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.

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

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148 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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!!

Androgynous Cowherd says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Franklin Crouch says:

Re: Re: Re: Pull the battery

I don’t know who this dude is person robot whatever I just pulled apart my ZTE midnight Pro 2 and a sure as shyte stinks,the sky is blue and the fact that I cannot piss over the moon they’re being a freaking 202mv/118ma(it was on 20 m on DCA)little button battery about two millimeters across and a millimeter thick…I don’t know if it’s for CMOS Ram or what and if anything I know about a good old-fashioned James Bond guys over there somewhere in this freaking thing they probably have some kind of Magneto constrictor so they can just do some kind of Tesla crap to it rub their feet together say Alakazam and there you gojust because you think there’s a faraday cage around it they might be able to use that damn thing as an antenna to give it power and then he can give some high-pitched chirps to some other damn cell phone etcetera etcetera…and I’d wager that in the end,and I know Heisenberg is cool, just as logic is stupid(ask the newest AI about Occam’s razor) that it’s all in the Nan’s…Can you say rounding toward zero, Infinity positive or infinity negative??? I thought you could…Jesus I wonder what Gouchy(‘sultimatetheorum)would say about this shyte…

Just Visiting says:

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.

Greg R says:

Re: Pull the battery

Sorry for the late reply but many cellphones now have hidden “spare” batteries. I took a cheap LG apart after watching a video on youtube and there it was just like the guy who posted the video said. It was a small round watch type battery. I snipped the wires and removed it, phone still works fine.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

blah says:

Re: 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.

TasMot (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

R.H. (profile) says:

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?

Rezzy says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

aldestrawk says:

Re: 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.

Mike says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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..

Mike says:

Re: 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.

aldestrawk says:

Re: 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.

Laurie Chmiel says:

Re: Re: 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.

mvario (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

blah says:

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!

Disgusted (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

unohoo says:

Re: 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 . . .

Disgusted (profile) says:

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.

davnel (profile) says:

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.

streetlight (profile) says:

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.

freegovtphones says:

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.

Ron Hunter says:

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…

Cloudsplitter says:

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.

Viatcheslav I Sobol (profile) says:

Re: 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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: 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.

YouDontNeedToKnow says:

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

Viatcheslav, I’m being targeted. I know that for a fact because I’ve heard my conversations repeated almost verbatim by a members of a particular group. I’ve also had interruptions on my phone(voices/music come in on my line). I don’t know if the Canadian Gov’t (I live in Canada), knows about this.
I changed my service provider, and my previous phone wasn’t even a smart phone, yet I was bugged, still am. I take the batteries out to prevent or stop the headaches I get from the signals. But I miss a lot of calls…

DeathPenalty says:

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 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Richard (user link) says:

Cell Phone Tracking

NSA may not be the only agency tracking your phone. DEA, FBI, Homeland security. If the battery goes from a full charge to empty in a day and there’s been min usage your phone maybe tracked and someone is listening in on your conversations. Even when you’re not on cell phone. If you see the GPS icon flashing when you have your GPS in the off condition you are being tracked. So why are you being tracked and hacked. There are hundreds of thousands of agents in the US and God only knows what they are doing. I suspect like most goverment agencies they have nothing to do and there’s little or no oversight. They still don’t share information between agencies. I have reason to believe many of these people are out of control. If you are being tracked your first clue is your phone won’t turn off or the battery runs down quickly. Remove the battery. This will kill any tracking and hacking activities. If you have to have your phone on all the time be sure to install and use a music program like Pandora. Leave it on all the time. This gives the hacker something to listen to other than your private conversations. The same is true if listening devices have been planted in your home or office. It will drive them crazy.

Ella says:

Terrorism is a red herring

Non removable batteries both assists the Surveillance State and the smartphone manufacturers by forcing the technology to become disposable and thus increase turnover. In an era where governments lecture populations re recycling and environmental awareness, this exemption for smartphones stands out as being inconstant and hypocritical.

I would rather go without than buy a smartphone with a non removable battery. It smacks of environmental waste and decadence and is akin to buying a laptop designed with a maximum user life of no more than 2 years.

The Surveillance State exists to monitor Working Class dissent. That’s its main purpose. Terrorism is a red herring.

Ella says:

Terrorism is a red herring

Non removable batteries both assists the Surveillance State and the smartphone manufacturers by forcing the technology to become disposable and thus increase turnover. In an era where governments lecture populations re recycling and environmental awareness, this exemption for smartphones stands out as being inconsistent and hypocritical.

I would rather go without than buy a smartphone with a non removable battery. It smacks of environmental waste and decadence and is akin to buying a laptop designed with a maximum user life of no more than 2 years.

The Surveillance State exists to monitor Working Class dissent. That’s its main purpose. Terrorism is a red herring.

Franklin Crouch says:

WTF

the old question if a tree falls in the deep forest with no one’s around does it make a sound f*** yes it does motherfuking trees alive just because we move fast and they move slow doesn’t mean they aren’t cogent hell even smarter than we are like a damn physarium polycephalum…and if you check “Frankapaedia” (lol) under “is what it iz” to be, or not to be??? Nay i sai…To be AND not- that is THE™®©€÷√*$8;>℅. Laitmhynikkaz

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