Feds: No charges in Pa. school laptop-spying institutionalized pedophilia case

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Offline Eckhart Tolle

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FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/FBI-Investigates-Webcam-Spy-Allegations-Against-School-451724/


By: Brian Prince
2010-02-21




The FBI is investigating allegations made against the Lower Merion School District in a lawsuit by the parents of a student. The lawsuit claims school officials used a remote-controlled Webcam to spy on their son, a high school student.


 

The FBI is reportedly investigating a Pennsylvania school district for possible federal law violations in light of a lawsuit filed by the parents of a high school student.

 

According to multiple media reports, the FBI is probing accusations made against the Lower Merion School District by Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa. The Robbins family filed a lawsuit alleging the district spied on their son, Blake, who is a student at Harriton High School, using a webcam included on a school-issued laptop. The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is looking into the accusations as well.Resource Library:


According to the suit, the district provided laptops to high school students as part of a technology initiative, and did not notify families the laptops were equipped with Webcams that could be turned on remotely. The family alleged in the suit they did not learn of the capability until school officials accused Blake Robbins of "improper behavior in his home" and cited as evidence a photograph from the Webcam embedded in the laptop.

  

 On Feb. 18, after news of the lawsuit broke, District Superintendent Christopher McGinley issued a statement explaining the feature was included on the laptops in order to help the district locate the machines in the event they were stolen. A day later, in a letter posted to the district’s website, he repeated the explanation, and stressed that the feature had been turned off.

  

 “While we understand the concerns, in every one of the fewer than 50 instances in which the tracking software was used this school year, its sole purpose was to try to track down and locate a student's computer," he wrote. "While certain rules for laptop use were spelled out - such as prohibitive uses on and off school property - there was no explicit notification that the laptop contained the security software. This notice should have been given and we regret that was not done."

  

 In a question and answer section posted online underneath the letter, the district states: "At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security- tracking software. We believe that the administrator at Harriton (High School) has been unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family. The district never did and never would use such tactics as a basis for disciplinary action.”

  

 According to the district, 42 laptops were reported lost, stolen or missing during the 2009-10 school year, and the feature was used in each instance. A total of 18 laptops were found or recovered. The feature will not be reactivated without expressed, written notification to all students and parents, according to the district.

Offline Eckhart Tolle

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2010, 08:35:53 pm »
This is so wrong.

Offline Monkeypox

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2010, 08:39:35 pm »
They're only investigating it because they approve of what the school did and they want to incorporate their techniques, LOL.

The school will probably get an award from the FBI.
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PullMyFinger

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2010, 08:42:17 pm »
It is.Notice,a "security feature" in case the machine is stolen.I hope this lawsuit stops this practice but it probly wont. A friend of mine had just gotten a new machine(rental) when this story broke.She is going to disable it and put electrical  tape over the camera.When she locates it,it's hidden somewhere.

Offline Georgiacopguy

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2010, 08:44:38 pm »
Computer Lojack doesnt quite work that way if i recall though, the administrators wouldnt have access to the vid caps, just the company that provides the software. The problem I have with that story though is; the school says they were trying ot recover a stolen or missing laptop. Yet he was obviously in posession of the laptop at the time this iamge was acquired. Yet they (the school) does not address this matter in their press release.
The resistance starts here. Unfortunately, the entire thing is moving beyond the intellectual infowar. I vow I will not make an overt rush at violent authority, until authority makes it's violent rush at me and you. I will not falter, I will not die in this course. For that is how they win.

Offline Monkeypox

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2010, 08:47:41 pm »
It is.Notice,a "security feature" in case the machine is stolen.I hope this lawsuit stops this practice but it probly wont. A friend of mine had just gotten a new machine(rental) when this story broke.She is going to disable it and put electrical  tape over the camera.When she locates it,it's hidden somewhere.

Great idea, but that only works if you can actually SEE the camera.

They can now embed a camera BEHIND an LCD screen on a laptop, desktop monitor, or TV.  You won't even know it's there.

Apple patent puts webcam behind display surface for an eye-level image:  http://www.obsessable.com/news/2009/01/13/apple-patent-puts-webcam-behind-display-surface-for-an-eye-level-image/
War Is Peace - Freedom Is Slavery - Ignorance Is Strength


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Offline Kilika

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2010, 07:30:23 am »
Some person may have thought it was a good solution to laptops being stolen, but there are other ways to track and locate a device(GPS), whether it has a camera or not, and therein is the problem for the school district. They compromised a person's privacy without fully investigating their options in dealing with laptop theft. But then, we pretty much know that soem involved had intent that goes beyond stolen laptops.

