Russia is certainly acquainted with the concept of surveillance and espionage. Just this month, it was reported that the country was putting together “PRISM on steroids” for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. Today, the country is caught in the middle of a pretty high profile scandal that involves our very humble niche, USBs!
According to a report from the LA Times, visiting world leaders at September’s G20 Summit in St. Petersburg were sent home with USB flash drives and USB phone chargers designed to spy on cell phone and computer communications. The reports first surfaced in two Italian newspapers, La Stampa and Il Corriere della Sera. Both publications reportedly attributed their stories to “technical investigations ordered by the president of the European Council and carried out by German intelligence.”
It’s quite a bold accusation. One that Russia has immediately denied as well. According to The Guardian (which corroborated the LA Times report), a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin called the accusation “a clear attempt to divert attention from a problem that really exists: The US’s spying, which is now a subject of discussion among European capitals and Washington.”
There no indication of how many potentially compromised devices were handed out, but tests reportedly showed they were equipped with “Trojan horse” software to intercept data from phones and computers. While any actual evidence of these allegations has yet to be fully revealed, it sounds like Italy (at least) is taking them seriously – The country’s prime minister Enrico Letta is gathering his security committee to meet on Thursday to review “questions pertaining to the security of telecommunications in the light of the Datagate [NSA] affair and the revelations on the last G20.”