FOLLOWUP – Trojan lets cyber-cops plant bogus evidence

DIRT surveillance software is a “fraud,” says U.K. Register

From: "Thomas C. Greene" 
Subject: Crime-busting Trojan D.I.R.T. is a fraud
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 22:50:00 -0700

Declan, please send this out to your Politech list.  Frank Jones of Codex
Data Systems is selling a Trojan to law-enforcement (chiefly overseas) as a
surveillance device.  It enables cops to upload bogus evidence to a victim's
machine with no auditing mechanism to ensure accountability.  Unfortunately,
i did a story on Sunday which contained some incomplete and inaccurate
information, and i really need to set the record straight.


My recent article on the D.I.R.T. (Data Interception by Remote Transmission)
Trojan, with which law-enforcement agents can secretly monitor a suspect's
computer and which is marketed by surveillance outfit Codex Data Systems,
contained several inaccuracies, all of which can be attributed solely to my
own lapse in the skepticism for which The Reg in general, and I personally,
are known.

The full story, as it happens, is immensely more twisted than I imagined
when I wrote my original item. Clearly, The Register's readers deserve
better -- and here it is:

Thanks to several e-mailed hints from readers, I continued doing background
research and have now confirmed that the CEO of Codex Data Systems is one
Francis Edward "Frank" Jones, a convicted felon currently on probation for
illegal possession of surveillance devices. He was charged with trafficking
and conspiracy to traffic in them, but in an agreement he pleaded guilty to
simple possession, and the US Government dropped the other two charges.

He was sentenced to three-hundred hours' community service and five years'
probation with no jail time, on the strength of his argument to the court
that he was not responsible for his illegal acts by reason of mental defect.
He has also been required to participate in a mental-health program, which,
judging by some of his recent behavior, appears to be less than a screaming

Jones is widely regarded as a scam artist with a long history of
security/surveillance snake-oil sales. He has, for example, sold
bug-detection services, which we're told are completely fraudulent,
involving detection apparatus easily cobbled together from the inventory of
Radio Shack. He's reported to have planted a bug which he subsequently
'found' during one such charade.

A Legend in His Own Mind
He's also a shameless, Boswellian self-promoter with a Web site devoted to
himself in his on-line incarnation, "SpyKing."

Here we're told that SpyKing/Jones is "formerly in military and law
enforcement service," and "a popular talk show guest with 15 appearances on
national & regional programming and news specials."

As for his law-enforcement experience, we've since learned that he managed
to get himself fired from the New York City Police Department in 1975,
according to a letter by Association of Counter-Intelligence Professionals
(ACIP) Executive Director Michael Richardson.

But the PR beat goes on: "Jones has lectured at M.I.T. (Massachussetts [sic]
Institute of Technology) on TEMPEST computer eavesdropping techniques," his
Web site claims. Indeed, "No other speaker has their thumb on the pulse of
changing world trends in immerging [sic] surveillance technologies."

The security 'experts' our illiterate subject has conned include hacker
trivia master Winn Schwartau and AntiOnline's "JP" John Vranesevich (no
surprises there), and such publications as PC World, E-BusinessWorld,
TechWeek, the Wall Street Journal, and, thanks to my carelessness, The
Register as well.

The D.I.R.T. on the Trojan
The truly inexcusable element of my first story was my failure challenge
rigorously Codex's claims regarding the amazing power of its D.I.R.T.

Had I taken the time to learn that SpyKing/Jones was behind this, I would
have immediately suspected that it's a lot more talk than technology. But I
ran with the piece out of eagerness to work my own agenda, motivated by
personal outrage that anyone would be so irresponsible as to sell a Trojan
to law-enforcement and governments as a surveillance device.

And the reason for that outrage survives even now; D.I.R.T. unquestionably
permits police to upload bogus evidence to a suspect's machine and offers no
auditing controls by which they might be caught, which was the focus of my
original report.

That much hasn't changed; D.I.R.T. is absolutely ripe for abuse without
accountability, and Jones is utterly damnable for trying to sell it to
governments and police organizations.

But I was on very shaky ground in reporting its true capabilities. My
subsequent investigation indicates that Codex's claim that D.I.R.T. can
defeat all known PC firewalls is, quite simply, false.

Furthermore, their claim that "the software is completely transparent to the
target and cannot be detected by current anti-virus software," is
misleading, if not completely false. There is no technology in D.I.R.T.
responsible for this sort of stealth; the server isn't detected simply
because no anti-virus vendor has as yet added it to their signatures

Defeating D.I.R.T.
My suggestions in the original article for defeating D.I.R.T. remain
basically sound, if perhaps a bit over-cautious due to my mistaken belief
that it defeats all known firewalls (though there is reason to believe it
may defeat a few).

Because it isn't presently detected by anti-virus software, one does have to
look for evidence of it. By default, it installs two files in the C:\WINDOWS
directory -- DESKTOP.EXE and DESKTOP.DLL. Find either of those files, and
it's time to re-format your HDD.

One can also check their Windows registry under:
references to DESKTOP.EXE or DESKTOP.DLL.

For those not intimately acquainted with the incontinent complexities of the
Windows Registry, it would be best simply to search the entirety for
references to both files mentioned. (It's also worthwhile to check out some
of the suggestions in my previous report.)

Now, because those file names are defaults which can be modified by savvy
operators, I'm not saying, 'if you can't find the files, then you're not
infected.' The names can be changed; but we can rely on the fact that most
operators will be using D.I.R.T. in its default configuration -- after all,
its chief selling point is that it can be used successfully by the
technically illiterate.

One final point regarding defenses against the Trojan: soon after I posted
the first article recommending disk re-formats for those unsure how to
combat D.I.R.T., which was mentioned and linked at, a reader
submitted the following warning:

"D.I.R.T. uses 'unused' space in the file system, so high-level reformatting
will not destroy it. (This 'unused' space is used by operating systems to
handle classified information with data structures similar to that in
SE_Linux). Removing D.I.R.T. requires wiping the disk at the device-driver

I spoke with Eric Schneider, who wrote the program before leaving Codex on
ethical grounds; and he told me that so far as he knows "there is no
technology in D.I.R.T. which comes close to surviving a high-level format."

So there you have it. Codex's D.I.R.T. is a remote administration tool that
functions in large part just like the free Trojans SubSeven and BO2K, which
is being sold by a disgraced former cop, current felon and self-confessed
lunatic for thousands of dollars a pop to creepy Feds in countries where the
sort of abuse it invites is routine and impossible for a victim to challenge
in court.

In all, a loathsome scam run by an equally loathsome con artist.

Author: Thomas C. Greene

News Service: The Register (UK)


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