Friday, November 19, 2010

What Your Cell Phone is Telling Hackers, Thieves & Governments

How your cell phone can be secretly hijacked and used against you, by hackers, burglars, law enforcement and even our governments.

Imagine someone watching your every move, hearing everything you say and knowing where you are at every moment. If you have a cell phone, it is happening to you every day, even as you read these words. 

Smart phones do a lot these days: surf the Net, send e-mail, take photos... and spy on you.

The one thing they can do that phone companies don't tell you is, how your trusted cell phone spies on you. As long as you carry your phone, that handy gadget keeps a record of everywhere you go, including a record the government can then get from your telephone company anytime it so chooses.

This gives criminals information as to where you are, how long before you will be able to make it home and how long they have to burglarize your house. This gives hackers clues to use towards identity theft, bank fraud, account hijackings and other scams. As worrisome as these criminal activities may seem, they pale in scope and magnitude in the damage that potential law enforcement and government attacks could cause to you as a person.

Not long after the bush administration's warrant-less wiretapping scandal just a few short years ago, another federal snooping affair took place that received no public attention, because Bush's blunter diverted all the attention from the public eye. Whether this diversion was orchestrated or not, Federal prosecutors were seeking what seemed to be unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies that showed the locations of their customers' cell phones, sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact.

Those questions are now at the core of a constitutional clash between President Obama's Justice Department and civil libertarians alarmed by what they see as the government's relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens. There are numerous other fronts in the privacy wars; such as the content of e-mails, for instance, and access to bank records and credit-card transactions. The Feds can now quietly, discretely get all that information at the drop of a hat.

But cell-phone tracking is among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance, invoking KGB like images of Big Brother secretly following your movements through the small device in your pocket.

How many of the owners of the country's 277 million cell phones even know that companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint can track their devices in real time, all the time? Most don't have a clue. The tracking is possible because either the phones have tiny GPS units inside or each phone call is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint a phone's location to areas as small as a city block. This capability to trace ever more precise cell-phone locations has been spurred by a Federal Communications Commission rule designed to help police and other emergency officers during 911 calls. But the FBI and other law-enforcement outfits have been obtaining more and more records of cell-phone locations -- without notifying the targets or getting judicial warrants establishing "probable cause," according to law-enforcement officials, court records, and telecommunication executives.  

There is little doubt that such records can be a powerful weapon for law enforcement.  Prosecutors say they need these records to trace the movements of suspected drug traffickers, human smugglers, even corrupt public officials.

Jack Killorin, who directs a federal task force in Atlanta combating the drug trade, says cell-phone records have helped his agents crack many cases, such as the brutal slaying of a DeKalb County sheriff: agents got the cell-phone records of key suspects -- and then showed that they were all within a one-mile area of the murder at the time it occurred, he said. In the fall of 2008, Killorin says, his agents were able to follow a Mexican drug-cartel truck carrying 2,200 kilograms of cocaine by watching in real time as the driver's cell phone "shook hands" with each cell-phone tower it passed on the highway. "It's a tremendous investigative tool," says Killorin. And not that unusual: "This is pretty workaday stuff for us."

However many federal magistrates, whose job is to sign off on search warrants and handle other routine court duties, were actually spooked by the requests. Some in New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas balked. Prosecutors "were using the cell phone as a surreptitious tracking device," said Stephen W. Smith, a federal magistrate in Houston. "And I started asking the U.S. Attorney's Office, 'What is the legal authority for this? What is the legal standard for getting this information?' " 

The law is unclear about how easy it should be for the government to get its hands on this locational data, which can reveal whether you've been going to church, attending a Tea Party rally, spending the night at a date's house or visiting a cancer-treatment center. A federal appeals court ruled last week that in some cases the government may need a search warrant. And while that's a step forward, it's not good enough. The rule should be that the government always needs a warrant to access your cell-phone records and obtain data about where you have been.

When you carry a cell phone, it is constantly sending signals about where you are. It "pings" nearby cell-phone towers about every seven seconds so it can be ready to make and receive calls. When it does, the phone is also telling the company that owns the towers where you are at that moment; data the company then stores away indefinitely. There is also a second kind of locational data that phone companies have, thanks to a GPS chip that is embedded in most smart phones now. This is even more accurate; unlike the towers, which can only pinpoint a general area where you may be, GPS can often reveal exactly where you are at any given moment within a matter of meters.

Spying on You in the Name of "Emergency Services"

In the name of improving emergency services, the Federal Communications Commission will require phone companies to meet several benchmarks in 2012 for how closely they can pinpoint a caller's location. "About 90% of Americans are walking around with a portable tracking device all the time, and they have no idea," says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, that they could be or are being tracked by federal, state or local law enforcement agencies.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement has found this sort of data extremely handy. Prosecutors are increasingly using cell-phone records to show that a suspect was near the scene of a crime, or not where he claimed to be.

The federal government's position is that it should be able to get most of this data if it decides it is relevant to an investigation, with no need for a search warrant. If the government needs a warrant, it would have to show a judge evidence that there was probable cause to believe that the cell-phone user committed a crime — an important level of protection. Without this requirement, the government can get locational data pretty much anytime it wants.

