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Utility Box Exposed As Spy Cabinet In the Netherlands 179

Posted by timothy
from the all-an-elaborate-dream dept.
First time accepted submitter thejezus writes "A spy cabinet has been exposed on a public road in The Hague, the Netherlands (Google translate here). The cabinet was disguised as telecom-cabinet and was detected by the maintenance crew of Ziggo (a triple-play provider) because it was not listed as a property of the company. Upon opening, it was revealed the cabinet contained a camera and UMTS equipment. Later that day, the cabinet disappeared. 1984 much?"
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Utility Box Exposed As Spy Cabinet In the Netherlands

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:19PM (#43509925) Journal
    Does a spy camera on the side of the road really justify comparisons to 1984? Are we really anywhere close to the type of life portrayed in 1984?
    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      I for one can see a utility box from my house. It could very well be a camera in there.

    • ^ This. The leap to "1984" is non-sequitur at best.
      • by iggymanz (596061) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:08PM (#43510293)

        you think "1984" was to be interpreted literally? We have instead government tapping all internet and phone systems, data mining social media, warring against people who never attacked us in the name of "peace", able to legally "disappear" people who are considered threats without warrant nor oversight, a privileged powerful and wealthy few with government in their pockets engineering the media, social and economic systems for their benefit......we're there

        • Except that by your definition, we were already there before 1984. In practice, as long the plebs has bread and games, we will never get there.
          • by iggymanz (596061) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:57PM (#43510657)

            no, we did not have populace on "internet" in 1980s, nor did we have automated systems for listening to all comm for key words. we did not have a "forever war" in place.

          • We have everything. Plebs being worried about so much (terrorism, economy, jobs, homes...) that they don't have time to worry about the loss of liberties. It's not 100% accurate, but the distraction by more pressing needs to forget about the "lesser" needs like freedom or privacy is there.

        • by Plumpaquatsch (2701653) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @02:03PM (#43510691) Journal

          you think "1984" was to be interpreted literally? We have instead government tapping all internet and phone systems, data mining social media, warring against people who never attacked us in the name of "peace", able to legally "disappear" people who are considered threats without warrant nor oversight, a privileged powerful and wealthy few with government in their pockets engineering the media, social and economic systems for their benefit......we're there

          Did you even read Nineteen Eighty-Four? Quick quiz: what was the spying technique that turned in most people in the book? Tapping of phones? Surveillance by Telescreen? Nope, it was good old low-tech "squealing by somebody you trust".

          • by iggymanz (596061)

            you missed where the ubiquitous cameras were to keep the majority in line, for the squealing we also have analogous system in place.

          • by Kanasta (70274)

            OK so they mixed 1984 with Brave New World.

          • by RMingin (985478)

            Click here [dhs.gov] to report anti-patriotic activities citizen! Remember, it could be a test, and Big Brother is watching! If you SEE something, SAY something!

            Sincerely, your department of Homeland Security! (formerly ThinkPol)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Roderic9 (2454194)

      It doesn't justify comparison with 1984, but it and its ilk do get us closer to it. A step on the way.

      • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:37PM (#43510079)

        It doesn't justify comparison with 1984, but it and its ilk do get us closer to it. A step on the way.

        The comparison to 1984 seems a bit over the top, but, some people would argue that you don't get an Orwellian society suddenly, over night, but one small step at a time, and it happens so slowly that you don't notice it until its too late.

      • If there is a spy box on every parsel of property or every street where there really doesn't need to be yes it does.

        But if this is a singular case out of a sea of nothingness, then it really is meaningless to anyone but the spies and the spied upon.

        • Given the history of monitoring technologies embedded in telephone systems, such as the AT&T fiber optics publicized in 2005, it's an ongoing problem. (https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying) Even in the USA, the use of disasters to publicize national security risks and use the intelligence resources granted to prevent foreign threats has been repeatedly used to gather political intelligence and harass political opponents, rather than to prevent crimes or warfare. So it seems reasonable to assume it is not "sin

        • Funny thing is, last time I looked, you could buy a gadget to do this directly from Ebay for around $6. All you have to do is plug in a SIM card.

