Even Powering Down A Cell Phone Can't Keep The NSA From Tracking Its Location

from the making-a-strong-case-for-Snowden's-fridge-logic dept

We know how much information the NSA can grab in terms of cell phone usage -- namely, calls made and received and length of conversations, along with phone and phone card metadata like IMSI and IMEI numbers. It can even grab location data, although for some reason, it claims it never does. (No matter, plenty of law enforcement agencies like gathering location data, so it's not like that information is going to waste [bleak approximation of laughter]).

According to Ryan Gallagher at Slate, the NSA, along with other agencies, are able to something most would feel to be improbable, if not impossible: track the location of cell phones even if they're turned off.

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.
Normally, turning a cell phone off cuts the connection to towers, effectively taking it off the grid and making it only traceable to the last point it was connected. The Post article doesn't explain exactly how the NSA accomplishes it, but other incidents over the past half-decade offer a few indications of how this might be done.
In 2006, it was reported that the FBI had deployed spyware to infect suspects’ mobile phones and record data even when they were turned off... In 2009, thousands of BlackBerry users in the United Arab Emirates were targeted with spyware that was disguised as a legitimate update. The update drained users’ batteries and was eventually exposed by researchers, who identified that it had apparently been designed by U.S. firm SS8, which sells “lawful interception” tools to help governments conduct surveillance of communications.
The FBI's use, in which cell phones' microphones were remotely activated to record conversations (even with the phones turned off), probably had some bearing on Snowden's request that journalists power down their phones and place them in the fridge.

According to Gallagher, the NSA may be using mass updates to infect phones of targets overseas (and presumably, any "non-targets" applying the same faux update). This would be difficult, but not impossible, and considering what we've learned about the NSA's far-reaching surveillance net, certainly not implausible. A couple of details in support of that theory:

First, two telcos that provide service to millions of cell phone users are known to be overly cooperative with intelligence agencies. You may recall the fact that Verizon and AT&T notably did not sign the collective letter asking the government to allow affected companies to release information on government requests for data. Given this background, it's not unimaginable that Verizon and AT&T would accommodate the NSA (and FBI) if it wished to use their update systems to push these trojans.

Add to this the fact that Microsoft and others have allowed intelligence agencies early access to security flaws, allowing them to exploit these for a certain length of time before informing the public and patching the holes. Add these two together and you've got the means and the opportunity to serve snooping malware to millions of unsuspecting cell phone users.

Sparing usage, properly targeted isn't really an issue. But if updates containing spyware have been pushed to the thousands of non-targeted individuals just to ensure the targets are included, it becomes more problematic, and the track record of the two agencies who have used this technology is far from pristine.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 2:50pm

    so, thousands get infected phones in order to infect and detect the ones specifically wanted and it's ok to do that. how come then, if i was to do something, even unwittingly, unintentionally, to just one phone, i would get the book thrown at me and then watch the key going over the side after being locked up? hardly seems right, somehow!!

     

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  2.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 2:58pm

    To paraphrase a popular movie line:
    Anybody who uses a cell phone in the Middle East is a terrorist. Anybody who turns their cell phone off in the Middle East is a well-disciplined terrorist.

     

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  3.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:05pm

    Pull the battery

    Pull the battery, and none of these tricks will work. (The NSA must love iPhones because of this.)

    Another possible malware administration route would be a Stingray masquerading as a normal cell tower.

    IMO, installing spyware on someone's phone or computer is an extremely intrusive act that should, if permitted at all, require a narrow and specific warrant. It's very much equivalent to planting a bug or a camera in someone's home or office, and they surely need a warrant backed by a buttload of probable cause to do that.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    Hal Turner mentioned something like that when he had his show years ago, and mentioned that he took the battery out of his cell phone, whenever he was at any of the white supremacist rallies he used to attend.

    Taking the battery out would definitely stop the microphone from working and would prevent the GPS function of the phone from working.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    I wonder what the Feds would think if something happened to the phone.

    A few weeks ago, I dropped my phone into the washing machine and totally ruined it. I wonder what the Feds would think if a phone suddenly went off the grid for good, on account of something like that.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:19pm

    I don't know exactly how they are doing it, but if you want my opinion, they're probably doing it the same way the UK used to search for unlicensed TVs in the 70's. In which they broadcast a signal and see which receivers "echo" their request. The ones that attenuate the signal a certain way are cell phones, then it's just a matter of filtering out the positive hits from the false-positives. Doesn't exactly mean what kind of cell phones they are, but I doubt the NSA cares as it means there's probably a human nearby them.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Putting your phone in the fridge is not going to work. I just tested that now with my phone, and both WiFi and cell signals still got through.

     

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    bla, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:31pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    It's to block sound, not signals

     

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  9.  
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    hat_eater, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    It might have prevented the microphones from picking up anything interesting though.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:35pm

    Re:

    Actually, fining an unlicensed TV is would not be that difficult.

