Risk
2/23/2010
02:38 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

FBI Investigating Web Spycam

As a federal investigation begins, a security researcher has uncovered evidence related to the case and provided a way to identify the surveillance software.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI said on Monday that both agencies are pursuing an inquiry about allegations that Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District activated Web cams on notebook computers issued to students at Harriton High School.

The federal agencies noted they typically do not confirm involvement in an investigation unless doing so is warranted by the high profile nature of a case or the need to reassure the community.

The allegations were made earlier this month when a Pennsylvania family filed a lawsuit claiming that the school district invaded their privacy and stole private information by covertly monitoring their minor child using a school-issued laptop.

"We intend to work as a team with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, the Montgomery County Detectives, and the Lower Merion Police Department to determine if any crimes were committed," said United States Attorney Michael L. Levy in a statement. "The issues raised by these allegations are wide-ranging and involve the meeting of the new world of cyberspace with that of physical space. Our focus will only be on whether anyone committed any crimes."

Levy said that the investigation is just beginning and that no further comment will be provided until the investigation is complete.

On the Internet, an unofficial investigation has already unearthed surprising information.

Mike Walker, a principal consultant for the Intrepidus Group, a security firm, who blogs under the name Stryde Hax, has identified the school district IT administrator whom he believes oversaw the surveillance of students, the software used to spy, online posts and videos that document the surveillance program and students' reactions to being watched.

In a blog post on Monday, Walker provides instructions on how to identify the "LANRev Trojan" that he claims was used to spy on students at Harriton High.

Walker, incidentally, was the security researcher who claimed to have found evidence that Chinese gymnast He Kexin, the gold medal winner on the uneven bars in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was only 14 years old -- too young to compete in the Olympics.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on Walker's findings.

Walker, however, has urged the family suing the school district and investigators to take immediate steps to preserve digital evidence. "The greatest threat to this investigation now is the possibility that the highly trained technical staff at LMSD could issue a LANRev script to wipe digital forensic evidence off all the laptops," he said in a blog post. "This is why it is imperative for affected parents to have the hard drive removed from their children's laptops and digitally imaged before the laptop is connected to a network."

According to a report published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, a court order issued on Monday forbids the school district from altering the software on the laptops and requires that all digital evidence be preserved. It also reportedly forbids the school district from speaking publicly about the case without prior notification to the plaintiff's counsel.

The school district previously acknowledged that the Web cams had been activated 42 times. A spokesperson for the school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Given the extent of the digital footprints that he has been able to uncover in this case and in the course of his Olympic investigation, Walker suggests that people need to recognize that we now live in a world of "compulsory transparency."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0607
Published: 2014-07-24
Unrestricted file upload vulnerability in Attachmate Verastream Process Designer (VPD) before R6 SP1 Hotfix 1 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code by uploading and launching an executable file.

CVE-2014-1419
Published: 2014-07-24
Race condition in the power policy functions in policy-funcs in acpi-support before 0.142 allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-2360
Published: 2014-07-24
OleumTech WIO DH2 Wireless Gateway and Sensor Wireless I/O Modules allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via packets that report a high battery voltage.

CVE-2014-2361
Published: 2014-07-24
OleumTech WIO DH2 Wireless Gateway and Sensor Wireless I/O Modules, when BreeZ is used, do not require authentication for reading the site security key, which allows physically proximate attackers to spoof communication by obtaining this key after use of direct hardware access or manual-setup mode.

CVE-2014-2362
Published: 2014-07-24
OleumTech WIO DH2 Wireless Gateway and Sensor Wireless I/O Modules rely exclusively on a time value for entropy in key generation, which makes it easier for remote attackers to defeat cryptographic protection mechanisms by predicting the time of project creation.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Sara Peters hosts a conversation on Botnets and those who fight them.