Albert Gonzalez, the mastermind behind most of the multi-million dollar credit card breaches in the past few years, is being sentenced this week. (Feds are asking for 25 years.) Now his former accomplice, Stephen Watt, has told Wired that while Gonzalez was busy stealing and selling credit card data he was also being paid under the table by the U.S. Secret Service to inform on others, earning as much as $75,000 in cash annually.
Last week, Daynah wrote about how she was forced to stop writing anything down during a recent shopping trip to the cosmetics store Ulta. At the time, Daynah grudgingly gave in because she really wanted to make a purchase (she tests products for consumers). But once she left the store, she took the fight back to Ulta.
In a world where smartphones can shoot video, snap photos, record audio, scan barcodes, and let you make price comparisons via text message, it’s almost funny to run into a paranoid manager like the one at an Ulta makeup store in Seattle. Well, funny except for that petty tyrant part where she tells you that you’ll have to take your old-school pen and papers out to the car and come back empty handed before she’ll sell you any makeup.
It’s also possible to intercept unencrypted or poorly encrypted messages directly as they’re broadcast over cellular channels. (If the network uses sophisticated encryption, you might be out of luck.) To steal messages with your phone, you would need to upload illegal “firmware” onto your phone. This essentially turns your phone into a radio and allows it to pick up all the texts broadcast on a given channel–instead of limiting you to the ones addressed to you. You’d also need to know the network for the target phone–Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, etc.–and you’d have to make sure that both your phone and the target are within range of the same base station. This method isn’t too expensive since you don’t need much more than a computer, a phone, and some firmware that any serious techie could find online for free.
Hmm. We do not know anything about illegal firmware, so we’ll take Slate’s word on that.