DIY Quick & Dirty IMSI Catcher (and Snowden/Russian psychology)

Researchers figured out how to turn a Verizon cell network extender into a quick & dirty IMSI catcher — a device that lets you intercept traffic from all cell phones in range. In this case, the hardware is so small and portable you can fit it into a backpack.

Snowden & Russian psychology: Snowden’s Russian lawyer is part of the Russian internal spy agency’s public committee, so I think it’s safe to assume whatever he does can be analysed in the light of high-level social engineering.

If we remember our Stratfor, rule #1 in these situations is to obtain maximum control over the target. That the target is in this case the client and the situation is hugely public means only the subtlest methods will be used… yet I’m still going to hazard a guess that every move is a calculated one.

So, what’s he done? Other than say Snowden is going to settle down, get a job, apply for Russian citizenship, and forget about moving to South America… he brought a number of books (including Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment) and a fresh set of clothes.[1] Sounds harmless enough…

The choice of reading material has already been analyzed ad infitum on Twitter, and the lawyer Kucherena quite openly copped to it as giving Snowden an intro to the Russian “reality of life”[2] — go look up the plot if you want to understand in detail the psychology here 🙂

(Though, in a nod to the theory of “information fields,” the engrossing nature of reading a book might mean someone really good could hide something in the “information field” around a particular book… nahhh. Too tinfoil for this analysis.)

The fresh set of clothes — well, the lawyer mentioned in another interview (which I couldn’t find quickly) that since he’d seen Snowden only wearing the same shirt, he brought some clothes. As it happens, the clothing we wear has a huge psychological impact.

Everyone from executives swearing by “power ties” to random hippies talking about wearing reds and yellows to cops showing up in blue has noticed this… and to make things more relevant here, uniforms have been used by schools, companies, and militaries as means of psychological control for aeons. [3]

Therefore, keeping the same set of clothes may be for Snowden a psychological defense mechanism. In the same way as the Stasi used repeatedly changing a prisoner’s cell as a way to detach them from a prior identity, maintaining continuity in clothing (which is even more intimate than living space) might serve to preserve it.

Conversely, if we take the psychology of uniforms — and the ENTIRE FREAKING FASHION INDUSTRY — as indicating that clothing serves as an extension of someone’s identity… if a given person chooses and provides clothing, it might therefore be that they would through their choice and role be able to influence the wearer’s identity.

[1] http://rt.com/news/snowden-lawyer-rt-asylum-530/
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/jul/25/edward-snowden-crime-and-punishment-dostoevsky [3] http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Uniform

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/07/16/1343238/how-to-compete-with-nsa-by-hacking-a-verizon-network-extender

“This snooping hack-in-a-backpack could become a hot Summer accessory, since Reuters reported that ‘researchers at iSec hacked into a Verizon network extender, which anyone can buy online, and turned it into a cell phone tower (video interview) small enough to fit inside a backpack capable of capturing and intercepting all calls, text messages and data sent by mobile devices within range.'””

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