Real estate mobbing would not be a complete solution for the constructive eviction of legal residents without the stalking of victims in public as well as in private. It is in the public eye that mobbing can exact some of its greatest tolls by shaming and ridiculing its victims. Fortunately, the backbone of mobbing is built on extensive use of communication and cashiering systems in businesses of all kinds. These fundamentally insecure and overlooked systems make it easy for real estate mobbers and small time black hats to work both sides of the fence: Business enterprise and the residential market. Julia Angwin writes in Who is Watching You? (https://backchannel.com/who-is-watching-you-7296eeb036c1#.m5lwv3tki) of a “Dragnet Nation” of indiscriminate tracking of personal information. But Angwin writes about information whose aggregation is enabled by a comparatively innocent act of recording. The dragnet from which hackers and mobbers gather information is life lived in real time, its recording enabled by the networks you traverse and the artifacts or imprints of your movement across hubs that are neither dumb nor innocuous. These artifacts may include the sound of your voice heard on the speaker of the cellphone of the guy next to you, the record of your purchases stored in a grocery database, the grainy image of your face on store video. The key systems that allow for the gathering of these personal artifacts include the following:
- The public address system such as that used at Target some time back, to play what was likely an entertaining selection of pornography. (Social Engineering Your Way to the Target PA System, http://hackaday.com/2016/03/04/social-engineering-your-way-to-the-target-pa-system/)
- The intercom system, such as that used at bank ATMs or gas stations for attendants to assist customers at the pump.
- Music systems, which tend to share speakers with public address systems, vulnerable wireless networks and which often offer the mobber or hacker a handy connection to the Internet through the use of streaming services or which, even if they do not download music, may be a platform for hacker downloads and uploads because wireless is allowed to remain on.
- Customer mobile devices which generally expose a wireless interface and speakers, as well as customer data to the real estate mobber or enterprising hacker.
These unprotected or poorly protected systems expose the public to harm. Businesses like Comcast have built an infrastructure that exposes customers to data loss and criminal ventures including real estate mobbing. In this picture, real estate mobbing represents the significant exposure to loss of home by criminal bullies, something generally pursued by criminal real estate speculators who would profit from the turnover of your property through its redevelopment.
When you are real estate mobbed (“mobbed”), the scumbuckets assure you that the only way to end it is to “get out” of your home because “somebody wants to build on it.” The price to regain your privacy, to get the mobbers’ round-the-clock taunts and threats out of your living room and their narrations of your bodily functions out of your bathroom, is to give up your home. This is extortion.
By the time the mob is on, the scumbucket mobbers have probably been eavesdropping on you for some time, gathering information in hopes of being able to threaten you out of your home without exposing themselves or their high-end clients to liability for constant crimes of surveillance, stalking, and the obvious use of hacking and cyber-stalking which enable the end-to-end harassment pipeline of the mob. Remember, the mobbers babble, first and foremost, to let you know you are being watched. Second, they babble to deprive you of privacy, of the quiet that is home. But before they begin to babble, they know all about you.
Business places with communication systems that are not secure are no better than businesses whose internal corporate networks allow hackers to steal the data of millions of customers or businesses whose employees forget laptops carrying databases of thousands of customer Social Security numbers. It’s the same thing; we just don’t “get it” yet.
When you stand at an ATM and hear the tone of every key press, a mobber listening on the intercom can hear it too. When you stand at the check stand at Fred Meyer and the electronic cashiering system reads your purchases, mobbers can too. If a mobber wants to figure out how to shame you out of your home, they can go for the low-hanging fruit by watching to see if you buy adult diapers, Rogaine, or Viagra, maybe they watch and see if you bleach your hair, eat junk food, or buy porn magazines. They can learn a lot when they’re allowed to lurk on business networks, especially if they can access not only speaker-enabled access points but security systems that make it easy to sync sound with picture. Do you cut in line? Did you respond poorly to someone who did? Do you look at men or women? Do you look at people of appropriate age or do your eyes linger on “jail bait”? In mobbing, this makes it easy to track the victim and apply harassment using the nearest available speaker. It also makes it possible to watch the victim’s reaction to this public harassment, that can be especially high-stakes in the workplace, and to tighten the thumbscrews, perhaps even triggering an emotional response that is not appropriate in the environment.
Business networks and communication systems that allow themselves to be a platform for hackers of any kind, real estate mobbers or not, expose their customers to grave harm. While we can’t do that much about Comcast’s vastly insecure residential Internet service, we can encourage the stores we patronize to begin to look out for our interests by tightening up security.
Businesses should get rid of free WiFi services. This is a liability that may well lead to lawsuits after enough people get hacked within the premises of the stores that allow free use of their networks. If you have a Smart Phone, use cellular data to access the Internet when you have to and leave WiFi off as much as possible. Businesses should pay attention to how any public address system is accessed. Some wireless speakers used for public address allow announcements to be phoned in by using a Smart Phone application. This is probably pretty easily manipulated, especially if you never change the phone number. If your public address system shares speakers with music, streaming music online or patching in a device with a streaming music player gives hackers access over the Internet. If you use an intercom system at a bank or a gas station, can a lurking hacker or real estate mobber hear the tones for the numbers in the PIN you use to access an account or credit card? Is there a camera that allows customer data to be accessed by a malicious agent? Do emergency systems allow eavesdropping in the bathrooms?
The crime of real estate mobbing, like many hacking crimes, is built on invasion of privacy and illegitimate access to personal information. These small pieces of information can be invaluable. Businesses should not set their customers up as crime victims.
Tighten it up. With this post, I will begin to list the companies whose communications systems I know to be used by those real estate mobbing me in Seattle, mobbers who probably include hackers who mob, to further their felony crimes. Note that I will only list businesses where I have heard mobbing babble on systems that are part of store infrastructure, not businesses in which I have heard mobbing babble on the portable devices of customers.
Fix the problem.
- Whole Foods Market at 1026 NE 64th Street Seattle, Washington (Store speakers, possible access points)
- Shell Gas Station, Lake City Way and 115th Avenue NE, Seattle, Washington (Gas pump intercom)
- Fred Meyer, Lake City Way and 130th, Seattle, Washington (Check stand intercom, most likely)
- Microsoft Corporation (Speaker-enabled access points, for starters; at least wireless services)
- QFC at the University Village (Open wireless network at the in-store Starbucks; intercoms or wireless services at check stands)
- Chase Bank ATMs, specifically those at the Sandpoint and Lake City branches in Seattle, Washington (ATM intercom for customer assistance, most likely)