

Wasn't there an example inexpensive method demoed at defcon or somesuch recently?

Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (4, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948428)

And isn't it the case now that stuff is embedded in all the major telecom hardware makers?

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948494)

even before calea, there was something similar.

they need to teach this in civics classes at school. people need to be told this, explicitly. at least then they can't say "I didn't know."

yes, hardware vendors cannot sell unless there are backdoors.

(the elephant in the room now waves 'hi' to us)

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950026)

(the elephant in the room now waves 'hi' to us)

I saw a man upon a stair,
A little man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
He might not work for NSA.

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (5, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948690)

Yes. I used to work for a company that made CALEA-compliance stuff. Can't talk about that, but most of the major infrastructure companies had CALEA-compliance stuff built in. It is my understanding, from what I learned while I was there (only about a year before moving on to slightly less creepy stuff), that those functionality has to be available to law enforcement remotely, without requiring active assistance from the telco in some cases. I believe that the majority of cases involve telco cooperation, but only a limited subset of employees are aware when a tap is in place.

I believe Verizon has a couple of hundred people on staff who's full-time job is to assist in compliance with lawful intercept requests and that the information on the existence of an intercept is not shared with other people in the telco.

However, the commentary in the summary shows a bit of naiveness on the part of the submitter. Lukashenko is basically the last of the hard-line Eastern Bloc-style dictators. Getting a wiretap on an opposition figure isn't hard when you run a police state.

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948776)

However, the commentary in the summary shows a bit of naiveness on the part of the submitter. Lukashenko is basically the last of the hard-line Eastern Bloc-style dictators. Getting a wiretap on an opposition figure isn't hard when you run a police state.

Since any wireless providers can only do business by the grace of said dictator, I'm sure that they're owned by people that he favors.

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949996)

I can't speak to the telecom side, but when I worked for network operations we processed a wiretap request for data. They came with a warrant and told us what they needed. They had a given computer they wanted to monitor. So data from that port was mirrored off to a computer they provided that we didn't have access to. They connected to that with a T1. When they were done, they took their box and were off. Some time later, after the court proceedings, everything was unsealed and no longer secret.

This was something that only a limited number of people knew about. While it was going on the judge's order was basically a gag order "You can't talk about the fact this is here or happening," kind of thing. Pretty typical for what you see with court cases.

Wasn't really anything special. I'd imagine most managed switches are CALEA compliant by virtue of being able to mirror ports. That lets you monitor traffic, without the party knowing it is happening.

Now who knows, maybe major providers have special network connections back the FBI and so on directly, but I kinda doubt it. They were big on having their own hardware doing the capturing and they didn't want to reach it via the Internet, hence it had its own T1 (originally dialup but the voice switch guys told them we could get them a T1 no problem).

Wouldn't surprise me if they had equipment kept in the buildings though. Their own locked rack and all that. Provided it was properly access controlled it should keep the chain of evidence evidence intact and they could just present the warrant to the telco/ISP and get a tap going quickly.

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950220)

Most countries have laws that require telcos to provide a lawful intercept system that various government agencies can access without the telco, or the individual govt agencies seeing each others intercepts.. This is not news..

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948692)

in the last few years, the router makers have all added DPI. and API's for the DPI for chassis owners (cough, governments) to be able to directly do whatever the hell they want. they no longer have to ask cisco (etc) to do dirty things. they can now set the evil bit directly via user api's. (not kidding; wish I was).

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (1)

Woldscum (1267136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949012)

CALEA equipment allows VoIP call surveillance at the telco switch level (DMS 250 & 500). When a Judge issued a warrant to wire tap a phone number. It would usually happen at the telco switch level. VoIP stopped that because IP traffic did not involve the voice network. CALEA upgraded the physical switches them selves to IP and added 1 cabinet of equipment (COLO owned by the FBI). The FBI through an office in Quantico, VA can access the network switches directly with out involving AT&T or Verizon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Multiplex_System [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Assistance_for_Law_Enforcement_Act [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (2)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949810)

You could *always* intercept the signals from the air. Since when did anyone think sending their calls through the air would only go to the desired place?

Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949956)

You could *always* intercept the signals from the air.

This doesn't really work if you are trying to target a specific person. The air is a pretty big place to look for a single person's signal. Very true that you could stake out close to the person's home or office, but even then you are playing a needle in the haystack adventure. You definitely won't be tracking that targeted person while they talk on a phone in a car or train.

What kind of stupid question is this? (2)

BitHive (578094) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948438)

Just think about it for a minute. The only way a government or dictator could tap someone's phone without the phone company knowing would involve using secret agents (in the broadest sense) to plant bugs or intercept signals.

If there were ways to tap phones without doing this, using only the phone system, they would be common knowledge.

The easiest method is to use your influence (legitimate or otherwise) to get the phone company to cooperate, which is unsurprisingly the most common.

What was the point of this question?

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

LordHatrus (763508) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948502)

Just think about it for a minute. The only way a government or dictator could tap someone's phone without the phone company knowing would involve using secret agents (in the broadest sense) to plant bugs or intercept signals.

Not really; listening in on the radio signals sent between the phone and the tower would not be difficult, and the encryption for it is a joke.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948534)

If there were ways to tap phones without doing this, using only the phone system, they would be common knowledge.

There's the supersecret method of bribe/extort an employee to get access.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948650)

You needn't even be so negative about it. Unless you are really fucking it up, unbelievably hard, there should be a supply of authoritarian 'patriots' who are quite happy to serve the Leader of the Nation...

Ruling a population purely by fear is pretty difficult. Conveniently, though, some people have shockingly low standards. And revel in them.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948826)

And they can. It's trivial. And it's common knowledge covered here before at http://it.slashdot.org/story/09/12/28/1931256/GSM-Decryption-Published [slashdot.org] so no backdoors, bribery, coerced vendors or anything else is needed. In fact, why not do it yourself? It would be like getting a police scanner that had the range of the old analog simplex radiotelephones. We used to listen to them and smirk because they thought their conversations were private.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948988)

If there were ways to tap phones without doing this, using only the phone system, they would be common knowledge.

There's the supersecret method of bribe/extort an employee to get access.

Hah! Indeed [xkcd.com]

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948540)

You may really want to do some investigation. Law enforcement in the US has remote access to phone company computers and there is no phone company oversight of wire taps.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948594)

There are other ways, most of them are common knowledge to your average hacker that read Phrack back in the day. Since most cell phone systems rely on very old, insecure, fixed key cryptography it is fairly trivial to hack a cell phone transmission, impersonate a cell tower or do any number of things with a cell phone system without requiring the cell phone company.

What is required of the phone company is widespread, warrantless wiretapping the central hubs where all communications flow. This is likewise a trivial task but requires some minimal cooperation (even though it may not be acknowledged or detectable by everyone involved on either side).

It's just easier and more convenient to wiretap however you're communicating that way. It's not impossible to do it the "Hollywood Style" (get close to the subject and put a probe in or around the cable) or "The Old School Way" (which involves those pesky judges).

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

gmccloskey (111803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948768)

I really hope you're trying to be sarcastic or ironic - otherwise there isn't a clue stick big enough. The 'only way' isn't. There are several. All methods of interception require money, some require legislation and the rest require subterfuge and technical skill. In this case I imagine it's very simple. The state has a law saying it's legal for certain agencies to intercept calls in order to protect national security. The state's telecoms provider(s) purchase interception equipment from telecoms hardware providers. It gets plugged in and switched on. The state uses it. No conspiracy, no mad l33t skillz, no drama. Except possibly for the subjects/victims of the interception. For examples of legal intercept equipment, see http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CEkQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cisco.com%2Fweb%2Fabout%2Fsecurity%2Fintelligence%2FLI-3GPP.html&ei=CWy3Td-NNZS1hAe6_8H3Dg&usg=AFQjCNGEKGTT3PTOMkB172TvxVlkqgMKZg [google.co.uk] or http://www.scribd.com/doc/49742557/50/Legal-Interception-Gateway-LIG [scribd.com] There is of course the relatively recent case of illegal intercept, in Greece. There it came to light that politicians and other high profile figures had their mobils calls tapped. On investigation, one of the country's mobile providers found that someone had installed, configured and turned on the 'legal intercept' software/hardware to do the tapping. Here's the rub - it wasn't done by the government company or home intelligence service. So who did it and why?