          Buy one, take off the cover, put it in a stolen utility box... done.
      • by erroneus (253617)

        You mean to say the frog never knew it was being boiled? Amazing. It's a good thing we are smarter than frogs...

    • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:37PM (#43510065) Journal

      Does a spy camera on the side of the road really justify comparisons to 1984??

      Novel
      No, it would have to be in your living room. 1984-esque technology in a public place would consist of a video screen at which you hurl things and scream.

      Year
      Even in 1985, Dr. Emmett Brown, who was sufficiently advanced to build a time machine out of a DeLorean, had to hire some slacker kid to shoulder his ginormous video camera. If he didn't have the technology to build a self-supporting camera in 1985, it certainly wouldn't have been available in 1984.

      So no on both counts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Does a spy camera on the side of the road really justify comparisons to 1984?

      Of course it does, this is Slashdot, where "the sky is falling, the sky is falling" is considered a measured, reasonable, and modest response to practically everything. Slashdot users probably accounts for the 10-15% of the annual worldwide sales of tin foil.

      Are we really anywhere close to the type of life portrayed in 1984?

      Not even close. "1984", like many other such terms, has become a cargo cult buzzword. It's a term

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:39PM (#43510101)

      Does a spy camera on the side of the road really justify comparisons to 1984? Are we really anywhere close to the type of life portrayed in 1984?

      What is the minimum criteria for comparing society to a literary work -- Is there some percentage of the work that have to similar to justify the comparison?

      I can certainly see how hidden government surveillance cabinets (if there's one, there's likely to be more than one, and who knows how many - maybe they are on every street corner?) could be compared to the ubiquitous surveillance decribed in 1984. We may be a long way from government surveillance in our homes, when we can't walk to the corner store without the government knowing about it, it seems that we're a lot closer than we used to. And now we don't even need a trusted Party official to keep track of us - thanks to facial recognition, the government can record and indefinitely store all of our public movements for later data mining.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Is there some percentage of the work that have to similar to justify the comparison?

        Yes, that's exactly what's missing in this case.

      • by icebraining (1313345) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:20PM (#43510353) Homepage

        Yes, there must be some similitude to justify the comparison, obviously.

        In 1984 the surveillance wasn't hidden, it was overt. And this is actually important, because the main concept in the novel wasn't the surveillance, but the state of mind of the Party members*, which both enabled and was enabled by the conscience of full and complete surveillance, among other things.

        People who compare this to Orwell's work either didn't read it or completely missed the point.

        * The society in 1984 didn't actually have full surveillance; in fact, only 15% of society were spied on. Winston is just part of those 15%.

    • Sound more like Fleming than Orwell, especially as it's in The Hague.

    • Obama received the Nobel peace price while expanding military operations in Afghanistan and ordering extrajudicial murders of American citizens abroad.

      War is peace, right?

      • So Norway is the true perpetrator pushing us to totalitarianism? I always knew that Nobel character was trouble.
      • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:30PM (#43510449) Journal

        Obama received the Nobel peace price while expanding military operations in Afghanistan and ordering extrajudicial murders of American citizens abroad.

        War is peace, right?

        Nope, he received the prize before any of that stuff happened. In fact he received it barely before anything happened that'd in any way justify the prize going to Obama.

        The prize committee's thinking seems to be more a case of giving the award in recognition that Obama at the time hadn't made things worse and didn't seem to be hearing Jesus in his head telling him to go bomb people. In practice, a jar of mustard would have been in with a chance if it were replacing Bush.

        • by SEE (7681)

          Obama received the Nobel peace price while expanding military operations in Afghanistan and ordering extrajudicial murders of American citizens abroad.

          War is peace, right?

          Nope, he received the prize before any of that stuff happened.

          Ignorance is strength?

          In fact, between the February 1 nomination deadline and the October 5th award, Obama did in fact direct an escalation of the war in Afghanistan that increased US personnel deaths from hostile action in Afghanistan by +64% compared to the same months of the previous year.

          And it certainly was due to escalation, not a statistical blip. By the end of Obama's first year in office, such deaths were twice those in Bush's last year. And for Obama's first term, they ended at a total triple th

        • by turp182 (1020263)

          I think there were two unspoken reasons Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize before being able to actually justify such an award (wasn't his fault, he didn't have a chance to earn it).

          First, and foremost, he is the first black President of the United States. That is/was a huge deal. The end of the US Civil War (1865) was almost 150 years ago, or 6 to 7 generations using an average birth age of 20-25. Racism is still an issue, but we've moved forward a lot. People can be bigoted but it generally doesn't lead

      • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:59PM (#43510669)
        From Wikipedia:

        The chairman of the Committee was Thorbjørn Jagland, former Norwegian Labor Party prime minister and Secretary General of the Council of Europe since September 29, 2009. The panel met six or seven times in 2009, beginning several weeks after the February 1 nomination deadline. The winner was chosen unanimously on October 5 but was initially opposed by the Socialist Left, Conservative and Progress Party members until strongly persuaded by Jagland.

        Jagland said "We have not given the prize for what may happen in the future. We are awarding Obama for what he has done in the past year. And we are hoping this may contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do," noting that he hoped the award would assist Obama's foreign policy efforts. Involvement in which can now be proven as early as March 2009. Jagland said the committee was influenced by a speech Obama gave about Islam in Cairo in June 2009, the president's efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and climate change, and Obama's support for using established international bodies such as the United Nations to pursue foreign policy goals. The New York Times reported that Jagland shrugged off the question of whether "the committee feared being labeled naïve for accepting a young politician’s promises at face value", stating that "no one could deny that 'the international climate' had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason...'We want to embrace the message that he stands for.'"

        Obama said he was "surprised" and "deeply humbled" by the award. He stated that he does not feel he deserved the award, and that he did not feel worthy of the company the award would place him in. In remarks given at the White House Rose Garden on the day of the announcement, Obama stated, "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations."

        The award, he said, "must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity — for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace." He did not take questions from reporters after giving his statement.

        Obama announced early that he would donate the full 10 million Swedish kronor (about US$1.4 million) monetary award to charity.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Nobel_Peace_Prize [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Type44Q (1233630)

      Does a spy camera on the side of the road really justify comparisons to 1984? Are we really anywhere close to the type of life portrayed in 1984?

      I suppose you could also have resorted to the strawman argument that the 1984 comparison doesn't apply since it depicts a future society that's collectivist rather than the fascist reality being imposed upon us... :p

      • Technically it's now a past society, not a future society.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357)

        It would be very easy to argue that we are moving toward collectivism. All the clueless little people get together, argue and fuss, hammering out new laws for every trivial bit of nothing, then scream at their representatives to 'DO SOMETHING'. As a result, little children are arrested for wearing or making depictions of pistols, rifles, or anything that could conceivably be considered dangerous.

        Collectivism, that results in fascist-like laws. Imagine that.

    • by fiziko (97143)

      Nope, particularly since we'd need to know exactly who put it there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That time you called to say goodbye to your dying uncle... that time you sent a nude picture to your girlfriend... that time your daughter sent one to her boyfriend... the order you placed at Amazon.com... the three bottles of whiskey you put on your card... your rent check... your hot chat with that girl via text... the bill you paid for your vasectomy... the log-in times to Google, Facebook, Netflix, and other online services and how heavy your usage was.... your picture tagged by a friend on facebook...

