Homes With Cable, Satellite May Be Vulnerable

Discussion in 'privacy general' started by spy1, Mar 6, 2002.

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  1. spy1

    spy1 Registered Member

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    http://www.nbc5.com/target5/1286640/detail.html

    Homes With Cable, Satellite May Be Vulnerable To Eavesdropping
    Wireless Devices Broadcast Private Conversations
    "Whether it's pay-per-view, a home computer, or satellite TV," said Lisa Parker. "If you have any of these services, chances are, you also have this: A gadget called a wireless phone jack.

    »www.nbc5.com/target5/1286640/detail.html[?]

    A wireless phone jack is a two-piece device designed to connect equipment to a phone line without messy wires running through a home.


    "It's a convenience now creating a different kind of mess," Parker said, "for unsuspecting consumers."

    Deerfield Cable Commissioner Jesse Rotman said the problem is that the radio frequency used by the wireless jack can pick up and broadcast private home conversations.



    "This is a public safety issue," said Jesse Rotman. "This is a public privacy issue."

    "This is an interloper in your home, and there's something really alarming," Rotman continued. "That little device could actually send your calls as much as a block or two away from your home."

    Parker said the device "essentially eavesdrops" on some very private conversations, the kind of conversations sometimes overheard and recorded by shortwave radio listener Bill Steffey, who contacted Rotman because he was concerned about the violation of privacy to unsuspecting consumers.

    Parker demonstrated one of the recordings, in which two women talked about trust funds:

    "The mother makes so little money they should qualify for state aid all over the place?" said one woman.

    "I don't know, but I think you have to report when you have trust funds," replied the other.

    Steffey had other examples, as well.

    "I heard the lady discussing her illness," he said. "I heard some advising to not disclose the sale of a car in their income tax because, 'If we get caught, we can pretend we missed it.'"

    Parker said the problem is big enough that the National Association for Amateur Radio says the wireless jacks "pose a serious problem for reception." The Association reported that the devices are being "sold to cable companies" and "marketed to computer stores and other distributors" across the country.

    "I would hate to think how many of these units may still be in place," Rotman said.

    The Deerfield cable commissioner said the proglem exists in Illinois, and any cable TV customer who has interactive services like pay-per-view could be affected.

    Highland Park resident Bill Northup let Target 5 into his home to look for the device, after telling him his conversations were being overheard by radio.

    "It is rather alarming," Northup said, after Target 5 found three sets of the wirelss jacks in Northup's home. All were installed by satellite provider DirecTV.

    "It was very surprising to me," Northup said. "I would just assume that my private phone conversations would not be broadcast to the whole world, so to speak."

    "While many questions remain about the widespread effects of these wireless phone jacks," Parker said, "here's what we do know: They are approved by the FCC. They are often installed by satellite providers and cable companies. When this problem was first uncovered, these gadgets were manufactured to operate on the wrong frequency."

    Parker said that problem was later addressed by the manufacturer but only after many of the faulty jacks had already been installed.

    Commissioner Rotman said he suspects many of the faulty ones are still in homes today.

    "I think it's a sorry state of affairs when you never intended to share your home with this little device," Rotaman said. "And I think that's the message: Get it out of your home!"

    Parker said that AT&T Broadband, which is the major cable provider in the Chicago area, is doing something about the devices. When AT&T became aware of the "interference problems," Parker reported that it began "removing the wireless jacks from customers' homes." Parker said AT&T told her they thought less than 15 percent of homes in the northern suburbs still had the devices in place.

    As for DirecTV, Parker said, the company claimed it was impossible to pick up a phone call from outside a home. Furthermore, DirecTV said it was an issue for the manufacturer of the jack.
     
  2. Nancy_McAleavey

    Nancy_McAleavey Expert Member

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    Thanks for the heads-up on that one.  At the moment, we have hard-wired (and disconnected) DirecTV receivers, I'll watch out for this if the merger goes through, and they need to replace the boxes.  
     
  3. spy1

    spy1 Registered Member

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    You're quite welcome. Pete
     
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