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948864)

What secret agents? Interception of cell phone signals and audio traffic for wiretap freee monitoring is built into most modern high speed networks. Go take a good look at the technology of the NSA fiber optic taps hosted by AT&T, and for which prosecution has been blocked. This is built into almost _all_ major network structures: tapping VOIP and the cell phone networks is a direct consequence of such taps, given the already generous cooperation by the various voice carriers.

There are no warrants, no notifications of tapped targets, and the information can be used entirely without notification of the judiciary or legislative branches. And it already is under Patriot Act guidelines in the USA. Now take that technology, and built-in capacity, to an even less law-based country and see how it can be abused.

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948888)

Or to make the answer a little less obtuse:

The question, in essence, was: Can the government tap my phone?
The answer is: Yes.

Next question?

Re:What kind of stupid question is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949454)

If there were ways...without ...this... they would be common knowledge.

You mean like all the comments about CALEA compliant devices, pre-CALEA devices, and the AT&T/NSA switches? Obviously, it does not exist. :-)

Dictator (3, Informative)

bahurd (2024614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948444)

I think the key word here is "dictator", as in you WILL do this wiretap....

WOULDN'T BE WIRE THEN WOULD IT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948446)

Sometimes I wonder... scratch that. I always wonder !!

Yes (2, Interesting)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948450)

Although it is a bit more difficult with current technology cell phones can be intercepted. The portable phones, even claiming to be frequency shifting can also be intercepted. And nothing is a worse bug than a baby monitor as those things have quite a signal output and are almost never secured. They can broadcast whispers from many rooms in the home as the sensitivity is great on their microphones. I think any serious radio hobbyist could talk if they were not frightened to admit eavesdropping. From what I know people should be encouraged to tap into communication streams. What you learn might scare you to death.
            I am certain that none of the above remarks are factual and only some part of a bit of stew gone rancid or a fire in my imagination. I know nothing.

Re: Yes (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948904)

GSM is not secure [wired.com] . Don't reveal important information over a cell phone, any more than you would a landline (which has no encryption whatsoever).

Not too concerned (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948478)

My opinion is if you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about. If it helps put criminals and terrorists away....have at it!!!

Cinthia :)
http://www.car-shipping-quotes.net/site_map.html

Re:Not too concerned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948834)

Wow, Cinthia - You're a fucking idiot!

Re:Not too concerned (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949010)

My opinion is if you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about. If it helps put criminals and terrorists away....have at it!!!

Cinthia :)
http://www.car-shipping-quotes.net/site_map.html [car-shipping-quotes.net]

Of course, you posted (theoretically) anonymously, then signed the message and add a link to your webpage at the bottom...

I'm guessing you don't really spend a whole lot of time thinking about personal security.

Re:Not too concerned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949158)

Yes, Cinthia, you're ripe for slavery. You've the flawed world view that people are intrinsically good. Read a history book, read any book, to see your blatant naivety.

Yes, quite easily (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948482)

if you have the money and contacts. Covered on slashdot as far back as 2003 [slashdot.org] at least ...

Basically GSM can be made to switch to A5/0 i.e. disable encryption by use of a commercially available "IMSI catcher" device. Originally these sent a spoofed degraded signal to the base station to make it think A5/0 was needed (it uses less bandwidth), these days it seems they just act as base stations. Cellphones automatically lock onto the strongest base station, and GSM security authenticates the handset only, so such rogue base stations are not technically difficult to make.

The "degraded signal" method implies that A5/0 also kicks in naturally in areas of bad reception and anyone with appropriate scanner hardware could monitor calls in that area. You'd still have to deal with the frequency hopping though.