It is not hard to imagine that the government could also one day use cell-phone data to stifle dissent. Cell-phone records could tell them who attended an anti government rally. It could also tell them who is going into the opposition party's headquarters or into the home of someone they have questions about. Cell-phone data may be the most efficient way ever invented for a government to spy on its people — since people are planting the devices on themselves and even paying the monthly bills. The KGB never had anything like it.

The U.S. government already appears to be sweeping up a lot of data from completely innocent people. The ACLU recently told Congress of a case in which, while looking for data on a suspect, the FBI apparently used a dragnet approach and took data on another 180 people. The FBI has said that if it does happen to gather data on innocent people in the course of conducting an investigation, it keeps that information for as long as 20 years.

Last week, the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit pushed back. A federal magistrate judge, in a good and strong decision, had ruled that the government must always get a warrant if it wants cell-phone data. The appeals court scaled that back a bit, ruling that magistrate judges have the power to require the government to get a warrant, depending on the facts of the particular case.

The fight over cell-phone tracking is similar to one now going on in the courts over GPS devices, specifically whether the government needs a warrant to place a GPS device on someone's car. Cell-phone tracking is of far bigger consequence, however, because there is a limit to how many GPS devices police are going to put on cars. Nine out of 10 of us have cell phones that will do the tracking for the government.

The House of Representatives has been holding hearings on this issue and related ones, and a Senate hearing next week is likely to consider it further. It is time for Congress to act. It should amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (introduced so well in the blockbuster movie Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight as far back as the 1990's) to make clear that information from our cell phones about where we are and where we have been is deeply private and that without a search warrant, the government cannot have it. In theory!

But don't forget that this is the United States of America. While there is no better place on earth to live, you are never any more free than what "They" allow you to believe you are at any given moment. All you can do is live out your life, raise your family and find some form of some happiness.

You may try to affect the change that is important to you in the short time you are here. It is certainly worthwhile (and patriotic) to be distrustful of Government, but I refuse to live under the thumb or watchful eye of my government. The first step in making them understand they work for us is to just refuse to play the game or let them dictate the Narrative in the first place.

Google is a prime example of why you have a lot more to fear from Corporate America than you ever did from the .gov. That is saying a lot. Corporations are a lot more free to abuse and damage you than the .gov will. A day is coming where every 'questionable' thing you ever did on the Internet or bought with a credit/debit card will be made available for a fee. At first it will be used for pre-employment screenings and to expose political enemies, eventually it will be offered to anyone for a small fee.

For more ideas on how to become an activist, check out my blog and download, How to Coordinate a Campaign for Change, one of the many free ebooks available at, then join the fight in a proactive fashion, to bring about the much needed change.

Tips on How to Protect Yourself from Cell Phone Espionage 

Keep a close eye on your cell phone so that others never get an opportunity to download information such as spy software when you're not looking. It's important to install a security password on your phone to restrict anyone else from using it.

And while some Spyware marketers claim their products can be used on any make and model of cell phone, high-end cell phones that include Internet access and online capability are particularly vulnerable to Spyware tapping. To limit the ability of others to download certain types of spyware onto your phone, choose a cell phone that is not Internet-accessible.

Remove the battery from your cell phone when it's not being used and, for sensitive phone calls, he suggests making them on a newly-purchased cell phone that comes with a pre-paid month-to-month service plan.

Based on my investigation, here are some subtle, but obvious signs that could suggest your cell phone is being secretly tapped: 
  • Cell phone battery is warm even when your phone has not been used
  • Cell phone lights up at unexpected times, including occasions when phone is not in use
  • Unexpected beep or click during phone conversation

You could be doing the Cell Phone Espionage Yourself

It is easy for anyone, even someone with no technical skills, to do some spying today. Its as easy as downloading free cell phone tracking and espionage software or applications.

During the course of my investigation I came across several options, including some free downloads I am listing here for you to try:

FlexiSPY spyphone software directly onto a mobile phone and receive copies of SMS, ... Catch cheating wives or cheating husbands, stop employee espionage, ... FREE Android Spy Phone software lets you secretly read Call Records, ... - Free GPS cell phone tracking system & mobile phone locator. ... Download our free mobile application! welcome to free phone tracking system ...

Secret Online Poker Spy Software 01:02 ... Spy On People Using A Free Mobile Phone Tracker 01:10 ... Laser Espionage Microphone (how-to) 01:41 ... 

Maybe you should spy on them? It's the only way you're going to find out if they're spying on you!

Written By: Tom Retterbush
Updated: 2/4/12 

Who's Spying On You?
The Looming Threat to Your Privacy, Identity, and Family
It's not paranoia; we ARE being watched. Today, thanks to technology and new media--cell phone GPS, backscatter scanners, online financial transactions, cloud-stored medical records, Facebook and Twitter--our every activity can be quietly monitored. And now that inexpensive gene sequencing seems imminent, even our bodies' secrets may be up for grabs. This groundbreaking investigation shows how America's privacy is under assault--and what we can do to protect ourselves.  
Get Who's Spying On You? directly from Amazon, HERE

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