    Analog TVs emitted a signal at around 38MHz, where you can listen to the sound portion of whatever the TV is tuned to.

    I know, because I did that, as a kid, to get TV after bedtime without my parents ever getting wise to what I was up to. I would turn on the TV in my bedroom and turn down the sound and picture, and simply tune a police band receiver to the right frequency, put on my headphones, and enjoy.

    It is this same method that cable companies likely used to try and catch people stealing pay TV, in the days of analog TVs. Just have a receiver tuned to the right frequency and then just listen in on what people are watching.

    I have no doubt this method was used by East Germany, Cuba, and North Korea to catch people watching Western TV programming, back in the days of analog TV.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re: Pull the battery

    until they make it illegal for smartphones to have removable batteries.

     

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    TasMot (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:39pm

    Well That Certainly Explains the "No Rooting" Stance

    With the DMCA, no one is allowed to "root" their phone and take control away from the provider. No wonder AT&T and Verizon fight that so much. They would lose all that free money coming their way from the government to put spyware on everybody's phone. It's a WIN-WIN for the government and the cell phone company. Who cares if the citizens and customers lose out. They're not supposed to know what's going on. Once the phones are rooted, though, some folks are going to notice the malware and take it out.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Well That Certainly Explains the "No Rooting" Stance

    The crminal anti-cirvumvention statues only apply to those who do it to make money.

    In order for a felony conviction to stick under the law, they would have to prove that it was done for "commerical or private financial gain", and rooting/jailbreaking a phone for one's own personal use does would not be covered by that.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:50pm

    There is in fact a second battery in every phone. Similar to the motherboard battery found on computers that keep your bios settings should you lose power. It wouldn't surprised me if the NSA could make use of said batteries to track your phone even with the regular battery removed.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:57pm

    Well after all the NSA shit it's obvious why they gave every single person a fucking Obama phone.

     

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    twobuck40 (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    Are you sure? Did you crawl in there with it?

    BTW does the light stay one?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    Because we need to stop the terrorists and warrants get in the way of making sure nobody is a terrorist

     

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  18.  
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    Mike, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    I know there is definitely a second battery in my Galaxy T989. I broke the glass and took apart the entire phone to replace it. Upon doing so I discovered a second tiny battery inside. After searching StartPage about said battery, I found many "conspirators" talking about finding these batteries in their phones as well.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:16pm

    As the anonymous coward above me posted - Faraday cages for the win.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:25pm

    We need a Raspberry Pi smartphone. I'm sure the US Gov. will do everything in their power to outlaw a FOSS Phone (Free Open Source Software).

    They'll say FOSS Phones are illegal, because they can't 'legally' spy on us, even though it's illegal under the Constitution.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    Or switch phones with someone else and confuse them instead.

     

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  22.  
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    aerilus, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:54pm

    Re:

    probably more of a sound proof thing

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    That and it helps get out the vote too!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 5:24pm

    Another day, another story that makes me glad I run CyanogenMod on my smartphone instead of the OS Verizon put on it.

     

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  25.  
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    mvario (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 5:54pm

    Regarding the capture of geolocation data

    Regarding the capture of geolocation data, according to The Atlantic article (http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/07/nsa-admits-it-analyzes-more-peoples-data-previously -revealed/67287/) with a quote from NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis, "We are not collecting that data, under this program."

    The weasel-words phrase is of course, "under this program". Given the track record of NSA statements and their relation to the truth you can interpret this as you will.

     

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  26.  
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    R.H. (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Re: Well That Certainly Explains the "No Rooting" Stance

    It's still an issue since there are a number of people who've had me root their phones for them since they don't understand how to do it but they do want to get rid of some of the otherwise irremovable(sp?) crap-ware on the thing. Since I've never asked for any money I'm pretty sure that I'm still fine doing it but, if they own the device, why should the government care what they have done to it?

     

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  27. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:36pm

    Re:

    battery backed RAM, look it up, your phone has data stored on ROM (Read only memory) and retains it's data when power is turned off, also data is stored in RAM (Random Access Memory) that requires a very small current to HOLD that data when your phone is OFF. But not enough power to drive the RAM I/O circuits (that is the phone main power).

    So the tiny battery keeps the data in your RAM intact, but does not supply enough power to read that data. Your phone is OFF.

    But go ahead, it's more amusing to watch you paranoid tin foil ass hats, carrying on like 3 year olds..

    You claim you 'know' technology, you idiots don't have a fucking clue..

     

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  28.  
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    mhab, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:47pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    It would still be that way if it weren't for that travesty of democracy known as "The Patriot Act"... or should i say:
    The "Patriot" Act

    "Patriotism" is overrated

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:48pm

    probably had some bearing on Snowden's request that journalists power down their phones and place them in the fridge.


    So, if Snowden is the amazing tech expert as you claim, why is he saying put the phone in the fridge, a fridge is not an effective faraday cage (as someone here has found out).

    Putting a turned on phone in the fridge will NOT stop it from talking to a tower.