Re:Yes, quite easily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949990)

Also, GSM was also broken anyway so moving away from GSM is moot point.

http://www.gsm-security.net/faq/gsm-a5-broken-security.shtml

Answer: No (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948496)

A government can bribe or persuade an employee to perform the tap, or place an undercover worker in the telephone company in a position which can perform taps. So taps could be done without the telephone organization knowing about them.

Yes, and it only costs $40 (4, Interesting)

ketso (1001027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948510)

GSM has horrible security and carriers aren't exactly doing their best to make their networks secure either. A while ago you needed relatively expensive equipment (around $1000-2000) to be able to sniff on the network, but it's now been done with a few very cheap phones. There's a very informative presentation (with video) here [osmocom.org] . For this to work, you need to be close to the person you want to eavesdrop on however.

IMEI clone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948516)

Some govd agencies have special phones that can be put any IMEI on then. So, just clone the IMEI of the evil jornalist on there.

Pot, meet kettle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948532)

Researching gmail hammering this system I find a /. script running inside gmail page.

My lawyer will be in touch.

see how some phone run custom software from the (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948542)

see how some phones run custom software from the cell company's it's very likely.

Known Unknowns! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948564)

The operative word in your question is Know. There are always things that we know and thinks that we don't Know. But there are always things that we wish not to know.

In the case of wiretapping by a government without legal consent, or the knowledge of the phone company involved, then often there will be persons in the indirect employ of said government who are also in a position of trust in connection with the phone network. Thus it has always been prudent in almost all countries to have a part of the telecoms industry who serves a higher master but wears the common dress.

In summary, never let your right hand know what your left is doing!

To summary the summary, 'Plausible Deny-ability!' as AT&T would say.

GSM, SRSLY? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948586)

GSM is not the most secure standard out there. Check the video from this presentation for a nice overview of exactly how fucked up GSM security is.
http://events.ccc.de/congress/2009/Fahrplan/events/3654.en.html

Not required, just makes it easier. (1)

HFShadow (530449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948596)

Long story short: It makes it easier, but it's not required. If they've got it, they can just copy the call at the switch level. If they don't, they can: Install software on the persons phone, sniff + break the radio waves, bribe a telco employee, plant software on the towers (see http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/pubs/jrnl/2007-Spectrum-AA/html/PS07.pdf [dmst.aueb.gr] - really interesting read), or i'm sure they've got more methods.

Cell phone's aren't secure.

Tapping land lines? (1)

Darth Muffin (781947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948606)

The simplest and most likely explanation is that the dictator originally told the cell company "if you want to do business in this country, I need the ability to wiretap". Another explanation is that depending on who you call, a cell call likely routes over land lines at some point (especially in a third world country). Anyone with physical access to the lines has the theoretical capability to tap.

Re:Tapping land lines? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948666)

"Wiretap" is a phrase that limp-wristed 'civil-liberties' fetishists use to make the nation vulnerable to corruption and subversion. The polite term among those who are simply upholding law, order, and legitimate authority in a dangerous world is "lawful intercept capability"...

Re:Tapping land lines? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948698)

If you have a gluttonous lust for ghastly, utterly banal, PR-drivelspeak concerning wiretapping, anybody on Cisco's "Lawful Intercept Mediation Device Suppliers [cisco.com] " list is excellent reading.

Re:Tapping land lines? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949302)

except when corruption and subversion is being done BY the ones who are supposed to watch out for us.

there is no one watching the watchers and so its fair to assume the power is abused. with as much certainty as human behavior would have us assume.

I worry more about those who rule us than those they say are 'out to get us'.

yes, the tables have turned. we don't care about 'terrorists'. we DO care about the ones in washington who chip away at our civil liberties, though. that's a real and certain threat. the rest is boogeyman shit. worry more about lightening strikes than 'terrorist attacks' by foreign nationals.

Re:Tapping land lines? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949840)

Shit, what was that term for the "effect" where you can't tell if someone is parodying something, or is the genuine article?

Re:Tapping land lines? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949980)

The closest thing that I can think of is "Poe's Law [wikipedia.org] . And yes, I am parodying something, rather than being an actual fascist.