    • by arose (644256)
      Because a utility box is completely different from a white van of course. A white van sits on the side of the road, whereas a utility box is a camera in your bedroom that blasts propaganda on a regular basis. Hence 1984.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      No, Tim's just retarded

    • by gagol (583737)
      Yeah, in 1984 the cameras in our houses were government installed. Today we pay for them and carry them around. I would not be surprised if the capability to operate the microphone and camera remotely was standard issue for CIA (to use on foreigners, but still).
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by dadelbunts (1727498)
      Agreed we should save those comparisons to where they really fit. Like the whole of the U.K
    • by mianne (965568)
      Right now, people are indeed making comparisons to 1984, absurd as they might seem. Indeed, a common sentiment expressed this past week is that it was tough, but that we're tougher and should celebrate! When, since at least the mid-20th century, have men not used metaphors about sports cars to describe attractive women? Admittedly there isn't much talk these days about the Rhythm Pigs. But I can say with certainly that most males have always seen attractive women as objects of sexual desire and conquest--wh
    • by JosKarith (757063)
      You're right. 1984 didn't have anywhere near as many cameras...
    • by cHiphead (17854)

      Yes. This isn't just a spy camera, this has a cellular device that lets it upload or stream on the fly, this is big brother-esque secret monitoring of the public. I'm sure it was there to watch a particular suspect or event, but in capturing images from a public area, it is also monitoring innocent people and can be used to target people not suspected of a crime for any seemingly anti-social behavior. It is what it is, don't dilute the reality of modern technology. We're fucked in terms of monitoring, ju

  • pictures of inside (Score:5, Informative)

    by xatr0z (633279) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:29PM (#43509999)
    • So I am looking at these pictures. It is hard to tell where some of the wires are leading, but from what I do see:

      - This looks like a normal grocery store old style CCTV camera.
      - The camera leads to a frequency converter box of some sort (50hz to 60hz?)
      - Then it looks to be sending that to a chain of portable hard drive looking video recording devices

      These MAY have had some sort of wireless capability (not that I can tell though), but in a box like that, with that equipment, you would have to be right nex
    • LOL. The VCR isn't plugged in.

      http://ic.tweakimg.net/ext/i/imagelarge/1366532940.jpeg [tweakimg.net]

    • Analog composite video??? Somebody get whoever installed this thing into the last decade please.

    • by will_die (586523)
      Talk about a bad job of cabling. This is suppose a device that can be moved around, or you would need to reach in quickly remove some taping device and you have cables in the way of your operation.
      • Put on an official looking phone company coverall, as well as your "I belong here" face and you can unscrew, open, fiddle with and even steal whatever equipment you want to.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Wow. State of the art equipment today (available to the public) is about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

      It's a shame The Netherlands doesn't have overhead wiring. About 20 years ago, our local cops stuffed this kind of equipment inside dummy pole-mounted transformers (pole pigs in the utility vernacular). You get a much better view of the surrounding territory from a higher vantage point. Its also more difficult for the public to get a close look at it. I imagine street light fixtures are modded these da

  • by marcovje (205102) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:37PM (#43510081)

    It is typical that it is found in the Hague. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch intelligence services, and apparently they are a bit lazy.

    It's like Intelligence services in the US only operated in Washington DC.

    People in Limburg and Friesland can rest assured. No chance that the intelligence services will ever make it that far.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:46PM (#43510143) Journal

      The Hague is the seat of the Dutch intelligence services...

      More importantly, The Hague is the location of the International Court of Justice [wikipedia.org], the judicial arm of the United Nations, as well as a number of other international courts [wikipedia.org]. Definitely a city of international importance.

      • by fondacio (835785) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:31PM (#43510453)

        But pretty much irrelevant to this story. The neighbourhood in which they found the cabinet is far removed from where the international institutions are and from where the internationals live. As mentioned by previous posts, the Schilderswijk is a low income area with a large immigrant population. The purpose of the cabinet is most likely to help a police investigation into anything between organised crime or jihad recruitment, and on Dutch websites some have already pointed out that exposing this method effectively renders it useless in the future, but police have been doing it for at least ten years. This kind of surveillance was most likely done with the permission of a public prosecutor, unless it was the intelligence services in which case another law applies.