    Signals would enter the fridge through the seals and so on.

    Wrap it in foil, and place it in a tin car, like a biscuit tin, that might work..

    Or just stop being so paranoid, and stupid.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 7:06pm

    You can remotely turn phones on

    I work for a transportation company, and I know first hand that if you can get software installed on a phone turning it off does not stop all communication to the phone.

    Just over three years ago we installed a program on our company issued cell phones that our drivers used during the daytime. The software we were running was still very new and under development. For the first three months we had the power to remotely turn phones back on and do anything we wanted with the phone. Those features were removed from the program because too many concerns were raised about the fact that we had no idea if the person was in a situation were phones were prohibited (getting on a plane, in a hospital, etc...).

    PS Just so you know we weren't trying to be total Big Brother. The phones were only supposed to be used while on duty and then left at our facilities on the chargers overnight.

     

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  31.  
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    Fat Hillary, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 7:23pm

    Cell phones

    Placing your phone in a Farraday Cage(metal box,Mylar Bag,etc blocks ALL signals...FYI

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 7:41pm

    Re: Cell phones

    Tin foil - remember, shiny side out

     

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  33.  
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    Mike, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 8:01pm

    Re:

    Clearly placing a phone in a fridge is a convenient way to prevent eavesdropping on conversations (prevent the mic from "hearing"). It is not meant to block the phone's signal.

    Think before you rant.

     

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  34.  
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    Mike, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 8:16pm

    Re: Re:

    I didn't claim to "know" technology. I stated that I discovered a secondary battery in my phone similar to those found on conventional motherboards. While I am aware how a motherboard on a desktop computer functions, we are all clearly unaware how our government takes advantage of our technology.

    Try to maintain your composure in future posts.

     

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  35.  
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    Disgusted, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 8:42pm

    Actually, the problem revolves around the entire concept of the "Smart Phone". First off, most people DON'T NEED ONE. They're nice, and convenient, I grant you, but they're TOO SMART. You don't NEED the equivalent of a 5 year old desktop computer in your pocket to make a few calls. You don't NEED internet access in your phone. You don't NEED the $100+ per month charges. You don't NEED a device with the ability to monitor your every move and word. You don't NEED the $2500+ total cost of that fancy phone over the 2 year contract period. I would suggest we return to the old, reliable feature-phone, perhaps with a QWERTY keyboard for texting, and maybe a camera, but with a removable battery. None of us, except maybe some corporate customers, have any real need for a "smart phone" in any form.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 8:43pm

    Re:

    If they started doing that, you could then wrap your phone in tinfoil, to prevent any signals from getting in or out.

    I read sometime back that criminals who are required to wear GPS ankle bracelets do this to keep the device from getting the GPS signal.

    Using tinfoil to defeat government tracking is not against any current law.

     

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  37.  
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    Disgusted, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 8:58pm

    Product Idea

    A small, RF tight, maybe foam lined, metal box - Faraday Cage. Think souped up Altoids box big enough for a phone or tablet. The RF tight parameter is required, so all metal surfaces between the base and cover need to be clean to allow good electrical contact. Gold plated fingers on the base might be required. Finished price should be in the $20 range.

     

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  38.  
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    Disgusted, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    "Using tinfoil to defeat government tracking is not against any current law."

    Thank you. Now some idiot in Washington is going to propose a law to do just that!

     

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  39.  
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    davnel, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 9:16pm

    So Test The Theory

    Needed: one large, real, Faraday cage. One broadband spectrum analyzer with data storage capability. Place phone (with battery removed) and spectrum analyzer in cage. Monitor for 24 hours. Look for microburst communication attempts. A microburst is a short period (milliseconds or microseconds long) data burst. IF the unit is using the backup battery to power communications, it can only do so by charging a capacitor and using that charge to power a very short burst occasionally.

     

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  40.  
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    Larry, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 9:18pm

    block the phone

    Wrap it in aluminum foil then try to call yourself. Not a long term solution but a start

     

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  41.  
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    JMT (profile), Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 11:03pm

    Re: Re:

    "You claim you 'know' technology, you idiots don't have a fucking clue."

    Nothing you've said proves you have any more of a fucking clue than us idiots. You sound a lot more like an idiot than most here however.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 11:22pm

    Re: Re:

    The ram refresh signal may be what they are tuning into. DRAM needs to refresh to keep the memory intact. It might create a recognizable signature.

     

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  43.  
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    blah, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 11:36pm

    Re: Cell phones

    But a faraday doesn't block sound. So all NSA has to do is install spyware which says " whenever on but tower signal blocked, record sound. Then retransmit sound data when tower access returns."

    In fact in most cases in urban settings , having the phone lose tower signal would mean intentional blocking and thus indicate something sneaky going on so best time to record!

     

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  44.  
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    blah, Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 11:39pm

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    His tells me that snowden thinks the spyware on a phone activates when tower signal is lost to record sound of meetings when celltower signal is being intentionally blocked by the owner. Those soujd would be ebroadcast to nsa when phone regains cell tower access.