Re:Tapping land lines? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950162)

That's the one.

And well played, sir. :)

No (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948610)

It's very easy to tap a phone. Landlines are extremely simple to tap. You could do it with a little research on the web. Tapping a cellphone is slightly more complicated but still easy. In more modern countries it's getting a little more difficult as we all move towards soft-switches but in Belarus they still have PULSE dialing on their landlines. This means their switches are definitely hardware, and definitely at least 30-40 years old. Who owned the phone company 30-40 years ago? The USSR. I guarantee all their cellphone traffic travels through the same switch(s) installed by the USSR back in the day and all the equipment the KGB had installed at the time is likely still there. You make a call, it hits the cell tower, the cell tower has trunks that lead back to the switch and now they have you. It's a trivial matter to request that all incoming calls from a particular number get recorded.

Re:No (3, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948656)

but in Belarus they still have PULSE dialing on their landlines

So does US. Tone dialing is convenient, but for the sake of compatibility, pulse is supported on all landlines. Plug a Model 500 phone into any analog phone outlet in US, and it will work.

Re:No (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948810)

Technically that should be "most landlines" in the United States. Supporting pulse dialing is optional for the phone company, but they support it in most areas because it is no extra work for them. However, there are a fair amount of PBX systems out there with pulse dialing disabled. Hotline circuits (aka automatic ringdown circuit) obviously do not support pulse dialing, since they don't support dialing at all. There are a few other cases too.

Nevertheless, on the vast majority of U.S. landlines pulse dialing still works.

Re:No (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949846)

PBXes are not "landlines" -- they use digital interfaces everywhere, and formally don't support tone dialing, either.

Re: Er... Incorrect. (1)

LanceUppercut (766964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949248)

Belarus has moved to modern European hardware at least 20 years ago. In fact, most of the post-Soviet space has communication infrastructure that is incomparably more advanced than what is currently used in the USA. It is actually dumbfounding how archaic the US communications are compared to Europe.

Re: Er... Incorrect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949354)

has communication infrastructure that is incomparably more advanced than

I'm sorry, but it's tough to compare two things and claim that they're incomparable.... you can say that someone's beauty is incomparable, or somesuch, but you can't supply something that you're ... incomparable to.... sort of like someone saying "I died, I literally died!"... nope.

Does it matter? (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948628)

I am sure all telecommunication companies in a state well known to be the opposite of a democracy will very willingly cooperateon all levels.

Re:Does it matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949290)

Also, the rest of them.

There was that CEO from Quest who didn't cave in immediately.... Whatever happened to him?

Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948672)

Look at what happened to Greece some years ago. Everyone was wiretapping into the primeminister's and other officials cell phones through Vodafone, without the government knowing - nor Vodafone - or so they claim.
As for the "I am wondering how Lukashenko did this? " question, it's difficult to beat that one in stupidity. He is a freaking dictator, he can do what he wants. He wouldn't need the company cooperation - he can just force them to do it or bring his own people to do it. Or they go to jail. I suggest that you take a look at the definition of dictatorship.

Anti-terrorism Laws legal tapping. (2, Informative)

NSN A392-99-964-5927 (1559367) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948696)

Ever since the world ended up going hell bent on terrorism laws (New World Order), all wire-tapping is legal with or without a warrant and you do not require any special permissions anymore if you work in law enforcement and a telecoms company need not know either.

It is better known as black boxing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box [wikipedia.org] these systems have been in place since 1998 legally. The FBI changed it's code name from Carnivore to Magic Lantern after a bunch of hackers exposed the source code "cult of the dead cow" If I remember correctly.

Now you also have the likes of GCHQ and deep packet inspection http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/05/gchq_mti_statement [theregister.co.uk] and they have been doing this since 1996.

The simple fact is you can be recorded for any half plausible excuse. Getting your location through a cell network takes about 5 seconds...... sadly each persons privacy is eroded and you do not have any choice.

Don't use Credit Cards, Cell Phones, Loyality Cards or the internet. Get out more and a pen and paper works better than spoken words!

