Cheat sheets

Why street cabinets are not safe for your data

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In my role as trusted advisor for many customers, during many years I sometimes met situations that could be subscribed as very disturbing.

On the picture here you see a street cabinet that is the distribution point between the end user (house, company) and the provider of services like Cable TV, internet access and telephony.


Normally, these cabinets are closed with a proper lock which only can be opened by a service engineer who has to perform maintenance or solve a problem. Unfortunately, the doors and locks of most street cabinets are not very safe and very easily opened with a simple screwdriver.

Someone interested in your data could pretend to be a service engineer and drive in front of such a cabinet on your street corner. Once opened the lock, the doors of the cabinet swing open and there is the entrance to the cable coming from your house or company.


The cabinet on the picture here is somewhere in France, located next to the gates of a big Multinational company. You can see that the fence protects the premises while the way to their data is wide open, even don’t need a lock picker to open the door.

Driving in front of such a cabinet with a service van doesn’t attract attention from anyone. Getting the toolbox out of the van, putting a few pylons on the pavement and everything looks very innocent.

What can the criminal do to get into your data like documents, e-mails, telephone conversations?

Of course he needs to have a little knowledge about the equipment that he must install and he must install it on the right cable. Because every connection in the cabinet is properly labeled and even might have the house numbers marked on the connections. So, finding the right cable is the easy part.


Once he found the right cable to tap, he installs the little clip-on taps and connects them to a small wireless device. The wireless device will be placed out of direct sight, like behind the middle door frame where it isn’t seen easily. All this will take him about ten minutes if he did some homework before riding out.

Just around the corner of the street he parked a van that holds the receiver for the wireless data coming from the street cabinet. This doesn’t need to be a big van like in the picture, just a small car will do perfect. (for the story, this van is more impressive)


All he has to do now is “data collection”, that is; store all received data on hard disks. With a few extra batteries this can go on for weeks without anyone in the van or nearby.

Once the criminals think they have enough data, they will remove the equipment from the cabinet and drive of with their van.

Now comes the part that the collected data has to be filtered and analyzed to find the right information. This can be done on every computer or laptop with standard tools that can be found and downloaded from the internet.

From this point on, your classified data is compromised and will be used against you.

There are several ways to protect you against these data thief’s. You can encrypt your sensitive e-Mails, make use of VPN tunnels between your office locations, and for the remote login to the network for your employees.




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