  • Just an investigation by the AIVD or MIVD. The part of town where it was found is being said to be used for recruitment by terrorists. Only thing I can hope for it wasn't a high target, because if it was, he/she/they now know they were under investigation. For the rest, just a big box with a cam and a modem to send shit back. Nothing special, but a really nice camera though!
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And the result now is that every utility box in the world will be seen as a suspect box.

      Watch out for unusual holes in such boxes. The remedy would be to place a sticker over the holes.

      • by santax (1541065)
        Well in this case the material used wasn't miniaturized, it used a good lens/camera. The effectiveness and quality of a lens stands in direct relation with it's size. So they have to use bigger objects. This one was an easy one, but I'm sure they can just park a car with the same setup in it. Or a trailer. Or a birdsnest, if the setup can (and it can easily) be miniaturized a bit more. So I'm sure this is just one method of hiding the cam. They have more. Despite the jokes, these guys aren't idiots.
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @12:43PM (#43510125)

    One of the most important tasks when discovering an electronic intruder or monitor is to trace if they try to clean up and remove their tracks. This is as true for electronic "spy boxes" as it is for unauthorized network taps, rootkitted servers, and hacked websites. It's too bad the discoverers didn't have the resources to set up a webcam to monitor the spy box, itself, to get data on the vehicle or faces of those removing the spy box.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:03PM (#43510267) Homepage Journal

    What is a "triple-play provider"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      television + internet + telephone

    • by janimal (172428)

      I know I wouln't pay for triple-play, but if my wife got two of her friends to cooperate, I'm sure I wouldn't say no to having it for free.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        So ... you'd sit back and watch I guess, since you'd make it some sort of quad rather than a triple.

  • by sciencewatcher (1699186) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:11PM (#43510311)
    This looks much more like a police operation. A couple of years ago a small nondescript trailer was parked in Amsterdam to observe a meeting between two criminals. One of those started a shooting spree and the police officers inside the trailer were lucky not to be hit. They couldn't get out of the trailer from the inside quick enough to chase them. There probably is a notorious criminal living within sight there. The Ziggo employees were irresponsible in publicizing this. Ziggo is a cable company.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > The Ziggo employees were irresponsible in publicizing this.

      The Ziggo employees had no duty to the police.

    • by utkonos (2104836)
      The police actually hide the surveillance cameras in your country?

      Fascinating [washingtoncitypaper.com].
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        If you want people to know you're watching them, you don't hide the camera or hide it in an intentionally obvious place, but not so obvious they realize you put it there for them to find.

        If you don't want people to know you're watching them, you hide the camera where they can't find it.

        People who know they are being watched behave differently, regardless of the reason they are being watched or who is doing it. Human nature just works that way.

        • by utkonos (2104836)
          Notorious criminals behave like someone is watching them most of the time, I would imagine.
  • Maybe that cabinet dissapeared by itself, once discovered. Skynet anyone?

    A single spy camera don't imply 1984, no single water drop can be blamed for the flood. The rest of the simptoms, of course, goes straight into Brave New World, circa 1984.

  • In ten days, a new King of the Netherlands is being crowned near this location. In this case, i think a little surveillance is reasonable. The Netherlands is not a surveillance-heavy country, but this may be just a case of good security practice. That is, watching out for a credible threat, not paranoia.
  • Mystery solved (Score:5, Informative)

    by Captain_Chaos (103843) on Monday April 22, 2013 @07:04AM (#43514157)
    The box was placed by the police department. See this [omroepwest.nl] follow up article (Google Translate [google.com]), in which the police department (it doesn't specify which one, but probably that of The Hague) states that the box is theirs and it was being used in a large financial crime investigation. Nothing to do with investigating the recruitment of youths to come fight in Syria, as had been speculated. They say they had permission from the public prosecutor to use it.

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