#435: Privacy

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

What is privacy? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The notion that you have any sort of privacy is ludicrous. Don’t think for one second that you do. If you do this, you won’t be surprised when you learn that simple fact.

Why do I bring this up? Just a friendly warning to you so that you can prepare for this little thing and make any arrangements you think would help. First off, I am just an ordinary guy, no special powers, no special ability to invade privacy really. But, since I am a little more technically inclined than the average citizen, I could be your worst nightmare.

Sitting here on my balcony right now, I am capable of invading thousands of people’s privacy in a matter of seconds. My laptop has a POCSAG decoder attached through the serial port as well as a radio shack scanner. Every few seconds I get anywhere up to thirty pages across my screen. In most cases I am getting the numeric numbers, but occasionally I can read full alphanumeric pages. If I am so inclined, I could use my cell phone to call any one of these people back and tell them exactly what they paged, the capcode of the pager that received it, the time the paging network sent out the page, and more.

Next to my laptop is another Realistic scanner that is monitoring all cordless phone traffic in my entire neighborhood. Everything from plans during the week, to soap opera gossip, to a little talk about sex is caught by the scanner. If I was really bored, I could interrupt their conversation and tell them what I thought. Next to that is another Realistic scanner monitoring all cellular traffic within miles of here. Cellular conversation tends to be a little more interesting as people are more concise and to the point.

The three cell phones lying on the edge of the balcony each allow us to call anywhere we want, absolutely free. Every once in a while we will hook them up to the computer and reprogram the NAM info. The NAM info is what the cell company uses to identify your phone. Also on the edge of the balcony is a set of binoculars in case there is any movement in any of the windows nearby.

Just a few feet from our building is a small telco box containing the lines of all the land lines in the area. Anyone picking up their home phone to make a call, I could listen if I wanted. All it would take is my lineman’s handset and a few minutes. If a neighbor just happens to have a radio of any sort, that would be picked up with one of the scanners.

So, if you are using a ground line, cordless phone, cell phone, pager, or radio, I can listen. If you have your blinds open, I can see you. If I want more info, I can use almost any of the above info in one way or another to get the rest of your information.

If we go a step beyond, and use government level equipment, we can do quite a bit more. With a laser based microphone listening device, I can sit half a mile from your house, and bounce this laser against your window which would let me listen to everything you say. With a few thousand dollars I can get a scope that allows me to see through your walls. A few more thousand and I add a VanEck device and monitor anything that crosses your computer monitor, everything you type into your keyboard. If I go high enough, I can even read the contents of your RAM.. from several yards away.

On the other side of the game, you have less and less measures available to ensure your privacy. Beyond that are technologies that I can only start to imagine about. Radical new methods of surveillance allowing better and more accurate monitoring of more people. They are out there.. trust me.