When the subject of espionage and spying come up most people immediately think of James Bond 007, Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible. The gadgets and devices in those series has caught the imagination of their audiences for years. This time it isn’t a movie prop, it is real! Breaking news caught many by surprise. A new piece of technology was just patented that single-handedly increased the threat of espionage to levels not seen before.
Numerous warnings have been issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Security Advisor Susan Rice in the United States. There warnings were echoed by international intelligence and security forces, as well as many organizations in the private sector. All those warning came before the breaking news about a new piece of technology that increased the threat of espionage to level not seen before.
Think about all of the sensitive information left near printers, copy machines and on white-boards in office buildings around the world. Recently, I was visiting a corporate headquarters and was shown to the executive conference room on the 4th floor where I was going to speak. When I walked in the white-boards were covered with information. Up in the upper-right corner, it said “DO NOT ERASE X4127.” Interestingly enough, the white-boards faced the windows. All that information could easily be recorded on video or photographed by the drone I saw fly past the window. Drones are a recent security issue that must be addressed; however, that is not the new technology that was just patented and poses a much more difficult challenge to guard against.
Just recently Samsung reported they were granted a patent in South Korea for smart contact lenses. These lenses can display an image or video that is sent to them and project the video/image into a wearer’s eyes. The Smart Augmented Reality lenses also has a built-in camera and other sensors that are controlled by blinking. The lenses are able to send the images to a remote device like a smartphone. As the capabilities of this and other similar devices evolve, you can bet their capabilities and image resolution will be enhanced. One senior security individual said it best, “The smart, augmented reality contact lens would be the envy of Q.” In case you are now aware, Q was the equipment mastermind supporting the 007 character. Stop and think about how these lenses could be used for espionage. After that conversation, I had to wonder if a pseudo smartphone or receiver with storage for lens transmission could be hidden in the heal of a shoe of Maxwell Smart in the old TV series Get Smart.
As a security professional casually walk through various departments of your organization and observe the data that is left on the computer screen in the cubicles and offices. As you go by blink. That is all that it would take to capture a picture of what you observed. Of course anyone with access to your facility could just capture images of their casual stroll through your offices, product development labs and research facilities. That includes the evening cleaning crew and building maintenance.
Currently, the cost of espionage is a huge problem for the United States and many other countries around the world. The estimated cost of espionage to the U.S. economy is hundreds of billions of dollars per year and puts our national security at risk. I am sure that economically proportional levels of impact exist in dozens of countries around the world. This is just another new wrinkle in the physical aspects of information security. So, how do you plan to address this new challenge?