‘Creepy’ spy computer turns your real big brother into the NSA

CreepyDOL

Forget the NSA – the real threat to your digital privacy may soon be the kid who lives across the street, or even your real big brother.

This new breed of DIY mass surveillance comes courtesy of security researcher Brendan O’Connor, who plans to unveil his latest dastardly creation, the Creepy Distributed Object Locator, or CreepyDOL, at the DefCon hacker conference, which kicks off in Las Vegas on August 1.

Compact and unassuming, the CreepyDOL box is capable of covertly scooping up various personal details from nearby cell phones, tablets, or laptops. That personal data, which can include name, email address, and sometimes even photos, is then sent back to a remote database controlled by the CreepyDOL owner. A user must simply plug in the CreepyDOL box into an outlet where it has access to public Wi-Fi. Any device that connects to the Wi-Fi is secretly intercepted by the CreepyDOL.

CreepyDOL is only the latest spy computer from O’Connor, who runs security consultancy firm Malice Afterthought. O’Connor unveiled a different version, dubbed the F-BOMB (a.k.a. Falling or Ballistically-launched Object that Makes Backdoors), at the Shmoocon hacker conference in January 2012.

“With these F-BOMBs, I can gain creepy identity information pretty easily and passively,” O’Connor tells Forbes. “I can track people over whole areas of a city just by tracking watching their wireless devices as they wander around.”

The CreepyDOL consists of various spy nodes, which are made from Raspberry Pi mini-computers, and runs on Linux. The system O’Connor plans to show off at DefCon contains ten spy nodes. Aspiring creeps will reportedly be able to buy the device for less than $60.

O’Connor designed the CreepyDOL to be left around a city or town, in public spaces. Because of this, the device includes a variety of security features, including Tor anonymity software to hide the location of the central database and robust encryption of collected data, to help prevent anyone who finds it from figuring who planted the box.

As nefarious as it all sounds, O’Connor says one of his motivations for building CreepyDOL is to “prove that this level of knowledge and detail isn’t only the province of intelligence agencies anymore.”

“If you think that only the government, with millions and billions to blow on watching someone can create this problem for privacy, then we’re not going to solve it,” he says.

O’Connor also believes that collecting this personal data, which he plans to visualize, will help average people understand how much information their devices leak.

“If every person on the planet can use this surveillance technology, I think we should start to design things not to leak information at every level,” he says. “You leave behind a trail that can be tracked not just by the NSA or a law enforcement agency, but by any kid in a basement with less than $500.”

Digital Trends will be on the ground at DefCon, so check back later this week for more from the hacker conference.

Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Web

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Mobile

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 now available on the Apple Store

The Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 is now available on the Apple Store for $150. The sensor strip, which is only 2 millimeters thin, automatically tracks a wide array of sleep data when placed under the user's sheets.
Deals

Save up to $750 with the best smartphone deals for December 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $750.
Mobile

Google to end support for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyone with an old phone that is still running Android 4.0 may want to look into upgrading their phone, as Google has announced that it will be ending support for this older version of Android.
Mobile

Amazon knocks $30 off its Paperwhite ebook reader in limited-time deal

Amazon is running a couple of limited-time deals for its Paperwhite ebook reader. One offers a $30 discount, while the other throws in a pair of headphones and a free, extended Audible trial.
Mobile

New Galaxy S10 leaks showcase display sizes, confirm headphone jack return

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

Android 9.0 updates to stretch into 2019 -- will your phone get a slice of Pie?

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

LG G7 owners experiencing dreaded bootloop will have to wait a few days for fix

If you’ve picked up LG’s flagship and it’s not behaving itself, then you might find a solution here. We’ve rounded up the most common LG G7 ThinQ problems and tracked down workarounds and possible fixes.