Saturday, May 10, 2008

ATM Scammers in Oman, Naughty Syrians, Oman telcom probably bugged by German Intelligence

A few nice stories.

Criminals Scamming ATMs in Oman
First a report has been issued by the British Embassy in Oman yesterday that some pretty sophisticated devices are being used by criminals to scam your ATM card details, after which they clone your card and can empty your account. Here’s a picture of a ‘plate’ used on top of the real ATM keyboard to record your pin. Watch out!
Please be aware of ATM card frauds using skimming devices in ATMs in Muscat. These are of course also found in the UK and many other places. Please find attached a picture of one part of the device. The other element is a plastic card reader added to the machine’s card slot.

Syrians Very Naughty Boys
Remember that mysterious surgical bombing of Syria by Israeli jets last year? And the denials from all sides? The Economist had a great article last week, describing how the Americans have finally released information detailing their evidence that the installation taken out by the Israelis was actually a North Korean designed reactor specifically for producing weapons grade plutonium. It just shows how big brother is watching. The Economist: Oh what a tangled web they weave
The shadowy half-life of Syria's supposedly non-existent nuclear reactor.
“TOTALLY undocumented and untrue”, thundered Syria this week at a meeting in Geneva of the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “A fantasy”, fumed Syria's man at the United Nations last week. Since America released photographs taken inside and outside the building that was later bombed without explanation by Israeli jets in early September last year, it has been Syria's denials that have strained credulity. However it is still unclear where exactly the tangled web of intrigue surrounding the discovery that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor, in an otherwise deserted canyon east of the Euphrates river, will now lead.

Ironically, the most damning pictures were taken shortly after the Israeli raid. Syria's frantic efforts to destroy what was left of the building, remove tell-tale components and bulldoze earth over the site briefly laid bare its purpose to any passing satellite: construction of a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated nuclear reactor that lacked the power lines and other paraphernalia to hook up to an electricity grid and was ill-suited to research. It was, however, ideal for making plutonium for bombs—and could have produced enough for one or two within a year once it was fuelled up and operating, said the CIA's director, Michael Hayden, this week.

Just as damningly—says the Bush administration—Syria had turned to North Korea to help realise its nuclear ambitions. The almost-completed reactor was a clone of the one North Korea built for itself at Yongbyon, and whose plutonium extracted from the reactor's spent fuel-rods was used.

Germans Bugging Oman for Years?
On a related big brother story, remember how Siemens were busted bribing Telecom Officials around the world to win contracts, including it seems likely, Oman. (That’s in addition to the widely reported – outside Oman naturally - Ericsson bribe of the then Omani Telecommunications Minister see earlier post).

It is reported that Siemens installed sophisticated communication intercept wiretapping equipment for the Oman Government [Hi guys!], and therefore the German Intelligence Agency (the BND) have probably been reading all our emails and texts ever since. Business Week report
The scope of the Siemens affair is staggering and centers on a current estimated €1.3 billion ($2.1 billion) in dubious payments—mostly in bribes to secure business for the company. Indeed, the company is believed to have paid bribes around the world often amounting to between 5 and 10 percent of a deal's value, and in some cases as much as 30 percent.

The Germans had fallen behind in terms of technical innovation and, as a bookkeeper in one division put it, many were convinced bribes were the only way the company could score big contracts abroad. In some divisions, executives became convinced that without bribes it would be impossible to get contracts in many countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, the Arab world and large swaths of Africa, Iran and other states.

Close Ties with Foreign Intelligence Service
The current SPIEGEL report also details Siemens' allegedly close working relationship with the German foreign intelligence service, the BND. Because the company manufactured virtually every type of high tech product, it served as the BND's virtual house supplier for technology—providing wiretap-proof mobile phones as well as reconnaissance tools. The relationship is said to have been extremely important to the BND because it was interested in getting hold of the access codes to wiretapping systems Siemens had sold to countries all around the world, including Russia, Egypt and Oman.


  1. Wow,

    Well, I'm amazed at the ATM machine nicking stuff. I wonder which banks were being targetted. My friend was scammed last year and it took him almost 6 months to get his money back from his bank.... terrible business. :(

    Siemens affair was to be expected. Cant trust them telephone people, they're all crooks.

    As for the Syrians being in cohoots with the crazy Koreans, I wonder why they sat on that for so long?

  2. The warning didn't mention the bank. I presume its all with a certain type of machine.

    I guess they sat on it to see what the Syrians would say first, and to try and get their help in Iraq. And now the Sryians are denying it, they show the evidence!

  3. 1) Why did they publish the pics and the information so late after the bombing?

    2) Can we really believe the Americans and the Israelis?? Whats the guarantee that these images are really from Syria and of the supposed "nuclear reactor".

    Remember Saddam, weapons of mass destruction, deployable in 45minutes???

  4. Cunning

    The only reason these days for such a late release of the info must mean its related to Iran. A threat? A reminder?

    Of course you can't believe anyone, but this is the sort of thing the Syrians could have refuted by allowing IAEA to visit the site, which they never did. Plus, the Syrians at the time seem to sort-of just take it. Imagine, a country violates your airspace, bombs a facility, and you just shrug? Just their response to me indicates guilt - sort of an 'OK Gov, fair cop'!


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