'Slurping' and other cyberspying expected at Olympics

July 23, 2008 5:37 PM EDT

U.S. intelligence and security officials are concerned that spies in China will be targeting U.S. corporate and government officials at the Beijing Olympics, according to a Wall Street Journal report (17 July 2008).

"[S]o many people are going to the Olympics and are going to get electronically undressed," said Joel Brenner, the government's top counterintelligence officer.

[Brenner] tells of one computer-security expert who powered up a new Treo hand-held computer when his plane landed in China. By the time he got to his hotel, a handful of software programs had been wirelessly inserted.

The spy tactics, according to the article, include the following:

  • copying information contained in laptop computers at airport checkpoints or hotel rooms;
  • wirelessly inserting spyware on BlackBerry devices;
  • and a technique dubbed "slurping" that uses Bluetooth technology to steal data from electronic devices.

Experts suggest leaving the company laptop at home, or using a special, stripped-down, encrypted "travel laptop" that doesn't have sensitive data and can be sanitized when you get back home.

The Wall Street Journal article continues:

Some companies are taking steps to increase security. General Electric Co. encourages traveling employees to leave laptops behind or use a stripped-down travel laptop and encrypted hard drives, said spokesman Jeff DeMarrais.

Pfizer Inc. is evaluating a policy that would require employees to take travel laptops to a number of countries, including China, said spokesman Chris Loder.

A spokesman for China's foreign affairs ministry called the allegations "entirely fabricated, and seriously misleading."