The other issue here is the school attempting to discipline a student for actions in the students own home, regardless of HOW the school learned of the students actions. The school has no business in the matter of the students actions within the students own home, unless it involves the student defacing/destroying school property such as a laptop, books, etc. The students actions at home and anywhere else, are first and foremost the responsibility of the parent, period.

Quote
According to the district, 42 laptops were reported lost, stolen or missing during the 2009-10 school year, and the feature was used in each instance. A total of 18 laptops were found or recovered.

Hmm, that's a success rate way under 50%. So the school fails even at using the camera to locate laptops!
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
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Offline Georgiacopguy

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2010, 07:54:42 am »
Exactly...But they still have not explained how the student in question had his camera turned on if it was an attempt to recover a stolen laptop. They simply infer his laptop MAY have been stolen, not that it actually was. The whole thing is an ass coverin manuver. And they just expect people to take their explanation, gloss it over, and forget about it. That lawsuit needs to turn into a class action suit, becuase there is no telling how many times those pervs misused that system.


Some person may have thought it was a good solution to laptops being stolen, but there are other ways to track and locate a device(GPS), whether it has a camera or not, and therein is the problem for the school district. They compromised a person's privacy without fully investigating their options in dealing with laptop theft. But then, we pretty much know that soem involved had intent that goes beyond stolen laptops.

The other issue here is the school attempting to discipline a student for actions in the students own home, regardless of HOW the school learned of the students actions. The school has no business in the matter of the students actions within the students own home, unless it involves the student defacing/destroying school property such as a laptop, books, etc. The students actions at home and anywhere else, are first and foremost the responsibility of the parent, period.

Hmm, that's a success rate way under 50%. So the school fails even at using the camera to locate laptops!
The resistance starts here. Unfortunately, the entire thing is moving beyond the intellectual infowar. I vow I will not make an overt rush at violent authority, until authority makes it's violent rush at me and you. I will not falter, I will not die in this course. For that is how they win.

Offline sharpsteve

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Principal Shows how He Spies on Kids with Laptop and Snaps Pics with Web Cam
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2010, 07:59:55 am »
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF8D1ORNXPo

This clip is from PBS FRONTLINE: Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier. This is from segment 4 of the show titled Teaching with Technology. The Assistant Principal demonstrates how he spies on kids by accessing student laptops and watches them and what they are doing and even take pics of the kids.

Watch the entire show here:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/

Offline Jackson Holly

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2010, 08:41:02 am »


We are living in a dystopian nightmare ... they are rolling this out to test the
waters ~ just turning up the heat a bit on the frog.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


1  9  8  4

Part 1, Chapter 1

Part One



It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The blackmoustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at streetlevel another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.

Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometre away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste -- this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? And the bombed sites where the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow-herb straggled over the heaps of rubble; and the places where the bombs had cleared a larger patch and there had sprung up sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken-houses? But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux occurring against no background and mostly unintelligible.

The Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue, in Newspeak -- was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
St. Augustine: “The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself."

Offline donnay

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2010, 10:18:16 am »
If this were happening to the school my children attended, I would be suing the whole school district for pedophilia and stalking children!  That is just too creepy!!  They have no right to do this and parents better start suing these school districts to send a clear message that we will not tolerate it!
"Logic is an enemy and truth is a menace." ~ Rod Serling
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Offline John_Back_From_The_Club_O

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2010, 11:55:33 am »
FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School

"Nope nothing here!"  "We don't see a problem!"

Next Day's Headlines...

School granted $2 million to purcahse MORE computers from FBI. :D

Offline sharpsteve

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That was quick. Video now in this story. Thanks to Steve Watson and Everyone at PrisonPlanet and Infowars

http://www.prisonplanet.com/school-spycams-case-explodes-as-feds-initiate-probe.html

Offline lee51

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Re: FBI Investigates Webcam Spy Allegations Against School
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2010, 12:52:34 pm »
If this were happening to the school my children attended, I would be suing the whole school district for pedophilia and stalking children!  That is just too creepy!!  They have no right to do this and parents better start suing these school districts to send a clear message that we will not tolerate it!

I completely agree donnay!! 

AlphaM

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The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2010, 03:21:49 pm »


http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

WATCH THIS VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHu92imqJec


Quote
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The Spy at Harriton High
[Digg] [Slashdot]

This investigation into the remote spying allegedly being conducted against students at Lower Merion represents an attempt to find proof of spying and a look into the toolchain used to accomplish spying. Taking a look at the LMSD Staff List, Mike Perbix is listed as a Network Tech at LMSD. Mr. Perbix has a large online web forum footprint as well as a personal blog, and a lot of his posts, attributed to his role at Lower Merion, provide insight into the tools, methods, and capabilities deployed against students at LMSD. Of the three network techs employed at LMSD, Mr. Perbix appears to have been the mastermind behind a massive, highly effective digital panopticon.
PanoMasterMind


I'll be watch-in you - Mike Perbix

The primary piece of evidence, already being reported on by a Fox affiliate, is this amazing promotional webcast for a remote monitoring product named LANRev. In it, Mike Perbix identifies himself as a high school network tech, and then speaks at length about using the track-and-monitor features of LanRev to take surreptitious remote pictures through a high school laptop webcam. A note of particular pride is evident in his voice when he talks about finding a way outside of LANRev to enable "curtain mode", a special remote administration mode that makes remote control of a laptop invisible to the victim. Listen at 35:47, when he says:

"you're controlling someone's machine, you don't want them to know what you're doing"
-Mike Perbix

It isn't until 37 minutes into the video till Perbix begins talking about the Theft Tracking feature, which causes the laptop to go into a mode where it beacons its location and silent webcam screenshots out to an Internet server controlled by the school.


Click to watch an excerpt of Mike Perbix's spycast

The beacon feature appears to have been one of the primary methods for remote spying, however, network footprints abound over the details and architecture of the remote administration effort. In this post, Perbix discusses methods for remotely resetting the firmware lockout used to prevent jailbreaking of student laptops. A jailbreak would have allowed students to monitor their own webcam to determine if administrators were truly taking pictures or if, as the school administration claimed, the blinking webcams were just "a glitch."

Perbix also maintains a prolific blog, where in this blog post he describes using the remote monitoring feature to locate a stolen laptop:

"As a prime example, we initially attempted to recover a stolen laptop that reported back to us it's internet address and DNS name. The police went to the house and were befuddled to find out the people we knew had the laptop was not the family that lived there...well, we eventually found out that they were the neighboring house and were borrowing the unsecured WI-FI."

In a September 2009 post that may come to haunt this investigation, Perbix posted a scripting method for remote enable/disable of the iSight camera in the laptops. This post makes a lot more sense when Perbix puts it in context on an admin newsgroup, in a post which makes it clear that his script allows for the camera to appear shut down to user applications such as Photo Booth but still function via remote administration:

"what this does is prevent internal use of the iSight, but some utilities might still work (for instance an external application using it for Theft tracking"

What's the purpose of shutting down a camera for the user of the laptop but still making it available to network administrators? Ask yourself: if you wanted to convince someone that a webcam blinking was a glitch, would disabling the cameras help make your case?
We Found the Glitch, Mrs. Buttle

The truly amazing part of this story is what's coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

    * Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes

    * Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated

    * Disabling the camera was impossible

    * Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion


When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase "compulsory transparency". I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case. On a familiar note, the authorities are denying everything. As one reads comments on this story, a consistent story begins to emerge:

"My name is Manuel Tebas. I was a student at Harriton High School, in the graduating class of 2009. We were the first year on the one-to-one laptop initiative. [...] I saw your post about removing webcam capability from the Macbook. It is possible - I did it last year. I will preface this by saying that when I did it, I was almost expelled, saved only by the fact that there was, at the time, no rule against doing so."

"I remember that the laptop was a requirement in school for many classes. That may remain so."

" had brought in my own personal computer to work on a project for school one day. I was doing a presentation involving programs not available on the regular computers, only in specific labs. I happened to have a copy of my own. My personal property was confiscated from me in a study hall when I was working on a school assignment because it was against the schools 'code of conduct'."

"Hi, I'm a 2009 Graduate of Harriton Highschool. [...] I and a few of my fellow peers were suspicious of this sort of activity when we first received the laptops. The light next to the web cam would randomly come on, whether we were in class, in study hall or at home minding our own business. We reported it multiple times, each time getting the response: "It's only a malfunction. if you'd like we'll look into it and give you a loaner computer."


"The webcam couldn't be disabled due through tough tough security settings. Occasionally we would notice that the green light was on from time to time but we just figured that it was glitching out as some macbooks do sometimes. Some few covered it up with tape and post its because they thought the IT guys were watching them. I always thought they were crazy and that the district, one of the more respectable ones within the state, would never pull some shit like this. I guess I was wrong."

"I am the father of a 17 y/o Harrington High student. She has had one of these laptops for 2 years. She has noticed the "green light" coming on but was not computer literate enough to know what initiated it"

Browse as many web forums as you like, the comments above are highly representative. Students were told green webcam activation lights going off at home were a glitch, were required to use a jailed computer, were threatened with expulsion if they attempted to jailbreak the computer to find the truth, and were not allowed to use computers they controlled.
Inside LANRev

With some of my colleagues, I began a reverse engineering effort against LANRev in order to determine the nature of the threat and possible countermeasures. Some of the things we found at first left us aghast as security pros: the spyware "client" (they call it an agent) binds to the server permanently without using authentication or key distribution. Find an unbound agent on your network with Bonjour, click on it, you own it. The server software, with an externally facing Internet port... runs as root. I'm not kidding. For those unfamiliar with the principle of least privilege- this is an indicator of a highly unskilled design. Unfortunately, when we got down to basic forensics, LANRev appears to cover its tracks well. Here's a screenshot of the server application monitoring a tracked host:




Tracking intervals available at the top; screenshots and webcam shots in the lower right pane. No webcam shot is visible here as a webcam was not connected during testing

In order to spy on my computer, I had to mark it for spying. The icon for spying is a detective hat and a magnifying glass; very Sherlock Holmes


Once I had the agent installed, I used dtrace to monitor its activity as it hung around and spied on my system. The log below is an edited trace of the agents activity during a spy interval. It uses a fixed dump point, /tmp/Image, as its save file before uploading to the server, sadly this is wiped. Only a full forensics scan which picks up deleted files will have a chance of picking up the history of the spying on a particular computer. On laptops with a webcam, a second fixed save point, /tmp/Image1, is used to save the webcam pic.


For the technically inclined, I've highlighted some of the key points, use of the system screengrabber, the use of RawCamera, the fixed save point, etc. We're still working on our technical writeup of this software and hope to update soon.

During our testing, we infected a laptop with LANRev, then closed the lid, hoping to activate the LANRev feature which takes a webcam picture when the computer wakes. As my colleague Aaron opened the lid of his Mac, the green webcam light flickered, ever so briefly. It wasn't a glitch. It was a highly sophisticated remote spy in his system. And even though he was in control, the effect was still very creepy.


Here's one last capture from the Windows version of the administration console, showing a forced remote webcam snapshot. We've pixellated this, but rest assured the real thing looks very detailed

In other news on the case, subpoenas have been issued, the FBI is on the case, the candy in question has been caught red-fingered, and some enterprising chap is ready to cash in with a t-shirt. Dave Muth's hands on screenshots provide the best first hand encounter with the client end of the spyware in question. What amazes me most is that the family and lawyer filing the suit appear to have done no digital forensics going in, and no enterprising student hacker ever jailbroke a laptop and proved this was going on. 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. 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. With enough persistence, and enough luck, we may eventually learn the truth.

-stryde.hax

Offline Overcast

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2010, 04:00:00 pm »



And we know what thought's going through that mind in the picture.... "Yummmm, little girls!"

And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

Offline uwaf

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2010, 04:05:43 pm »
SORRY ;D But he's saying "YUMMY, little boys"! :P

Offline Monkeypox

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2010, 04:07:03 pm »
SORRY ;D But he's saying "YUMMY, little boys"! :P

Or, "Yummy, Sheep!"

 ;D
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Offline Guns Equal Freedom

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2010, 04:08:18 pm »
This thread creepy on so many levels.

 :o
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AlphaM

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2010, 05:24:05 pm »
http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/blog/2

Quote
A look at one of Lower Merion School District's evil spying laptops
Submitted by dmuth on Thu, 2010-02-18 21:54.
Tags:

    * Blake J. Robbins vs. Lower Merion School District
    * evil spying laptops
    * laptops
    * LMSD
    * Lower Merion School District
    * webcam
    * webcam spying

   

An anonymous source let me use one of the Lower Merion School District laptops earlier tonight. My mission: to determine if the web cam could be turned on or off manually, or if I could access logfiles verifying whether the webcam was used or not.

I didn't bother taking any pics of the web cam itself, since the student smartly covered it with tape, and I didn't feel like getting my face on LMSD's naughty little camera.

First, let's confirm that it is in fact an LMSD laptop:
Property of Lower Merion School District The Lower Merion School District asset tag

Note that there appears to be no way to actually control the webcam from the machine itself. That means that if someone were to turn on the camera itself, it could not be turned off by the student. That's scary. (Anybody know of another way to control the camera? Let me know!)

No way to turn on/off the web cam No way to turn on/off the web cam

No way to turn on/off the web cam No way to turn on/off the web cam

On a related note, there is a microphone in the laptop. This can be turned all the way down:

The microphone could be controlled, though

However, if the machine can be accessed remotely by the school district, since the microphone is controlled by software, there is no guarantee that it could not be turned back on. And unlike the web cam, there is no LED that goes on when the microphone is in use. Also scary.

My next task was to try and view the log files on that machine. Unfortunately, the application for viewing them was locked down:

No way to view logfiles in /var/log

The "Terminal" application was also locked down. My source indicated to me that it used to be accessible, until students figured out how to use the command line to get around the restrictions. (anyone with UNIX knowledge would not be surprised by this)

My final attempt was to try and boot the machine from a DVD so I could mount the filesystem and the hard disk and view the logs that way. Unfortunately, it looks like LMSD was using Extensible Firmware Interface or a similar product had an Open Firmware Password in place, as any attempt to bring up the boot device selection men by holding down the option key at startup asked for a password:

No way to boot from a CD/DVD

In conclusion, there is no way to turn off the webcam, nor any way to be certain that the microphone is not recording. This is a serious privacy risk and I cannot recommend the use of the laptops at this time.

For a future article, if I can get my hands on an LMSD laptop for several hours or more, I intend to fire up a packet sniffer and see just what hosts the laptop talks to, and create some nullroutes for those hosts that can be set up on any Linksys or Cisco router. Stay tuned!

Doug works as a software engineer for hire by day, and does system administration for a hobby, including that of the SAC website. Visit him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dmuth.

[Edit: Fixed remark about Extensible Firmware Interface. Thanks, Jeff!]

Offline Bobbychins

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2010, 10:04:41 pm »
MMMMM, spies.

I wonder how many times students were seen smoking weed at home.
Or maybe somebody brings their laptop to a friends house, leaves it in they're backpack. The school must love listening in on every little thing, the school, and Govmnt.
Maybe they want to catch some people breaking laws and rules, or maybe it's just a study, with no action taken against the students. "Let's see how much we've dumbed down these kids, I hope it's enough. Otherwise we'll have to feed them more drugs!"
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Offline Overcast

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2010, 11:47:33 pm »
More Details Emerging About School Laptop Spying, And It Doesn't Look Good
Quote
Following up on this morning's post, new details are emerging about the school spying scandal in which a student was punished for apparently chowing down on Mike&Ike candy (which the school thought were drugs). In our comments, someone named Paul points us to a blog post from a security consultant, who digs much deeper into the story -- focusing on one of the techies who worked at the school and apparently had a noticeable internet presence, having said a few things that could come back to haunt him. Note, that the school itself has said that only two techies on staff had the power to initiate the use of the remote spying tool.

Apparently, in various forums, blog posts and videos, one of the school's techies talked about the technology they were using and how to set it up so that the user would not realize they were being spied on. He also discussed how to prevent a laptop using this software from being "jailbroken," so users couldn't discover that their computers were being used in this manner. Other forum posts from students at the school show that they were told they could not use other computers, could not disable the cameras and could not jailbreak their laptops on the risk of expulsion.

Furthermore, in looking at the software that was being used, the security consultant found serious security problems with it, in some ways similar to the famed Sony BMG rootkit:

    With some of my colleagues, I began a reverse engineering effort against LANRev in order to determine the nature of the threat and possible countermeasures. Some of the things we found at first left us aghast as security pros: the spyware "client" (they call it an agent) binds to the server permanently without using authentication or key distribution. Find an unbound agent on your network with Bonjour, click on it, you own it. The server software, with an externally facing Internet port... runs as root. I'm not kidding. For those unfamiliar with the principle of least privilege- this is an indicator of a highly unskilled design. Unfortunately, when we got down to basic forensics, LANRev appears to cover its tracks well.

Things keep looking worse for the school, and school officials have done little to actually explain what happened, if the prevailing story is not actually the case.
And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

Offline Guns Equal Freedom

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2010, 11:51:23 pm »
Everybody should use this story just to point out this was was a high school with limited resources, and not a government with many government resources.
A Peaceful Anarchy would be like Utopia, but a Minarchy is reality.

Offline Sheepleprod

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http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1996-The-Oven-Just-Got-Hotter-LMSD.html



As if Lower Merion Schools didn't have enough trouble now the publisher of the software they allegedly abused has spoken out:

    The company selling the software used by a Pennsylvania school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery "vigilantism" today.

    Absolute Software said it dissuades users of theft-recovery software from acting on their own. "We discourage any customer from taking theft recovery into their own hands," said Stephen Midgley, the company's head of marketing, in an interview Monday. "That's best left in the hands of professionals."

Yep.  That's because, among other things, the sort of activity that LMSD is alleged to have undertaken is both unnecessary and in addition is actually harmful to the prospects of recovering a stolen device.

    Calling LANRev a "legacy" product, Midgley also said that Absolute would ship an update in the next several weeks that will permanently disable Theft Track, the name of the feature that lets administrators switch on a laptop's camera to take photographs of a potential thief after the computer is reported stolen. "It really doesn't serve any purpose," said Midgley of Theft Track.

Oh, it serves a purpose all right.  It serves the purpose of allowing whoever activates it to capture images of whatever might be in front of the camera.

You decide whether that capability has any legitimate purpose being on a laptop that is intended, by the issuer of said device, to wind up in a minor's bedroom where a reasonable expectation exists that said minor will at some points in time be in various states of undress!

    In a Q&A section of the letter, McGinley said that students could mask the camera lens on their MacBooks if they wished. "There is no requirement that a student use the camera's standard webcam feature," he said.

So why didn't you order the notebooks without said cameras?  You did order over 2,000 of them.  That's plenty to have a production run without them - go ask the various branches of the DOD as they do it all the time for obvious security reasons.  I'm sure it's not the first time that Apple has been asked about laptop computers without webcams and built-in microphones.

    To kick off the recovery of a stolen or lost laptop, customers first must file a police report -- not a requirement of LANRev -- and only then contact Absolute, which in turn tracks the location of the missing machine via its IP address when the system goes online. Absolute employs a team of former law enforcement professionals who reach out to local police, provide them with the location information and then get out of the way. "We take the responsibility out of the hand of the end user," said Midgley, "and do the work for them."

Exactly.  As I noted, if you want to write your own software then that's fine. "LoJack for Laptops" does essentially what I described - it transmits a packet to the central (company, not school) server with the MAC address(es) of the machine, which can be matched against a blacklist of known stolen machines.  Since MAC addresses are unique, a "hit" is extremely solid evidence that said machine is present on "X" network at that instant in time.

Armed with a police report of a stolen machine and a time-stamped (certified by said company as a business record) report of the machine at a given location the ISP involved (cable company, phone company, etc) can produce the physical address.

Said law enforcement agency can then head on over with a cruiser in an attempt to recover the stolen property.

Again, I used to get these requests all the time when I ran my ISP, MCSNet.  They typically had nothing to do with theft but in each and every case I was able to give said requesting agency everything we had, down to the (in this case) the phone number dialed from (since most of our connections were either modem or ISDN, and both returned ANI to us as we were paying for the trunks - and no, you can't block it!)

There's no excuse for the way this was set up, irrespective of how or whether it was used.

And I still want to know if these laptops were configured with VPN.
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Offline rawiron1

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It's wire tapping if the computer is in a private residence.  You need a warrant.  I use to be a cop, I know these things.  We had a guy here listening in on phone conversations during a federal phone audit.  When management found out that he was doing more than recording numbers dialed she went bizzerk and told him that he was committing a federal felony and needed to cease his phone call monitoring immediately.  A contractor was making international calls without permission and all we were suppose to do was record when the calls were made, what numbers were called, and the duration of the calls.  No listening in.  He was fired for abuse of government equipment.  He had been previously warned, no international calls at tax payer's expense without permission.  He later admitted that he was calling "girlfriends" in China, Korea, and Japan.

Jason
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Offline ScipioAfricanus

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serves those kids and their parents well. They love the nanny government, and they have a highly developed sense of entitlement. "free laptops, every child with a free laptop." vs " buy what you want with your own money and if you can't afford it do without."

next they will be complaining about the vaccines they have to get in order to get financial aid to go to college.

Offline Monkeypox

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #26 on: February 23, 2010, 09:19:47 pm »
This is what happens when you accept "free" things from someone.  The school "gave" the kids the laptops, so they feel entitled to spy on them using the laptops.

Nothing "free" is ever really free.
War Is Peace - Freedom Is Slavery - Ignorance Is Strength


"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."

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Offline Sheepleprod

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Unconstitutional Spying case gets more interesting
« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2010, 10:39:51 am »
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20100225_Contradictions_in_L__Merion_Web-cam_case.html

The computer-snooping controversy in Lower Merion schools took a new twist last night as a lawyer claimed that a school official told his 15-year-old client that his school laptop contained evidence - both pictures and words - that he might be dealing drugs.