    Otherwise snowden would simply have people put their phone in a metal cage of some type.

     

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  45.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 12:08am

    Me, I'd pull the battery out. Like to see it spy on me with no fricken power.

    Fridge better for muffling sound, but the microwave oven is a faraday cage. When in doubt, also wrap in aluminum foil.

     

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  46.  
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    Fat Hillary, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 12:19am

    Signals

    I purchased a mylar bag for another purpose and decided to try signal blocking for anti-tracking testing....works great...I know it wont block sound but I never talk around my phone anyway,just on GP's....using the microwave to block signals when you are at home seems redundant but there is no harm in it either

     

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  47.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:46am

    Re: Re:

    It seems your understanding of the technology is also flawed.

    A lot of people commonly refer to ROM in cell phones but they are really using it as a lazy abbreviation for non-volatile memory. ROM, more precisely, cannot be written to after it has been programmed a single time. Cell phones use FLASH memory, and sometimes EEPROM as well, that can be re-written and does not require a battery to maintain memory contents. NOR FLASH has been used to store executable code as it is byte accessible and can execute code in place. However, the use of NOR FLASH is declining as NAND FLASH had been improved so that it can emulate NOR capabilities. NAND FLASH is used to store; firmware, OS code, configuration, application code and data, SMS messages, photos, and video. User generated data can be stored on FLASH based media cards if the phone has connections for one.

    You seem to be confusing Static RAM (SRAM) and Dynamic RAM (DRAM). Both types are used in cell phones. DRAM is cheaper than SRAM and is used whenever access speed is not a critical factor. DRAM is not usable as non-volatile memory. The data contained in DRAM is lost when the chip has no power. There is no battery backup.
    SRAM is used when faster memory is needed and to reduce power consumption. The SRAM memory in the cell phone is primarily used to store frequently accessed data and temporary variables generated by the baseband processing ASIC and for cache used by the CPU. When not in active use (standby mode), the contents are maintained with a very small amount of current. There is no battery backup to maintain contents while the phone is turned off.

    I am not a cell phone expert but, apparently, a small coin battery is used to power the internal clock chip on the phone. I looked this up and I must say it is suspicious that the same text appears in innumerable web-sites. At any rate, such a battery cannot be used to power all the circuitry in the phone.

    So, the question remains. Is the "off" setting on, at least some, phones a software, low power, setting or is everything really powered off. The NSA trick apparently requires "malware" to spoof the off setting while keeping the phone at least partially on.

     

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  48.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:51am

    Re: Product Idea

    Why not just a mylar bag. It would be much cheaper and just as effective.

     

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  49.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:53am

    Re: Re: Cell phones

    Shiny side out so it looks nicer?

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That would be very hard to enforce. They would have to totally ban the sale of aluminum foil to achieve that.

     

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  51.  
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    Ron Hunter, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 3:36am

    Turned off cell phones

    Smartphones are not really turned off, as very few have true on/off switches. However, it should be quite easy to determine if a smartphone is still radiating in the radio spectrum. Surely terrorists are smart enough to employ basic technology to detect any radio signal from their phones.
    If the NSA wants to know where I am, that's OK by me. Hope they don't get too bored with my conversations, and travels. Maybe they can enjoy my pictures...

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 4:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Cell phones

    It's an old joke, originating with the tinfoil hat craze.
    Funny how it doesn't sound so crazy anymore.

     

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  53.  
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    Niall (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Pull the battery

    HTC and Apple are already rendering that law unnecessary!

     

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  54.  
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    The Real Michael, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 5:19am

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Isn't there a protective casing which would block out all transmission to and from a cell phone? There should be.

     

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  55.  
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    Niall (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re: Cell phones

    You've never been in an old apartment or large building that acts as a Faraday cage, have you? A lot of people in urban environments have very poor signal indoors, enough to render it non-obvious unless a specific person is known to normally have good signal indoors.

    It can also vary widely with carrier.

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Re:

    No, I don't *need* internet access or an easy on-screen keyboard for my phone.

    It sure is nice to have, though.

    Also, your prices are *way* off. My phone was $550 (I bought a fairly expensive phone).
    I'm currently paying ~$60 (with fees - it's a little less but let's keep it to round numbers) per month for unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and limited web (which gets me all the web I need unless I decide to stream Pandora or Youtube a lot). I've been paying roughly that much (within $5) of that price since I got the phone a bit over three years ago, so that's a good number to go with for a decent smart phone plan cost.
    I also don't have a contract. Never have; there's really no reason to (if you can't buy your phone outright, talk to the phone company about a purchase plan for it; that won't necessarily bind you to a contract for the minutes/text/web plan).

    So my phone plus the plan will, over two years, cost $1990 - far less than the $2500 you are quoting for the phone alone. In fact, that means that my average monthly price including the phone cost is $82, if I prorate it over 2 years.
    My phone is more than three years old now and functioning quite well, which lowers the average price even more.

