Dan - Western Springs, Illinois
Entered on February 24, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Dan K

“I Believe”


Gillespie 2


I believe that personal privacy is a lie. Privacy is one of those things people take for granted. In today’s age of rapidly increasing technology I decided to do a little field research into what you could do to get someone’s personal information. What I found out was highly disturbing.

First of all I tried to find out how to exploit something that everyone uses almost daily; I tapped my home phone conversations. All I needed to do was go on the Internet and find out how to do so. I learned that this is actually a hobby of some people known a phreaking (phone hacking). What their objective is is to get around the system set up by the phone companies to get free calls, and monitor phone conversations. While this is a dying hobby due to the advent of digital services which are much harder to break, some aspects have grown at an alarming rate. One example of this is called a beige box. When someone beige boxes you they physically hardwire a connection into your phone line using the beige phone box on the side of your house. After collecting the materials I set out to beige box myself and see what happens. With the advent of long range walkie talkies and solar power I quickly and easily set up a wire tap on my own phone all for under 30 dollars. The walkie talkie’s microphone wires were cut and attached to my phone line and the solar panel was places atop the beige box with a wire running down to the walkie talkie battery pack. I accomplished this feat in under 5 minutes with minimal noise and I could eavesdrop on any phone conversation in my house safely from my room. In addition to that with a little bit of modification onto the speaker wire of the receiving walkie talkie I could hook it up to my computer and record everything that was being said. Then I thought “Well that was easy but what about cell phones?”. So I set out to see what I can do to crack cell phones. I found out that cellphones use a type of encryption called A5 which has some serious weaknesses. This type of encryption can be cracked within 2-5 seconds using one computer and the cypher key which will be available in less than 2 months. Also with possession of a cellphone you are automatically broadcasting your whereabouts to anyone who knows your phone number. Programs such as boost mobiles’ GPS service that allows you to see where your friends are at literally broadcasts your location to anyone anywhere.

Moving on to the computer aspect of personal security kind of worried me. I was afraid that I was going to find that I was leaving myself wide open to an attack and I found out that I was. It really is surprising to find out that you could find my mom’s credit card, social security, and PIN number all by installing a cookie logger. A cookie logger collects all of the cookies (packets of information) that web sites make and compiles them onto an easy to read text file. This got me thinking “What if they didn’t install anything on a computer how could you obtain information then?”. The answer popped out at me on the first website I tried. Phishing. Phishing is when someone sets up a fake company on the web that sells something for often very little money and entices you to buy something. As soon as you enter your credit card number they have you. I was not at all surprised to hear this after all it’s been going on in real life as well with people buying something and sending money to a P.O. Box and never getting the ordered item. When they go to investigate what happened they hit a dead end and are left totally ripped off. Already I was formulating how to copy and code a bank website. Unfortunately this test was a bit too costly for a kid’s budget so it had to be aborted. Ultimately there was no soubt in my mind that anyone with a basic level of HTML coding experience could pull this one off. After all of these revelations I was almost too afraid to investigate how to steal people’s passwords. There are many types of different password loggers, often called keyloggers, that allow and individual to pull all of the key strokes you hit. The methods include software, spyware, and hardware. All of which you can either physically collect or have conveniently emailed to you. One of the best is called hacksaw which is installed onto a flash drive and runs all by itself secretly behind everything else. The damage is done in about 20-30 seconds and delivers your passwords, Internet browsing history, product PIN codes, cookie, and Quickbooks information all into an easy to read text file. This is a problem.

Finally I looked at how people can see you on the web. Your computer interfaces with the Internet through a network card located inside your computer. There are two forms of identification that allow you to be seen on the Internet one is the IP address which can be changed with the dynamic host control protocol which basically allows you to have it change randomly while the computer is on. The second form of ID is the MAC address. This address is a lot like the address of your house, it is unique to your house and stays the same. While there are ways of falsifying these addresses you are only masking them and they can be viewed if you download anything.

In this age of new technology you are never alone and hiding in plain sight is next to impossible. People can do things that were not even dreamed up 10, even 5 years ago. It’s a brave new world out there ladies and gentlemen. Good luck.