~e; cell-phone as bug
Wed, 31 Jul 2002 19:13:10 -0500
Halting cell-phone mischief
Albert Robinson Reuters
Monday, June 17, 2002
TEL AVIVImagine your company is holding secret talks to buy another
firm when your main competitor suddenly snaps it up from under your
nose, apparently aware of all the details of the negotiations.
.While you launch a widespread investigation, the culprit could be
nothing more sinister than a cell phone "accidentally" left in the
corner of the room, placed in a plant pot or taped under the
.With a slight modification, cell phones become high-quality bugging
devices. An owner can call the phone from anywhere in the world
without its emitting a ringing tone, while its screen remains blank,
apparently turned off.
."The beauty of the cell phone as a bug is that it's an innocent
looking and ubiquitous object," says Ben Te'eni, co-founder of
Netline Communications Technologies, which has developed a device for
detecting cell-phone communications, especially from cell phones in
apparently dormant mode.
."People trust cell phones," he explains, "but modified and left in
idle mode the cell phone can be used as a transmitter for up to a
week. If it's connected to a power supply it can provide endless
intelligence. Professional bugsweepers often ignore the cell-phone
frequency since the phones are so common and not suspicious."
.What enables Netline to detect them, however, is that they
periodically transmit a signal to their base station. Netline's small
Cellular Activity Analyzer is a device that can be left in a
boardroom, for instance, where it can detect and record cell-phone
activity and give visual and audio warnings.
."I can leave the CAA in the office before important meetings and it
will tell me if there's a cell phone in the room," Te'eni says. "I
can also leave it in the room overnight or for a number of days to
see if a bug has been left behind."
.Like the head of many other Israeli telecommunications companies,
Te'eni, 33, and his co-founder, Gil Israeli, 34, formerly worked in
military intelligence. Te'eni is unwilling to elaborate on his army
service or Netline's client list.
.Having worked for state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries after
leaving the army, the pair decided to branch out on their own and set
up Netline in 1998.
.Their first product was a jamming device that prevents cell-phone
calls in selected areas. Te'eni says the product has been sold to
defense agencies of "blue-chip governments" around the world.
."The jammer can be used by bomb squads or VIP security services to
prevent the detonation of bombs by cell phones," Te'eni says. "We
have also sold to prisons because top criminals are known to continue
their operations or coordinate testimony using smuggled-in cell
phones. In Brazil, riots were synchronized in five prisons using cell
phones, and in Paris a prison escape was coordinated using cell
.Te'eni compares the innocent-looking and simple cell phone to the
cardboard cutters used by hijackers of the planes used in the Sept.
11 attacks in the United States.
.Both have nonlethal and everyday uses that are positive, but both
can also make life easier for criminals.
."A phone can remotely activate a bomb or be used for tactical
communications such as a terrorist act, bank robbery, hostage
situation or kidnapping," Te'eni says. "There are so many negative
ways for using cell phones, which is why the ability to jam them is
.Te'eni says much of the company's sales result from word-of-mouth
recommendations, adding that Netline had sales last year of $1
million to $2 million.
.As for the future, Te'eni says that Netline is looking for steady
growth. "We want to find foreign strategic partners for selling our
solutions worldwide to defense and espionage agencies. Security
people are second-guessing themselves all the time now, so the future
looks good," Te'eni says.
copyright Reuters, 2oo2. non-commercial, educational fair-use. ~e.org 2oo2
the electromagnetic internetwork-list
electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization