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How To Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Bugged 338

Posted by kdawson
from the your-shoe-is-ringing dept.
Lauren Weinstein writes to point us to his essay on the realities of using an idle cell phone as a bug, as a recent story indicated the FBI may have done in a Mafia case. From the essay: "There is no magic in cell phones. From a transmitting standpoint, they are either on or off... It is also true that some phones can be remotely programmed by the carrier to mask or otherwise change their display and other behaviors in ways that could be used to fool the unwary user. However, this level of remote programmability is another feature that is not universal... But remember — no magic! When cell phones are transmitting — even as bugs — certain things are going to happen every time that the alert phone user can often notice."
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How To Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Bugged

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  • How to tell (Score:5, Funny)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:08AM (#17097160) Homepage Journal
    You could check the old fashioned way - slide off the back cover if an insect falls out you can be sure it is bugged.
  • Not a bug (Score:5, Funny)

    by JonathanR (852748) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:10AM (#17097164)
    It's not a bug, it's a feature!
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:14AM (#17097178) Homepage
    When cell phones are transmitting -- even as bugs -- certain things are going to happen every time that the alert phone user can often notice.

    For example, when using a Palm Treo 650, the phone will crash and reset often, and without notice.
  • by siliconeyes (154170) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:15AM (#17097184)
    Like a poster on the earlier story commented, why not simply connect one of those flashy LED thingies to your phone? My mom has them, and every time she's on a call, or even on an incoming SMS, the LEDs go berserk!! They don't even need batteries and power themselves off the cellphone radiation. Pretty foolproof method, IMHO.
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:22AM (#17097204) Homepage Journal
      What happens if the bug does *not* use the GSM network and is simply an old fashioned AM transmitter?
      It can just be using the mic and battery for its service, but generally the chirps would give it fully away.

      Hell, if done properly it might wait until an actual call is in progress and then push its buffer upstream.
    • by conno (803539) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:32AM (#17097250) Homepage
      And as an added bonus all of the mafia dudes would know who is the most baaadass among them (from the perspective of the FBI) just by who's phone is always flashing in a epileptic inducing technicolored lightshow.

      Im sure they would love this.

      Does it sound like Capt obvious here just got his first mobile telephonic device? fta

      But if you're not on a call, and you hear a continuing rapid buzz-buzz-buzz in nearby speakers that lasts more than a few seconds and gets louder as you approach with your phone, well, the odds are that your phone is busily transmitting, and bugging is a definite possibility.
    • by stormeru (1027946) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:05AM (#17097404)
      I can't use this method. I am talking on the phone with my imaginary friend all the time but I don't have to really make a call. Now everybody on the street will think I'm nuts if that LED thing won't blink.
    • by Cee (22717) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:27AM (#17097462)
      Like a poster on the earlier story commented, why not simply connect one of those flashy LED thingies to your phone? My mom has them, and every time she's on a call, or even on an incoming SMS, the LEDs go berserk!! They don't even need batteries and power themselves off the cellphone radiation. Pretty foolproof method, IMHO.
      I would strongly advice against using them. They take some of the radiation energy to make them light up, which makes the phone think that the coverage is worse than it is which in turn makes the phone crank up its transmitting power.
      In effect, the phone radiates more than necessary and the battery gets drained faster.
      • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:50AM (#17097570)
        You mean you can't string 10 millions LEDs around a phone and light up a whole city for free while you talk on your phone? Stupid physics laws!
      • by asb (1909) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:53AM (#17097580) Homepage

        In effect, the phone radiates more than necessary and the battery gets drained faster.

        The idea is to detect if the phone is listening while a call is not being made. We already know that FBI listens to criminals during the actual phone calls (through the service provider, the old way). And cell phone radiation is a problem only when the phone is next to one's brain. Since the flasher has no function while a call is being made (it flashes anyway) so it can be taken off if radiation is being considered a problem.

        And if FBI is really a problem for you, then I think you can afford to recharge your phone just a little bit more often.

