Did Russia give Bob Carr a bugged USB key?



blog I don’t know quite how we’re supposed to take this — is it a joke? A hoax? Could the Russian KGB really be this incompetent? But it’s being reported as news, so here we go. According to massive Italian newspaper Corrierre della Sera, through the Daily Telegraph in Australia (we recommend you click here for the Daily Telegraph’s version, as it’s not in Italian), at the recent G20 Summit in Russia, the country gave G20 leaders, including then-Foreign Minister Bob Carr, USB keys which included spyware:

“EU Council president Herman van Rompuy raised the alert after arriving back in Brussels and getting security and intelligence experts to analyse the devices. That investigation found that they were bugging devices.”

To be blatantly honest, I find this story incredibly hard to believe. Would Russia really want to cause offense to 20 of the world’s most powerful political leaders? If it truly was interested in spying on them, why would it do so in such an obvious way? If this story is actually true, was it merely an elaborate satirical comment on the controversial spying activities of the United States’ National Security Agency? Certainly at the G20, there were tensions between Russia and the US over the fact that Russia is hosting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

One thing which makes me suspect the story is false is that the photo of the USB key provided by the Daily Telegraph is a shot of an extremely common model, which I’ve been handed dozens of times by technology vendors with press releases and images attached. These things are mass-produced in places like China and very basic — companies just buy them in bulk and slap their logo on it. There’s not a lot of space inside for bugging equipment. I would have thought Russia would have developed a more customised model if it was serious about this kind of spying effort … but then, maybe that was the whole point — making the thing look mass-produced.

We truly live in a mad, mad world. You just have to laugh — because if you didn’t, you’d cry. This has to be one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever covered on Delimiter. And I doubt we’ll ever find out the whole truth here.

Image credit: Screencap of 7:30 broadcast, believed to be covered under fair use


    • Nah, it’d be one of those motorised humping dogs, for sure… That’d just about guarantee that it would get plugged in.

  1. The spys are spying on each other. So they can know when another spy is spying on them

    I could imagine a world leader is about to stand up in the UN council. Each world leader or representatives recieves the note from their own intelligence agency on what they’re going to talk about like a spoiler alert for a TV/Movie series. Ha Ha! Spoiler alert Bob carrs about increasing the foreign and his google calendar say’s heading to a strip club afterwards

    Good example of this from south park:

    • As soon as Apple changed their cables to intelligent Lightning cables they opened the door to this kind of hacking.
      A cable is not a cable anymore :(

  2. Doesn’t surprise me.

    Why would they custom build a USB stick? Why would they need to. All you need to do is custom build the malware you load onto it.

    Why would they do it – well the NSA is tapping fibres between Google data centres despite having legal access thanks to the FISA court to everything stored in Google. So.. it isn’t hard to believe that the russians wouldn’t take a shot at bugging its neighbors (note I didn’t say friends – only America [and us!] would get caught spying on actual friends).

  3. “There’s not a lot of space inside for bugging equipment”
    There is plenty enough room for bugging technology, probably not space for a battery but then if you compromised and used the USB power soiurce you wouldnt need it.
    The same form factor is used for devices anywhere from 1GB through to 128GB USB’s so it would be easy to choose a smaller spaced drive and then fill in the extra space with whatever you wanted.

    But space really isnt the question here since it was mentioned in the article that the form of bugging was a ‘Trojan Horse’ – a software or firmware bug.
    It would be very easy to embed a program into the USB which cannot be viewed or browsed to or intercepted by the interrogating computer. The likely way to see whether it was bugged would be to isolate the device and then inspect everything it tries to do when you plug it in to a computer.
    Anything less than what I describe above would be inept.

  4. Carr couldn’t have used the USB anyway – his official laptops are keyed and they only accept 2 types (brands) of USB sticks

    So the laptop would have rejected any unrecognised device

    • Ahh great, Im glad that the state babies their politicians even more than the rest of us

  5. Has anyone had those funny G20 shirts tested….fitting a bug into those collars would look like part of the pattern

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