Earlier this year, a temporary office containing what appeared to be as yet unseen surveillance equipment was discovered in the suburb of Akihabara in a raid carried out by the Tokyo authorities. The inspection of the devices revealed a link with a group known as Men In Grey. At the same time, several reports in the Japanese press (and in online forums) referenced the appearances of strange, pallid men in grey suits. Often standing in unexpected places in city centres, they were always seen carrying electronic briefcases, strange antennae and other devices.
When the investigation was suddenly called off, some ambiguity – and consequent public unrest – arose as to why this had happened. Meanwhile, the local authorities in Tokyo opposed further display of the equipment due to it allegedly causing public unrest. Following one particular dispute, a shipment including photographic and video documentation was compiled and transported to Europe under the guise of it containing objects of art.
Having come into contact with this equipment, Aksioma sought the advice of local network security experts, many of whom confirmed its inherently dangerous nature.
The particularly threatening quality of the Men In Grey equipment is its apparently invasive nature; it seems able to penetrate – and even hack into – virtually any electronic device in its reach. While we are all aware of the wire-tapping and data retention done by the government (along with the spying carried out by corporations like Facebook and Google), Men In Grey seem to operate with a range of tools and techniques well beyond those that are currently known to be in use.
Some of the devices – including those that actively intercept wireless communications, visualising network traffic while gathering statistics about personal devices in the vicinity of the object – have never been seen by the general public. One thing is clear: the equipment indicates how easily wireless network traffic can be intercepted – and even modified – using software and hardware.It is not known how much data Men In Grey retain, nor why they take interest in our communications. Enter the space in which the Men In Grey devices are exhibited at your own risk.
Special thanks: SCCA Ljubljana