    Those are accurate numbers - slightly overstated for purposes of easy calculation, but accurate.

    As for the price of the basic phone? Well, there really aren't many cheaper plans nowadays. So all you're (probably) saving is the cheaper phone price. That is something, at least when you compare it to a relatively high-end smartphone like the one I have.

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    That is the RTC battery. Its only purpose is to keep the time even when the phone is powered off, or main battery has been removed. A few budget phones do not have a RTC battery, and have to set the time every time their main battery is removed and replaced, or even every time they are turned off.

    The RTC battery cannot be used for tracking. First, it is connected only to the RTC circuitry, and not to the radios, the CPU, or the audio codec. Second, it is designed for very low power use; using it for anything other than powering the RTC would drain it quickly, and it is not rechargeable.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Pull the battery

    i read somewhere once that if you "lose" your cellphone, there is more suspicion placed on you.

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re:

    maybe if the cell loses the towers is when the special spyware kicks in. so he masks the sound with the fridge. maybe they generate some kind of weird hiss/humm when close?

    maybe, rather than wrapping in tin foil...just leave it in the car.

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Yup,

    Its called a hammer

     

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  61.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 8:49am

    Re:

    It used to be that PC motherboards used CMOS based non-volatile memory to store the BIOS configuration. This is no longer true. BIOS configuration is now stored in EEPROM or FLASH memory. In PCs the coin battery is still there to power the real-time clock. I am not sure why a cell phone would require a real-time clock as NTP (Network Time Protocol) can be used instead for . It may be required for a GPS unit where high accuracy is needed. In that case, only phones with GPS should need a secondary coin battery.

     

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  62.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:05am

    Re: Product Idea

    Sounds like a good kickstarter project to me, and if nothing else it would be funny to watch all the various spy agencies freak out over a simple sound-proof, signal blocking cell phone case that was cheap enough for everyone to get.

     

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  63.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Cell phones

    Does it still count as paranoia if there's good evidence that 'they' really are watching you?

     

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  64.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    Wait, people didn't know this already?

    It's very well known within security circles that this is done, and has been done for years. The mechanism isn't even that difficult. You only have two options if you want to avoid being tracked and eavesdropped on by your cell phone: don't carry it, or remove the battery.

     

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  65.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Pull the battery

    until they make it illegal for smartphones to have removable batteries.


    In which case, you just put the phone in a faraday cage (wrapping it in aluminum foil is adequate).

    But if you do this, be aware that your phone will drain its battery much more quickly. Cell phones boost their transmitting power when they aren't finding cell towers.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Cell phones

    Then hackers will find a way to find and eliminate that spyware from phones.

     

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  67.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Re:

    Then you simply ignore the law, and import and FOSS phone anyway.

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Pull the battery

    Then all you have to do is cross and the border into Canada or Mexico and buy one with a removeable battery and bring it back to the USA. Just simply find a place to hide it where Customs will not find it.

     

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  69.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Cell phones

    This. In my urban apartment, I get no cell signal whatsoever (but full bars in the parking lot out front).

     

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  70.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    You don't NEED the equivalent of a 5 year old desktop computer in your pocket to make a few calls.


    True. I rarely actually make calls with my smartphone.

    But the rest of the capabilities are so incredibly useful that it's worth having.

     

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  71.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re:

    you cant power a circuitboard and a long range antenna with power used for a single low frequency, you are a fucking retard.

     

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  72.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re:

    Depends on the phone. My old Samsung Admmire that got dropped into the washing machine did not have a backup battery, but my ZTE phone, which replaced it, does.

    So, if you can get an older phone, such as the Samsung Admire, such a backup battery is not there, and you can defeat government snooping by removing the battery.

     

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  73.  
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    streetlight (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 11:29am

    Re: So Test The Theory

    Why is something this complicated necessary. Put the phone in your Faraday cage and give it a call and listen for a ring tone. If you can't hear the ring, put a small micro cassette recorder or other sound recording device in the cage. Presumably if the phone can't ring it's not connected to a tower. Not sure about GPS.

     

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  74.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Pull the battery

    Airplane mode. And don't put it in the fridge; modern fridges are probably more plastic than metal. Put it in the microwave oven. Just don't forget to take it out before actually using the microwave oven as an oven.

    If you put it in airplane mode, turn it off, and cage it and come back to a dead battery, then you have good evidence of phone-home malware having gotten onto the phone and may want to talk to your lawyer as you may have a cause of action.

