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All the references are denoted at the end of the article. S martphones are playing an increasingly central role in our lives. They are ubiquitous, as we carry them nearly everywhere, and entrust them with sensitive and sometimes deeply personal information. We use them to carry out day-to-day tasks from communicating with family members and socialising on social media apps to tracking our health and taking care of our finances on banking apps. But it is also a device with a camera, a GPS and a microphone that you have next to you at all times. Unfortunately, mobile phones were not designed for privacy and security.

Turning this hardware into a surveillance tool is much easier and effective than you think. Not only they do a poor job of protecting your communications, they also expose you to new kinds of surveillance risks. Surveillance is always an enactment of power in the sense that it is an imparting technique in practices of governance. It is an external influence to an individual, which seeks to control and discipline, entailing a risk of exploitation and privacy invasions. So, prepare yourself for an in-depth read, as we attempt to go over each and every aspect of smartphone surveillance.

How it works. Your Wi-Fi internet provider offers DNS as part of your service, which means your provider can also log your DNS traffic — in essence, recording your entire browsing history. The ability to do this is called triangulation. One way the operator can do this is to monitor the signal strength that different towers observe from a particular mobile phone, and then calculate where that phone must be located based on the observations.

Normally only the mobile operator itself can perform this kind of tracking, though, these information might be available to local or foreign governments through official or informal arrangements. Also, Stingrays explained below can be used by someone physically nearby you to intercept communication packets. Ukrainian government used a tower dump, to make a list of all of the people whose mobile phones were present at an anti-government protest. Oftentimes, law enforcement agencies LEAs use tower dumps to investigate a crime, or to establish criminal relationships.

Preventative Measures. The best way not to get detected? Though, in a world where practically every machine connects to the internet, this is not easy. However, for ultra-sensitive files and tasks — like storing Bitcoins or working with confidential blueprints — the inconvenience of working entirely offline can be justified, despite all the trouble. For these situations, the highly cautious rely on Faraday cages or bags.

These are essentially metal-lined phone cases that block all radio frequencies. No signal can go in or out. These are easily available on Amazon for relatively cheap. The safest practice is to assume that traditional calls and SMS text messages have not been secured against eavesdropping or recording. The situation can be different when you are using secure communication apps to communicate whether by voice or text , because these apps can apply end-to-end encryption E2EE to protect your conversations. Such apps with reliable E2EE implementation and strong anti-forensics capabilities can provide more meaningful protection.

The level of protection that you get from using such apps, depends significantly on which apps you use and how they work. One important question is whether there is any way for the app developer to undo or bypass the encryption and what all chat metadata they are collecting. Though, the IMSI catcher needs to be taken to a particular location in order to find or monitor a mobile device at that location. IMSI Catchers are able to determine the IMSI numbers of mobile phones in its vicinity, which is the trademark capability from which their name is derived.

Using the IMSI, they can then identify mobile traffic on the network and target traffic for interception and analysis. Once the IMSI Catcher has completed the connection to a mobile device, it can try to prevent that mobile device from connecting to another legitimate base station network tower stations by transmitting an empty neighbour cell-tower list or a list with neighbouring base stations that are unavailable to the mobile device.

Based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, there are some advance IMSI Catchers that can locate cell phones even when they were turned off. The phone could then be instructed to keep just the microphone on, in order to eavesdrop on conversations, or periodically send location pings. The only hint that the phone is still on is, if it continued to feel warm even though it had been shut off, suggesting that the baseband processor is still running. This concern has led to some people physically removing the batteries from their devices when having very sensitive conversations.

Attacks on mobile network include cracking network encryption, passive network interception, and active network interception. IMSI catchers fall into the last category, actively interfering in communications between mobile phones and base stations by acting as a transceiver simultaneously transmitting and receiving.

Downgrade Attack: This is a form of cryptographic attack on an electronic system or communications protocol that makes it abandon a high-quality mode of encrypted connection in favour of an older, lower-quality mode of encrypted connection that is typically provided for backward compatibility with older systems.

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An example of such a flaw is SS7 attack. An SS7 attack is an exploit that takes advantage of a weakness in the design of SS7 to enable data theft, eavesdropping, text interception and location tracking. Currently there is no reliable defence against all IMSI catchers. Some apps, e. SnoopSnitch for rooted Android device, claim to detect their presence, but this detection is imperfect. These measures can provide some protection against certain kinds of IMSI catchers.

We recommend Orbot for Android; a TOR based proxy app that empowers other apps to use the internet more securely by encrypting and bouncing your internet traffic through a series of relays around the world.

