TechieTalk: Citizens Tradecraft: A Beginners Guide To Cyber-Spying

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-12-10, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

Many countries have lately been rocked by a series of scandals based on the changing face of technology. WikiLeaks, the phone "hacking" scandal in the UK, the continuing saga of and, more recently, and proving that anyone can foul up, the head of the CIA General Petraeus getting caught with his pants down.

So this week, for all you want-to-be members of James Bond's tech-savvy Q-Branch, I'll introduce you to some simple cyber-spying tools-of-the-trade.

Key Loggers

Are you worried that your spouse might be cheating on you? Why not see what they are up to on the computer. The trouble nowadays is that the potentially guilty might try to hide their online activities by using a web-browser in "Private" mode. To counter this annoying precaution we can fall back on the trusty key logger which records all key-strokes regardless of what application the target is using.

Attack: There are hardware dongles that your can fit between a keyboard cable and a PC such as Key Grabber from and there is also software that you install on a PC to record what is being typed, for example, Kid Logger from

Defence: Don't share computers, password protect access to your computer, activate a password-protected screen-saver when you are away from your computer and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder. You can also try anti-spyware applications like Spybot Search and Destroy, but when I tested it, it completely failed to find Kid Logger.

Recording Telephone Conversations With Skype

Need to record a telephone conversation?

Attack: You can buy a microphone that fits to a telephone and records both sides of a conversation, but that is so 20th century. The simplest solution, if you have a computer, is to use Skype together with a little piece of software called iFree Skype Recorder (

Defence: Never discuss anything important over the phone and be aware that old-school audio bugs might be around. As a precaution against future legal prosecution, only issue verbal orders indirectly and by inference only.

How to Blow the Whistle Online

Fed up of working for crooked corporation or a corrupt government and know something that will take them down? First, think carefully whether the inevitable investigation into the leak will point its leather-gloved Gestapo fingers back in your direction before you do anything.

Attack: If you do decide that no other option is open to you and that your contribution to the public good is too important to let slide, then stay completely anonymous, post using a public computer, preferably one far from where you live and that you have booted using something like the ultra-secure Tails Linux distribution ( Post to a service like WikiLeaks or a reputable media outlet. Finally, get a really good (i.e. expensive) lawyer and be prepared for the strong possibility of jail-time or worse for you and your family. In others words be very, very careful.

Defence: Worried that your employees might be untrustworthy? Use the carrot-and-stick approach of huge rewards versus draconian punishments.