"She called him into the office and told him, basically, 'I've been watching what was on the Web cam and saw what was in your hands,' " lawyer Mark S. Haltzman said in an interview. " 'I've been reading what you've been typing, and I'm afraid you are involved in drugs and trying to sell pills.' "

Haltzman, who represents 15-year-old Blake Robbins and his parents in their controversial invasion-of-privacy suit against the Lower Merion School District, alleged that Lindy Matsko, assistant vice principal at Harrington High School, first contacted Michael and Holly Robbins in November and then called their son in.

The parents told school officials that they were mistaken, Haltzman said, and Blake was not disciplined. The lawyer said the family decided to sue only after a counselor told them that an account of the incident had been placed in Blake's school file.

Haltzman's new allegations - some of which go further than the broad language of the suit he filed last week - came on a day that began with Matsko angrily denying as "outrageous" any suggestion that she used school computers to spy on Robbins in his home.

Matsko's lawyer could not be reached for comment last night on Haltzman's latest allegations. School district spokesman Douglas Young said he could not comment because of the pending suit, which has prompted an FBI investigation into whether district officials violated wiretap and privacy laws.

Matsko trembled with anger yesterday morning as she stood in her lawyers' Center City office and said "many falsehoods and misperceptions" had been aired regarding her role.

She said she had two teenage sons and would be as furious if laptops were used to look in on them. "If I believed anyone was spying on either of my children in my home," Matsko said, "I, too, would be outraged."

Hours later, the response was delivered by a jacketless 15-year-old Blake Robbins, reading a lawyer's script in the shivering cold, yards from his parents' snow-piled Penn Valley driveway.

Matsko, who is in her 25th year working for the school district, took no questions after reading her six-minute statement.

"At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop Web cam," said Matsko, her voice occasionally swelling and quavering, "nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via a laptop Web cam, either at school or in the home. And I never would."

Robbins, a Harriton sophomore, stood surrounded by his family and Haltzman as he read a statement on Haltzman's letterhead that praised Matsko as "a good educator and a good person" before alleging that she had, in effect, snooped.

"Ms. Matsko does not deny that she saw a Web-cam picture and screenshot of me in my home," said Robbins, a blue-jeaned, slight teenager with brown bangs. "She only denies that she is the one who activated the Web cam."

Last night, a reporter asked Haltzman why the suit did not specifically allege that Matsko had cited what Blake Robbins had typed on his laptop.

"I do not have the [lawsuit] complaint in front of me," Haltzman replied by e-mail. "But I recall that Blake has stated during interviews that Matsko stated to him that [she] had seen a picture of him and what he had been typing on the screen."

Why hadn't the family gone to law-enforcement authorities? "Their thinking was, back in November, to just let it go," said Haltzman, who has described the photo snapped by the school laptop camera as merely showing Blake Robbins with his favorite candy, Mike & Ike. "Blake protected himself by putting tape over the spot on the Web cam."

Then, he said, the family learned that the episode "was in his file. . . . That's the part that got them outraged."

Offline Monkeypox

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Trying to sell pills?  The poor kid was probably taking the handful meds that were recommended by the school shrink.
War Is Peace - Freedom Is Slavery - Ignorance Is Strength


"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."

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Offline muggl3z

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #29 on: February 28, 2010, 06:09:26 pm »
And we know what thought's going through that mind in the picture.... "Yummmm, little girls!"


What a creepy looking slime bucket.
I want to go out of this world like I came in, screaming and covered in blood.

Offline worcesteradam

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #30 on: February 28, 2010, 08:15:14 pm »
What do you think about the coverage of the Lower Merion School District spying issue?
Needs more coverage   
(42%)
Not Enough   
(6%)
Over hyped   
(41%)
Could care less   
(10%)

http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2010/02/18/main_line_times/news/doc4b7d7d9ce9a28395335138.txt

51% of flouride heads dont care about this story.
Amazing isnt it
"I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are." - George Bush

Offline Bobbychins

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #31 on: February 28, 2010, 11:53:04 pm »
and 48% think it needs more coverage. That's pretty damn good, I think.
AlbinoLime will live again.

wvoutlaw2002

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #32 on: March 01, 2010, 07:16:13 am »


"Yummm...little girls and little boys...thank you, Chris Hansen for all the tips!"

;D

Offline muggl3z

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Re: The Spy at Harriton High
« Reply #33 on: March 02, 2010, 12:58:30 am »
What do you think about the coverage of the Lower Merion School District spying issue?
Needs more coverage   
(42%)
Not Enough   
(6%)
Over hyped   
(41%)
Could care less   
(10%)

http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2010/02/18/main_line_times/news/doc4b7d7d9ce9a28395335138.txt

51% of flouride heads dont care about this story.
Amazing isnt it

I think that's about right. On a good day in a good mood I'd say about 50% of the people in this country are too far gone in the Matrix to help. Some days... it seems a lot worse. :P
I want to go out of this world like I came in, screaming and covered in blood.

