It’s no secret that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) use various form of technology to perform surveillance. In this day of high tech gadgets far more information can often be gleamed from a computer than simply tapping phone lines. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was able to use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain information on the FBI’s Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier (CIPAV) spyware (by the way was that enough acronym soup for you?):
What is CIPAV and How Does It Work?
The documents discuss technology that, when installed on a target’s computer, allows the FBI to collect the following information:
- IP Address
- Media Access Control (MAC) address
- “Browser environment variables”
- Open communication ports
- List of the programs running
- Operating system type, version, and serial number
- Browser type and version
- Language encoding
- The URL that the target computer was previously connected to
- Registered computer name
- Registered company name
- Currently logged in user name
- Other information that would assist with “identifying computer users, computer software installed, [and] computer hardware installed”
The documents are an interesting read and it really brings up the question of how one could defend themselves against such a tool. This depends on how the FBI installs the software. If they break into your computer remotely to install it the only option available is to ensure your system is locked down as tightly as possible. That doesn’t solve the problem of the FBI sneaking into your dwelling or place of business and installing the software remotely.
This is where full disk encryption comes into play. If you entire hard disk is encrypted there really isn’t much that can be done without the password. Not only can data on the drive not be seen but it also can’t be changed and thus you can’t install software onto the system without the decryption key. Not only does full disk encryption protect your data if your device is stolen but it also protects your from third parties installing software onto the system.