Re:Anti-terrorism Laws legal tapping. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949038)

In WWII, every single letter sent internationally was routed through stations where the letters were steamed open and read for 'subversive' information.
The simple fact is that if the government wants to spy on you, they will. They have for a couple hundred years, why should they stop now?

easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948706)

Maybe most people here are from the mighty US, so they have to be informed:
In parts of Europe - especially not at the 4 or 5 countries most non-europeans know - the government still owns companies like phone networks, internet service providers, cell phone providers, telelephony network operators etc.
Also, and this will be surprising, there are still countries that only have one of those and is fully owned by the public - the government.
Thus, the dictator or prime minister is pretty much able to do whatever he wants. He actually hired the company's CEO and owns the company.

like,like,they where like,going to,like,ask? (0)

skoony (998136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948738)

yes,they know. regards, mike

"Government"? Which country? (1)

gavron (1300111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948740)

Governments everywhere are in different countries. They have different laws.

Is it tougher to tap a cellular line than a "land line"? No.

Is it tougher to tap a "land line" than a VoIP line? No.

If the entity wishing to tap your line either has the technical means or gets a court order to make someone else do it, they WILL EASILY be able to do so.

E

Re:"Government"? Which country? (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949630)

Worse still. The tapping facilities of 'lawful interception' *must* be made available to a foreign government as part of trade treaties (for 'IP protection').

In New Zealand (where I am) our government reminded all of our telcos of a law to have this lawful inception equipment installed by the end of 2010 (my understanding it was part of our international obligations, mostly at the behest of the US whose own agencies are not subject to our local [NZ] laws). Similar equipment is installed in many other countries. This allows the US to trace packets flying across the World in real time (bypassing the supposed protection of the TOR system).

GSM encryption... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948744)

The encryption used by GSM uses certain keys (Ki - K sub I) that should be known only to the Telecom and SIM provider. If you were to get those keys, you could pick the call out of the air and decrypt it on the fly.

Na Na (1)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948754)

God says...

scourges sweeten In Away Artificer Prophet displeased
quicken pears Patricius evil Since gather reflect measuring
boldness employ ostentation dried judge prefer hook remorse
smell case springs remembered stoop bestowedst idle Again
obey farther Bridal by residest Tully disputed shalt lights
grew pangs soughtest based exhibit BUT stricken inured
multiplicity dispute artificer dates jeering Right patiently
destined unquiet maintainers merry

But is it useful? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948756)

Is it actually useful? I mean, if you're the wife of a leader of an opposition party to a dictator, you must assume you are being tapped. I hope they have the common sense to avoid talking about anything remotely political on their phones.

Re:But is it useful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949082)

Is it actually useful? I mean, if you're the wife of a leader of an opposition party to a dictator, you must assume you are being tapped. I hope they have the common sense to avoid talking about anything remotely political on their phones.

Is this also the reason the politicians anywhere - in opposition or not - avoid talking politics and pedals on PR bullshit?

Are you f'in stupid? (1)

Major Variola (ret) (1980538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948800)

Of course any state or mafia-sized entity can afford the real-time decoders. Have you not been paying attention?

Since no-one has mentioned it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35948866)

Signals Intelligence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signals_intelligence [wikipedia.org]

You pay your guys to do it. They pay their guys to do it.

Do you have laws against your guys using it against you?

Re:Since no-one has mentioned it... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949090)

Do you have laws against your guys using it against you?

Do you really think having those laws would really help?

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zhusonia (2077490) | more than 3 years ago | (#35948882)

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surely smartphones with apps are the end of this? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949028)

So it seems (relatively) trivial to me to write an app that handshakes with your friend when you meet in person, exchanging keys of sufficient bit length for high-grade encryption. Then when you want to talk privately, the app encrypts the audio. This would seem to be the (pretty much permanent) end to man-in-the-middle attacks of this sort.

So out of curiosity, can anyone link to said app yet?