     

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  75.  
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    Cloudsplitter, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

    The secret to going dark is randomization, what you need from a cell phone is voice, and text, everything else is a gift or a curse. Buy cheap pay as you go phones, at the lowest price you can find them. Charge the batteries. then pull them. Buy the minimum phone card needed, normally enough time comes with phone to set it up, 10 minutes or so. When you need to call or text, install battery, register phone to get a phone number, add phone card minutes, uses phone, pull battery and destroy phone. This way you use the phone as a one time pad, and then its gone. Carrying a smart phone when you are running is a bad idea, anytime you power it up, by reinstalling battery, it will location echo you. If you can not pull the battery, do not buy it. If you need to store numbers or other data buy a cheap wifi tablet and put data on removable chip, or memory stick if there is USB access, Say what you will, the Feds still need our cooperation, and acquiescence to spy on us, Stop Cooperating. If you learn to read a paper map, GPS is one less thing you have to worry about. A free man learns, to think like a Guerrilla.

     

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  76.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    In other words, do what drug dealers, terrorists, and spies do with regards to cell phones. That this is standard practice is further evidence that what the NSA is up to has little, if anything, to do with catching actual terrorists.

     

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  77.  
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    gnudist, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 4:58pm

    To many this was a shock, to richard stallman it was old news

     

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  78.  
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    Viatcheslav I Sobol, Jul 25th, 2013 @ 12:24am

    Response to: Cloudsplitter on Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

    Cloudsplitter. You are one funny BS spitter. First at all, the battery pulled out of the cell phone does not prevent tracking for several days because of electrical circuits serving as charge capacity retention function. Second if you were of any interest to be worthy of surveillance once you speak every voice is digitally fingerprinted and NSA has more than enough computer power to find whomever they want as soon as start talking on the phone instantly. Third, every person walks differently, literally and once your particular rear end shifting in motion pattern is established then it is useless to change any phones. Save your money, bug the tree, recycle an old phone, buy the replacement, stimulate by consuming corporate profitability. -:)Most importantly, if people behave evasively then there are even more intrusive methods to exercise individuals scrutiny.

    Whom are you fighting? Your own government? Nobody gives a damn about you or me. There are more pressing issues to attend than entertaining the shopkeepers with your cave dwelling lifestyle, obsessing about non existent privacy illusion while crapping in the glass booth. Welcome to America in 2013 reality.

     

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  79.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 25th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    Re: Response to: Cloudsplitter on Jul 24th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

    First at all, the battery pulled out of the cell phone does not prevent tracking for several days because of electrical circuits serving as charge capacity retention function.


    I'm 90% sure this isn't actually true.

    Second if you were of any interest to be worthy of surveillance once you speak every voice is digitally fingerprinted and NSA has more than enough computer power to find whomever they want as soon as start talking on the phone instantly.


    This isn't true, at least not with anything like accuracy. Identifying someone by "voiceprint" is highly inaccurate under the best of circumstances.

    Third, every person walks differently, literally and once your particular rear end shifting in motion pattern is established then it is useless to change any phones.


    This comment confuses me. Do you mean once they've caught you on video, they can identify you again on video? What does that have to do with cell phones?

    Most importantly, if people behave evasively then there are even more intrusive methods to exercise individuals scrutiny.


    True, and if they want to do surveillance, then they should be limited to the more intrusive methods. It would reduce the amount of unwarranted surveillance they do by quite a lot.

    Whom are you fighting? Your own government?


    No, the bastards who have taken over my government.

    Welcome to America in 2013 reality.


    I see, so your response is "suck it up, buttercup, there's nothing you can do. Just give up and bend over."? I think we can do a lot better than pure defeatism.

     

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  80.  
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    Trish, Jul 25th, 2013 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    The only stupid one here is you. Had you read a little further down before commenting, you'd realize it had nothing to do with the signal and everything to do with whatever 'sound' the phones could capture.

     

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  81.  
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    dmitryb, Jul 25th, 2013 @ 6:15pm

    "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is"

    So what's the definition of "Powering Down?"

     

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  82.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 1:00am

    Re:

    I wonder if wrapping it in tinfoil works!

     

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  83.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 2:52am

    Re:

    TV broadcasts don't work that way. The 'detection vans' are bogus.

     

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  84.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 4:56am

    Re: Re:

    "BTW does the light stay one?"

    No. It switches to zero.

     

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  85.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:30am

    And this is why the Elite removes the batteries before meetings.

     

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  86.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 5:32am

    Please fund the Ubuntu Edge campaign. A phone with an Open Source OS, without spyware, malware, virus.

     

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  87.  
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    curmudgeoninchief, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:28am

    Take It Out

    You have to take out either the SIM Card or the battery. That's the only way to "turn off" your phone.

     

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  88.  
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    ast1, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 5:57am

    Re: Pull the battery

    Pull the SIM-Card?

     

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  89.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    I had a wicked experience, late 2010, where i got a call, answered it, and it sounded like a fax coming in. I couldn't power off or hang up, abd I saw the gps icon on. I opened it and pulled the battery out. Thus began a nervous breakdown. Fearing pulling the battery was not sufficient, I threw the phone in a pond. All that for visiting sites like this and commenting. When i calmed down and tried to tell people what had happened they called me bonkers. Vindication. is sweet. Error on the sidevof caution; pull the battery and insert in fridge, or its equivalent.

