FBI taps cell phone microphone as eavesdropping tool...

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 12/04/2006 - 13:03.

A friend sent me an interesting article on one way intelligence circles collect information on suspects... they download (or activate) software on cell phones that allows them to turn on the microphone of the cell phone, even when it appears to be shut off, and have the phone connect to them, making your cell phone a surveillance device against you. A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activation method. "A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug."

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone." "If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to... peel the battery off the phone," Atkinson said.

Now knowing what is possible with your cell phone microphone, what about with the built in camera? The GPS feature? Your call data and your actual cell conversations? Your cell phone or the one on the table next to you tells whoever taps into it what you and those around you are saying, where you are, and sends back images.

If a small, simple cell phone may do all this, think about all the spyware built into and dumped on your laptop and home computer by whomever, including "intelligence" circles. These devices have microphones that could record your every word, and many can capture video, and data captures through them and the use of the computers could be relayed anywhere, when online, and stored for future transmission when offline. Again, so long as there is a battery, they can receive... you may strip out the battery but is there a backup battery for the clock? Now, consider homes are going Internet, for example, to adjust your thermostat on line (does that have a sound pickup), and monitor your home security system (probably has a microphone and perhaps video)...

Now, about your car, with its "Black Box" and onstar communications and god knows what other surveillance capabilities, listening in on your conversations, broadcasting your movements, and tracking every inch you travel. Increasingly, data from vehicles so equipped is being used in courts, and who knows what other ways it will appear in your life over time - a nasty divorce or business litigation case, for example. 

The worst imaginable intrusions of George Orwell's 1984 pale in comparison to the colorful reality of life in America (and I suppose worldwide) today. We are never alone, we never escape constant surveillance, we are not at all free. At least in 1984 everyone knew that they were  constantly being observed - spied upon - and betrayed by all around them, whereas most people in America today still live in this "land of the free" delusion. Well, actually, the intelligent people know better. I can remember 10 years ago the top IT executives of Fortune 50 firms I consulted to double encrypted all their communications, and the article referenced above points out "Security-conscious corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell phones". So, now you know better too.

Perhaps you aren't important, like corporate executives, and nothing about your life is important enough for you to care if others listen to your every conversation, and track your every move, and know everywhere you go, and perhaps the concept of privacy is stupid and unnecessary, and freedom is all relative and nobody really has the right to be free. In that case, let's just all go truly 1984 and get the RFID implants and all be equally open, and imprisoned, as at least through equality there is some level of freedom from exploitation.

Be real...

Talk of the Nation today about Cell Phones vs. Privacy

I was interesting that on NPR "Talk of the Nation" today, 12/4/06, one of the topics was "Cell Phones vs. Privacy", and the observations were that cell is a new technology and society has not yet played out the impacts, especially concerning GPS - Global Positioning System. GPS allows the cell phone holder to be tracked every second of every day, and that data may be retained in databases, and used for commercial and government purposes. So, if you have a cell phone with you you have big brother with you. How will the data be used? Perhaps you'll learn some day in court.

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Cell surveillance hits mainstream media

The friend who sent me this article prefaced it with "This is a story that should be covered in the mainstream media". Well, today, about two weeks later, it is in the PD, from Newhouse News Service, with a differnet angle, but here it is...

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