Sometimes, it's fun to play a little prank on your friends. Maybe you cover a doorway with plastic wrap. Maybe you pour laxative in their coffee. Maybe you put their stapler in jelly. Or maybe you invite them to a nice conference and then slip a bunch of spying gadgets into their gift bags.
Russia's apparently into the latter idea. A pair of Italian newspapers are reporting that, earlier this month, Russia sent leaders attending the Group of 20 summit near St Petersburg home with gift bags full of bugging devices — memory sticks and recharging cables, to be specific. One of the papers described the devices as "Trojan horses designed to obtain information from computers and mobile phones." The delegates probably should have known something was up when they found the charging cables, though. Who in the world gives charging cables out as a gift?
Well, Russia does, and the gesture did not go unnoticed. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, raised suspicions about the gifts and subsequently order a technical review. Analysis done in both Germany and Belgium concluded that the devices were indeed "suitable for undercover detection of computer data and mobile phones." It was unclear whether the devices had already been used for spying.
What makes the whole story even more ridiculous is the fact that it emerged at almost the exact same time as reports that Russian officials — also in St Petersburg — found "spy" chips embedded in household appliances sent from China. So China's trying to spy on Russia, and Russia's trying to spy on its peers, while the NSA is running in circles around everyone. This would make for a great James Bond movie, if it weren't so sadly true. [LA Times]