As a general rule, spying equipment always gets smaller and easier to handle as companies continue to improve and develop their products. Now, it looks like one surveillance vendor has managed to cram a device that promises to remotely steal targets' social media passwords from smartphones into a backpack-sized bag.
"Small lightweight solution for Tactical Operational Field Team following target," a brochure from Israeli company Magen 100 reads. The brochure itself is undated, but was distributed as part of Interpol World 2015, a trade event that took place in Singapore.
The item described is the "MABIT Scope," part of Magen's range of "app and cloud interception" products, and is accompanied by a photograph of a black backpack. These devices can supposedly be used to "scan for all smartphones within range," and then steal passwords to cloud data from target devices. Magen gives the example of Gmail, Hotmail, and Google Drive.
"Retrieve smartphones' owner information: pic, name, browsing history, location history, phone identifiers," the brochure continues. Mabit products apparently require "no training."
It is not totally clear how the device is supposed to work, and the same goes for similar products. Rayzone Group offers the "InterApp," which it claims is able to steal the data of "any phone user" within its proximity, and relies on "smartphone application vulnerabilities," according to the company's website. And Wintego sells a product called "WINT". This Mabit Scope model, however, purports to be small and portable enough to fit into a backpack.
Earlier this year our colleagues at VICE News saw similar spy tech, you can see a demo around the 2:44 mark in the above video.
When asked whether this was the case, Avi Yariv, marketing manager for Magen, simply told Motherboard in an email "We provide the good guys tools to fight bad guys, some things should be kept secret." Magen is approved to export products under the government of Israel and international law, according to another document from Interpol World 2015.
Richard Tynan, a technologist from Privacy International, said that the company's claims did seem legitimate.
"A laptop or tablet could perform this task but would be limited by how much data it could process," he told Motherboard in an email. He added that more companies will likely start advertising similar products, and new dangers may come along with this.
"For example, intercepting app and cloud communications that are secured with SSL may require the installation of a fake root certificate which may compromise multiple aspects of the device, including its update mechanisms," he wrote.
Indeed, other companies are advertising backpack-sized interception devices too. According to a photo of a brochure shared with Motherboard by Privacy International, defense contractor Netline Communications Technologies markets the "ManPack," a fairly clunky piece of kit that can intercept "WiFi communications." Netline seemingly pitches this as technology for the military.
Magen's products on the other hand, are for the police, intelligence, government and the military, according to its brochure. The company's website also suggests to clients that its products can be used to counter illegal protests and riots, or monitor borders.
"Who do you really want to let into your country?" the website reads. The Magen brochure lists potential targets as "crime and vandalism," as well as terrorism and drug trafficking.