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July 18, 2007

FBI Uses Home Grown Spyware to Catch Student Bomb Threat Maker

Ever wonder how technically capable the FBI could be in bugging computers?  Then check out the report in Wired over how they planted software on a 15 year old's computer in a bomb threat case.  Josh Glazebrook was a student at Timberline High in Washington state.  He sent harassing email to fellow students via a hacked server in Italy and set up a bomb threat page on MySpace, actually calling it Timberlinebombinfo.

The FBI got a court order allowing the agency to use a program it calls CIPAV, or computer and Internet protocol address verifier.  According to the FBI affidavit obtained by Wired, the program acts like spyware and can obtain the following information (and more, apparently):

  • IP address
    MAC address of ethernet cards
  • A list of open TCP and UDP ports
  • A list of running programs
  • The operating system type, version and serial number
  • The default Internet browser and version
  • The registered user of the operating system, and registered company name, if any
  • The current logged-in user name
  • The last visited URL

The kid was ultimately identified and arrested through information gathered through the program.  Glazebrook's attorney tried to minimize his client's activity with the "ha ha, just kidding" defense.  The penalty so far is 90 days in jail and two years of probation with restrictions on computer use.

The real focus of the story is on the actual capability of the FBI and how its "spyware" approach to electronic investigation may compromise security companies who root out this type of attack for clients.  The FBI is not kidding when it comes to electronic surveillance.  We've come a long way from keyloggers.

July 18, 2007 | Permalink

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