     

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  90.  
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    michael keenan, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 10:46pm

    cell phone analysis

     

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  91.  
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    Ricky, Aug 18th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    Re: Pull the battery

    If you wrap your phone in several layers of foil it wont be able to communicate due to it being in a "faraday cage" .. Just an ifea for iphones. But they may be buffering the captured audio on yhe phone till its on the network then upload it which would make this a bad idea.

     

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  92.  
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    Roygbiv, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 6:24pm

    On when off

    An 'off' cell phone can not transmit. A phone with malware can simulate being off, and still transmit.

    Battery which stores ROM does not have enough power to teansmit

     

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  93.  
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    Short aus, Oct 22nd, 2013 @ 8:40pm

    Okay so what happens if someone like me who has an iPhone can't turn it off? Like I power it down, but it turns straight back on. Battery turns off at 7% and the phone will reboot at about 4%. It then will last forever sometimes before it finally shuts down.
    What's the go with that? It never used to do it

     

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  94.  
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    nik, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 2:39am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Just put it in the microwave! DONT turn the microwave on coz u will have a well baked mobile! Remember that microwaves prevent the waves of escaping.

     

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  95.  
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    Guest, Nov 8th, 2013 @ 2:47pm

    Simple Solution

    Okay you big smart people. The easiest and only true sure means is ..... TO DITCH THE CELL PHONE COMPLETELY.

    Duh

     

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  96.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: Cell phones

    No, shiny side in. You want to stop signals from the phone to the NSA, doesn't matter if signals reach the phone.

     

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  97.  
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    A Person you don't know, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 12:15am

    NSA spying.

    Just take a piece of painters tape and place it over the camera on both sides of your phone. They wont be able to see shit. As for the audio...still working on that. Lol so far im just leaving it in a room thats rarely occupied.

     

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  98.  
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    govtfreephones, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 1:45am

    Re: Well That Certainly Explains the

    Imagine those who applied for the free govt cell phones..there is definatley spyware on those phones as well as the msid doesn't match ur number. No such thing as a free lunch.

     

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  99.  
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    freegovtphones, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 1:51am

    Re: block the phone

    I used to live in federal subsidized housing and I remember my neighbor had tin foil covering all windows not until she was asked to remove it. She told me it was to divert transmission of communication from her apt. I thought it was a farce. She argued with management that it was to cool her apt. Years later It was proven they were monitoring their tenants.

     

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  100.  
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    freegovt phones, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 2:01am

    Re: Re:

    I noticed when I leave my cell phone in the car, it's dead cold. When I bring it in the house it gets really hot...hmmm at it's best.

     

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  101.  
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    freegovtphones, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 2:07am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 11th, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    I received a call that I didn't know, they didn't say anything next thing u knew my phone started acting up..thanks for the heads up

     

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  102.  
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    quiet girl, Dec 15th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    NSA Spying

    If you place your phone into a tin, like a candy tin or an old lunchbox or a cookie tin (not a jar! Has to be made of tin) it cant read any signals. ;-)

     

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  103.  
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    Battery, Dec 22nd, 2013 @ 11:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    This small battery is used for powering phone clock, and, maybe, for preservation of some data. It has not enough power to turn on any transmitting equipment, not speaking about transmitting something through it....

     

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  104.  
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    ralph Mills, Dec 28th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Tracking Cell Phones

    So, why doesn't the cell phone manufacturing community begin making phone with a battery on-off switch. With no battery, no tracking is possible, I understand.

     

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  105.  
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    Rezzy, Dec 28th, 2013 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Well That Certainly Explains the

    Read up..DMCA deemed it legal to root/jailbreak your phones. Some reason not tablets though. Just phones purchased after January ?? 2013 cannot be legally unlocked to use on a different carrier without permission from your current carrier.

    My theory is I'm paid for the damn thing with my money so who's to say i can't do as I please with it? It's like buying a car but the dealer tells you that you can't put seat covers on... Doesn't make sense

     

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  106.  
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    unohoo, Dec 30th, 2013 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    some phones have hidden batteries in them, some have more than one hidden.

     

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  107.  
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    unohoo, Dec 30th, 2013 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Re:

    For someone who identifies him self as an "Anonymous Coward" you sure do have a lot to say about other peoples comments, seems like you don't have any original thought of your own.
    If I were so simple as you . . . I would want to be an Anonymous Coward too.

    Get a real life . . . and stop tapping in on someone else. After all isn't that what the subject line is all about: People like you . . .

     

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  108.  
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    ed, Jan 1st, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    Response to: Mike on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 3:50pm

    You are correct. That battery actually provides enough power to the GPS funtion to track you.

     

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  109.  
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    Just Visiting, Jan 1st, 2014 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Pull the battery

    Well there is at least one spyware out there that claims that the law enforcement community can use your phone even without the battery.

    And before you spout off about how that's all crap...