Offline chris jones

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Don't worry the G men are on it, Hoover was a great instructor.

Offline jaycee

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The tech at the school district supposedly keeps a blog about how to use the spy software.

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

Quote
This investigation into the remote spying allegedly being conducted against students at Lower Merion represents an attempt to find proof of spying and a look into the toolchain used to accomplish spying. Taking a look at the LMSD Staff List, Mike Perbix is listed as a Network Tech at LMSD. Mr. Perbix has a large online web forum footprint as well as a personal blog, and a lot of his posts, attributed to his role at Lower Merion, provide insight into the tools, methods, and capabilities deployed against students at LMSD. Of the three network techs employed at LMSD, Mr. Perbix appears to have been the mastermind behind a massive, highly effective digital panopticon...

Offline Bobbychins

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I was riding the bus the other day and overheard a conversation another rider had while he was on the phone. He said he acquired a laptop, and was looking to sell it. What I should have done, is ousted him in front of all the passengers of the bus that he stole a laptop. f**k "security" measures to prevent stealing, you need to oust the people stealing the shit, make all those around him know that he/she is not to be trusted. So a school lost a laptop they bought with fake money? Are they really losing something?
AlbinoLime will live again.

Offline rphope

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On November 11 last year, Blake Robbins, a 15-year-old student at Harriton High School, in a suburb of Philadelphia, was hauled into the assistant principal Lindy Matsko’s office, shown a photograph taken on the laptop in his home and disciplined for “improper behavior.”

Some background: Last fall, Lower Merion School District provided 2,300 high school students with Mac laptops in what its superintendent, Christopher McGinley, described as an effort to establish a “mobile 21st-century learning environment.” The scheme was funded with $720,000 in state grants and other sources. The students were not allowed to install video games and other software, and were barred from “commercial, illegal, unethical and inappropriate” use. What Blake and his parents did not know is that the school was able to access the webcam on Blake’s laptop remotely at any time.

Federal prosecutors said today that they will not file charges against the district or its employees, according to an Associated Press report. Investigators found no evidence of criminal intent by those who activated the feature and/or reviewed the images.

On Tuesday, August 17, the FBI and federal prosecutors announced that they could not prove any criminal wrongdoing by Lower Merion School District.

“We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent,” declared U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger.

Today, the district announced new policies for its One-to-One laptop program. In a statement, the district explained the new policies and emphasized how it would be allowed to activate the tracking feature in the future.....

More: http://morichesdaily.com/2010/08/school-spying-dismissed/

Offline Dig

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This is conditioning.

This is slave training.

This is dehumanizing eugenics.

This is leading the jews into the showers.

WAKE UP!
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

wvoutlaw2002

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On November 11 last year, Blake Robbins, a 15-year-old student at Harriton High School, in a suburb of Philadelphia, was hauled into the assistant principal Lindy Matsko’s office, shown a photograph taken on the laptop in his home and disciplined for “improper behavior.”

Some background: Last fall, Lower Merion School District provided 2,300 high school students with Mac laptops in what its superintendent, Christopher McGinley, described as an effort to establish a “mobile 21st-century learning environment.” The scheme was funded with $720,000 in state grants and other sources. The students were not allowed to install video games and other software, and were barred from “commercial, illegal, unethical and inappropriate” use. What Blake and his parents did not know is that the school was able to access the webcam on Blake’s laptop remotely at any time.

Federal prosecutors said today that they will not file charges against the district or its employees, according to an Associated Press report. Investigators found no evidence of criminal intent by those who activated the feature and/or reviewed the images.

On Tuesday, August 17, the FBI and federal prosecutors announced that they could not prove any criminal wrongdoing by Lower Merion School District.

“We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent,” declared U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger.

Today, the district announced new policies for its One-to-One laptop program. In a statement, the district explained the new policies and emphasized how it would be allowed to activate the tracking feature in the future.....

More: http://morichesdaily.com/2010/08/school-spying-dismissed/

My god, this was CRIMINAL WIRETAPPING! The federal prosecutors who decided not to pursue charges should be charged with aiding and abetting criminal wiretapping. The principal, the superintendant, and the federal prosecutors ALL deserve to share prison cells with "Tiny" or "Bubba".