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Spies Fail to Escape Spyware in $5 Billion Bazaar for Cyber Arms

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Vernon Silver
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In an empty hotel restaurant after lunch, Eric King, the human rights and technology adviser at London-based Privacy International, is poring over conference presentations he’s obtained and tallying a growing list of suspicious technological glitches. When he tries to send an e-mail from his Apple Inc. laptop, he gets a message that his encryption won’t work.

His paranoia builds as he also realizes that more secure 3G networks, used for phones and wireless Internet, are unavailable in the hotel. King, 22, jetlagged and wearing a wrinkled, blue button-down shirt, has a hypothesis: Someone has blocked the 3G to force everyone to use methods that would be easier to intercept.

He consults the ISS program and finds a possible culprit, “Live Demonstration of Tactical GSM Interrogation and Geo- Location System.”

“We’ve got to get us some hackers,” he says, eager to untangle what may be a nest of surveillance.

A few hours later, King heads to Kuala Lumpur’s art deco Central Market to meet a Privacy International volunteer. Over a noodle dinner, she puts him in touch with a hacker who agrees to meet up the next day.