Re:surely smartphones with apps are the end of thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949116)

yup - http://www.whispersys.com/

I'm sure it could (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950112)

Thing is people won't bother. It is amazing how lazy people are with security, physical, virtual, etc. Sure you could do encryption, this is more or less what the STU and STE phones the government use. The STU-III was more or less a phone, a digitizer, an encryption unit, and a modem. It encoded your voice and then could use analogue lines to send it out. The STE phones are all ISDN (or more recently IP) and handle everything digital, and are much more flexible.

You could almost certainly implement such a thing on smartphone software. Might be hard to do over voice lines since they are pretty low bandwidth and your encoding and decoding would lower it further. However you could do it over the data channel no problem.

For that matter you can buy STE units. Their crypto is kept on a card you put in them so the units themselves aren't classified. You couldn't get the crypto cards the government uses, but you could get one that uses AES or something similarly strong.

However people just aren't going to bother.

Reminds me of the Greek wiretapping scandal (2)

kabloom (755503) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949200)

Reminds me of the Greek wiretapping scandal [ieee.org] . In that version of the wiretapping scandal, a very technically sophisticated attacker (possibly an insider in the phone company) installed wiretap software into the phone network's routers. News broke after a top exec at the phone company hanged himself. Though surely there's a lot we don't know, it was almost certainly not official company policy to cooperate with government wiretaps on political opposition.

No but it helps (1)

ddoctorisin (777637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949252)

In Canada our politicians are busy ensuring the complete erosion of private internet use as we know it. One of our current bills before parliament in Canada is essentially about to give make carriers to do this for the government. Basically they are installing lawful intercept systems for various law enforcement organizations to use. "This enactment requires telecommunications service providers to put in place and maintain certain capabilities that facilitate the lawful interception of information transmitted by telecommunications and to provide basic information about their subscribers to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Commissioner of Competition and any police service constituted under the laws of a province" http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4007628&Language=e&Mode=1&File=19 [parl.gc.ca] And we are allowing it....

Yes and no (1)

LanceUppercut (766964) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949288)

Of course, you can capture the actual GSM radio transmission off the air. There's no way to stop that. However, that GSM transmission will not be readable, since it is encrypted. You can decrypt it without provider's help, but that will take a considerable amount of time and computing power. In order to decipher it immediately, you will definitely need provider's cooperation. So, the answer is that it is impossible to perform real-time monitoring of GSM conversations without the provider's help. GSM is absolutely secure in that regard. It is not clear what Lukashenko meant by what he said. Did they monitor her phone in real-time? If so, then it immediately means that they had access to internal provider's information. If they were only able to do it later, then it is possible that they actually deciphered the communications without provider's participation.

Not so difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949338)

You are trying too hard. "Lawful interception" is part of the standard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawful_interception , and as a government you state that every network operator needs tp purchase their network with this option. Done.

Lawful interception separates law enforcement and operator personnel, so the operator does not know what is intercepted.

short answer (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949446)

Yes it requires cooperation, but no, that cooperation doesn't have to be voluntary.

It's called "Lawful Intercept" technology (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949740)

Not only is cooperation from the phone company not required, but the phone company doesn't get to know when it's being used, and has no technical means to stop it or prevent it.

It's a legal requirement that the government is given the means to tap at will, and a legal requirement that their tapping cannot be discovered.

That's what is happening when telecom/network equipment vendors are touting the "lawful intercept" feature compliance of their latest product models.

Belarus =! USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950030)

You are all stupid. This article is stupid. The comparison between belarus and the us is idiotic. The wireless carriers in belarus are all Russian. He does not have to ask permission to get access to anything he wants.

End of story.

You are comparing a totalitarian dictatorship with a country with laws and courts.

Move on. Nothing to see here.

Seriously? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950214)

Unless it's encrypted, it's just radio traffic. Just need a scanner capable of decoding GSM or CDMA signals. You'll probably have to be within range of the tower communicating with their phone, but that's not too hard.

Triggerfish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950216)

You use something called a triggerfish which does a man in the middle attack on the phone (for mobiles). You need to be in the area.

It was on The Wire and it is real (and no, they won't sell YOU one).

No, it was a limitation some years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950276)

...but the encryption is weak on GSM so a brute force attack is possible now.

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