Similarly, Onion Browser is the alternative for iOS devices. Smartphones also have various other radio transmitters in addition to the mobile network interface, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. Using this, the MAC address can be observed even if a device is not actively connected to a particular wireless network, or even if it is not actively transmitting data. This form of tracking can be a highly accurate way to tell when a person enters and leaves a building. Also, home Wi-Fi router is a prime target for hackers wanting to infiltrate your network by remotely delivering a payload.

A small vulnerability in the home Wi-Fi network can give a hacker access to almost all the devices that connect to that Wi-Fi. In addition to stealing personal and financial data, hackers can also infect smart IoT devices connected to the home network.

No Signal? 5 Ways to Use Your Phone GPS Without Data

Also, check to make sure your smartphone is not set up to automatically connect to some unknown Wi-Fi networks — or set it to ask you before connecting. This feature randomly changes the MAC address reported by the phone, making tracking a lot harder, if not impossible. That makes it simple for any other surrounding iOS devices to request permission to send files.

While convenient, AirDrop is a protocol that has been hacked in the past. If the last update for yours was a couple years ago, it is time for a new router. Change Router Credential: Traditional routers come with a default password Not a Wi-Fi password created by the manufacturer. While it may look complex and resistant to hacking, there is a good chance most models of the same router share the same password. These passwords are often easy to trace or find on the internet. Make sure you change the username and password of your router during setup.

Choose a complex alphanumerical password with multiple characters. Do not pick a name that makes it obvious that the network belongs to you. It is perfectly secure as long the password is long, because it is critical that passwords be long enough to fend off brute force attacks. The German government recommends 20 characters long password.

Cell Phone Tower Triangulation - Cell Tower Triangulation

Also, disable WPS. Get rid of any risky or unused services: Turning off features you are not using reduces the attack surface. UPnP service exposes a router to the Internet at large where, if it is vulnerable, it can be hacked. Change the entire LAN side subnet : This helps prevent many router attacks. Setup a guest network for smart home devices: A guest network has its advantages. It provides your guests IoT devices with a unique SSID and password and also restricts outsiders from accessing your primary network. These apps can also track your GPS location, instant messages and texts, upload copies of the photos you take, spy on conversations held through other apps like Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Wickr, Discord, Viber etc.

All of the data collected by these apps is then sent to a web portal where the spy can review it. These commercial smartphone spyware tools reportedly end up in the hands of autocrats who use it to hamper free speech, quash dissent, or worse. But now, several governments with well-established cyber capabilities have also adapted to and exploited the mobile threat landscape. How it works Distribution Mechanism. Zero-day is a flaw in software, hardware or firmware that is unknown to the software developer or security team responsible for patching or otherwise fixing the flaw.

Oftentimes, zero-day attacks exploit vulnerable software without requiring any interaction from the user. Meaning an attacker can manipulate data packets during the start of a WhatsApp call, leading to the overflow being triggered and the attacker commandeering the application. Attackers can then deploy surveillance tools to the device to use against the target. Although zero-day attacks are relatively rare compared to the larger attack surface seen on desktop machines and servers, their existence demonstrates that even strict adherence to not downloading untrusted applications may not be sufficient to avoid compromise by such attacks.

Protection against a zero-day attack is difficult. Your best line of defence is to immediately install new software updates when they become available from the manufacturer to help reduce the risk of an exploit. Software updates allow you to install necessary revisions to the software or operating system. Which may include fixing security loopholes that have been discovered. The presence of SMS messages with incomprehensible numbers and letters may indicate the exploit of that device, as sometimes, they are commands and instructions sent by the hacker to be executed on the targeted device.

From there, the spyware automatically determines the type of device, then installs the particular exploit remotely and surreptitiously. Unlike desktop users, mobile users cannot see the entire URL of a site they are visiting. This paves the way for digital crooks to use phishing attacks against unknowing users.

Phishers often prey on the natural fears of targets in order to get them to act quickly, and without caution. These phishing messages will urge you to hurriedly sign into your account or install an update without checking the source — and just like that, the spy now has what they need, to snoop on your device — account credentials or unauthorised admin privilege.

State-sponsored hackers are now adopting to choose increasingly obscure targets in an attempt to daisy chain a complicated sequence of infections that eventually yields valuable data. Another trend is that a number of phishing sites are utilising HTTPS verification to conceal their deceitful nature.

  • The Problem with Mobile Phones | Surveillance Self-Defense.
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  • Location tracking | Me and my Shadow.

Realizing this, hackers use sites like letsencrypt.