    For years all the internet know it all's kept saying that they couldn't use your phone to spy on you. Then when that came out those it became "well yeah they can, but just shut it off and problem solved". Then it became "well duh, everyone knows that... Jeez where have you been?"

    So no offense, but I for one am done listening to internet know it all's in comments sections.

     

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  110.  
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    DeathPenalty, Jan 4th, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Secret to Going Dark

    Howdy guys and gals, its certainly an interesting topic and its great to read so many people's ideas and theories. For mine you have to go back to the eggs, flour and sugar of that tasty cake. So when we look at how we get spied on in my view it comes down to these things:
    1. As far as im aware spyware is a program not something physical but purely software, this must attach onto the IMEI of a phone i believe so it knows what its recording, tracking etc. Getting programs to roll IMEI's isnt hard, it can be done automatically or manually.
    2. When tracing or tracking a phone, its either jumping on the back of the PHONE which is the IMEI, or its jumping on the SIM card or phone number attached. So if you get a phone which can roll its IMEI and have maybe 10 sim cards and rotate them then it in my view takes care of that 2nd problem.
    3. Now another problem is if someone installs something physical on your phone, in this day and age if that happens then ur screwed until you physically remove it, and its kinda your own fault for leaving ya phone lying around people u dont really know. So physically on means only way is physically off.
    4. If you have spyware on your phone and you roll the IMEI then the spyware cant find its target anymore, but that doesnt mean more spyware cant be remotely installed thru sms or terrible thing called Bluetooth.
    5. Viruses can also attack and damage your phone and open up holes for spyware to get through more easily.

    So heres my solution, wether it works or not is another story, but its my opinion and im happy to share it with fellow privacy concerned people:

    BEFORE YOU MAKE A CALL OR SMS:
    1. Scan your phone with anti spyware program.
    2. Then Scan phone with anti virus program
    3. Enter in a new IMEI
    4. Insert a new SIM card
    5. This is important: the person on the other phone must also follow these 4steps.

    I also strongly agree with the people who say that going back to NOKIA 5110's or basically old school phones makes the NSA and other MOFO corporations jobs at being up our butts wid torches a whole lot harder.

    Before i go i just wanna say, that as a people we are lazy and want things easy, everything easy is digital or mechanical, well one day my belief is the powers gonna go out, and 90% of us are gonna die because we dont know how to survive with Watts or Ohms. The nomads or bushmen will once again be the sole survivors when we well our great grandchildren fuck this planet beyond hope.

    Just look at the way the governments are getting us to hand over our lives, its like being robbed and the robber just has to say, well if u give me your purse then u wont have all that extra weight to carry around, and us without thinking we just hand it over.

    Look at technology:
    1. before u had to buy a bus ticket, now u just swipe a card or a phone and ur on, but guess what that digital card or phone says who ur, where u got on, what time u got on the bus, when u got off etc.
    2. We transfer money online, go to atms, everything involves a machine, these machines are screwing us, yeh its easy to use, i love my technology, but to be real cautious when i need to i go old school. face to face meetings. send someone in to buy a PREPAID VISA/MASTERCARD they r a god send, buy a laptop and tape the camera and micropohne or get an IBM thinkpad which doesnt hava camera, register a usb modem in a fake name, same fake name as ya prepaid visa, the computers IP isnt attached to you its attached to the dude that bought it, and he shouldnt remember you, u paid cash bcoz u bought it outta the newspaper, u buy ya internet usb ya mobile all from 2nd hand garage sales or newspaper ads, all cash all untraceable. Trust me the things ive done in the Past ive needed to be damn well anonymous and i was, and never got caught.

    IN CONCLUSION ITS ALL OUT THERE PEOPLE, THE OLD AND THE NEW, HEY ENJOY TECHNOLOGY FOR THE BENEFITS THE FUN, THE REALISM, THE ENTERTAINMENT, BUT WHEN U NEED TO GO UNDERCOVER THEN GO OLD SKOOL BROTHER ;-)

     

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  111.  
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    Laurie Chmiel, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 11:40pm

    us idiots with no clue

    I'm glad you knew everything way back then. But everything has changed, and now you look like an idiot. do you think Bad bios is not possible, too? If you are in security, you need to keep up. Jacob Applebaum has some videos on YouTube. find them and listen carefully. Faraday is the only way, so far. tomorrow? we'll fight their next attack. and the next.

     

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  112.  
    identicon
    undisclosed recipient, Feb 16th, 2014 @ 8:07am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:48pm

    The fridge was not intended tasbe used as a Faraday cage, more specifically, as a soundproof enclosure to prevent the phones microphones from picking up sound

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  113.  
    identicon
    shelly, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:06am

    please help

    I have lost and been taken addvanage of. Usely someone has like my betyet thsn better than I did. I jus need help so bad.way s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  114.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:06am

    What about "dumb phones" does it apply to them too ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  115.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 11:57am

    Re:

    they may send a drone - just to be on the safe side - you certainly may be a terrorist

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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