A former US Marine, using nothing more than Google Maps and call forwarding, was able to record the phone conversations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Secret Service, as well as unsuspecting citizens.
According to multiple reports, Bryan Seely, a Marine turned network engineer, embedded fake listings for the FBI’s San Francisco office and Secret Service into Google maps. The listings included a call forwarding number that was being recorded. When unsuspecting people called the FBI or Secret Service to discuss what can be presumed to be potentially sensitive topics, their phone calls were recorded by Seely.
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Point Seely was making was to bring attention to Google lapse
Seely’s apparent point was to illustrate how Google’s laissez-faire attitude towards verification on its maps application can be dangerous.
“Who is gonna think twice about what Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) publishes on their maps?” Seely told the publication Vallywag. “Everyone trusts Google implicitly and it’s completely unwarranted and it’s completely unsafe. I could make a duplicate of the White House and take every inbound phone call from the White House. I could do it for every Senator, every Congressman, every mayor, every governor—every Democratic, every Republican candidate. Every office.”
History of spamming Google maps
Seely used to get paid to spam Google Maps with faked listings and has a history working at Microsoft. Seely engaged in this latest escapade because, he says, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) ignored his pleas to fix long-standing issues with their services.
According to the report, Seely didn’t think he was taken seriously until yesterday when he walked into the Secret Service office near his home in Seattle. While he was there, Seely says he got a notification a call had just been intercepted from a Washington, D.C., police officer calling the Secret Service about an active investigation. Although the Secret Service would later say in an e-mail Seely was a “hero” for pointing out the problem, their first reaction was to pat him down, read his Miranda rights, and put in an interrogation room.
Secret Service responds
For their part, Google said they were looking into the matter and told Gizmodo yesterday that it had already made some patches. The FBI has did not respond to calls or emails. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary gave Valleywag the following statement:
The incident in question involves an individual posting their own phone number as a Secret Service field office phone number on Google Maps. When unsuspecting citizens utilize this incorrect third party phone number to contact the Secret Service the call is directed through the third party system and recorded. This is not a vulnerability or compromise of our phone system. Virtually any phone number that appears on a crowdsourcing platform could be manipulated in this way.
This incident will be investigated thoroughly and appropriately.