      • by tricorn (199664) <sep@shout.net> on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:21AM (#17097710) Journal

        I don't know what typical cell-phone batteries are rated for, but for example for two typical NiMH AA cells (2800 mAh each), the LEDs are probably using no more than about 3-6% of the total battery capacity per hour (depending on how many and what kind and how bright the LEDs are; 3% would be about 10 typical red LEDs, 15 mA @ 1.7V).

      • *boggle* (Score:4, Informative)

        by Akardam (186995) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:06AM (#17099082)
        What, did you sleep through elementary physics and the principles of EM radiation?

        A cell phone is nothing more than a fancy radio with an omnidirectional antenna. That antenna, per its name, is going to radiate a certian amount of RF energy in all directions. RF that is radiated in the direction of the cell tower will be recieved by the antennas on the tower. RF that is radiated in any other direction will gradually be absorbed by the surrounding environment to no practical effect. So if your LED RF detector happens to be in the close vicinity of your cell phone when the phone is transmitting, it's going to be hit with RF that wouldn't have hit the cell tower anyway!

        The only possibly conceivable way that the LED RF detector could have any impact on the signal strength between the cell phone and the cell tower is if it was exactly in the path between the cell phone antenna and the cell tower antenna. The probability that this would occur is so small as to be trivial, and with the wide angle of radiation on most cell phone tower antennas, and the fact that there is usually more than one antenna for any direction, reduces the probability effectively to zero.
        • Re:*boggle* (Score:5, Informative)

          by Jamie Lokier (104820) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:51PM (#17100490) Homepage
          No, radio does not behave like that.

          The GSM radio wavelength is about 30cm which means that in effect all objects which affect the radio path, including the transmitter and LED receiver, are "blurry" in space to the scale of 30cm (this is an order of magnitude, not an exact value). The phone itself, and the distance from the LEDs, are much smaller than that. So the directionality of the radiation is nearly irrelevant to calculating how much is absorbed and transmitted.

          In other words, contrary to the parent post, the LEDs attached to the phone will be effectively on the radio path to the base station, no matter where they are attached on the phone.

          It's counterintuitive that you can have a radio signal between two small antennae at A and B, and something that's nearly in between but off by say 10cm affecting the signal between A and B, is though attracting the energy towards it (even bending the beam is possible). But that is exactly what happens. Waves are like that.

          It's more complicated than that, however, because the LEDs are also in the "near field" - the region where there may be a non-radiating component to the oscillating EM field around the phone transmitter. In this region, the LEDs could, if they are constructed to do so, absorb energy from the near field, and, depending very much on the phone design, potentially do it without affecting the radiated signal.

          Also, it is possible that they absorb some of the radiated energy but if they use very little power, not affect it very much.

          So we can't easily say what effect the LEDs will have on the transmitted signal, but the parent's argument about having to be "exactly on the path" to the transmitter, as in a straight line, is not correct.

          -- Jamie
  • No content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nasarius (593729) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:16AM (#17097190)
    The "essay" is nothing but speculation with a few facts, no references, and no actual testing or experience. I'm sure this is an amusing blog entry, but why is it on Slashdot? There's nothing to discuss.
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:24AM (#17097208)
    As a spokes person of the Mobsters Who Read Slashdot club, I'd like to offer my gratitude for bring this guide to our attention.

    In return I offer 3 cheap bug puns for you to enjoy:

    It's a feature, not a bug!

    My phone isn't bugged, but I'm bugged by my phone.

    If insects fall out of your phone, it's bugged!

    Ha. Ha. Ha.

    Good night.
  • Bug Detector (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eclectro (227083) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:30AM (#17097242)
    Put your cell phone next to your computer speakers. If it's transmitting you'll know it.

    Sorry FBI for killing your wiretap program.
    • Re:Bug Detector (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:42AM (#17097526)
      ...Sorry FBI for killing your wiretap program...
      I know you were trying to be funny. But I seriously doubt this will kill this wiretap program. Criminals are idiots. Most people are idiots. Take for example, this journalist [theatlantic.com] who bought an unencrypted al qaeda laptop. Or how about the regular stories of criminals using yee old delete command to delete incriminating evidence. The world will continue to turn, criminals will continue to use cellphones, and the FBI will continue to bug them.
      • by Hollinger (16202) <michael.hollinger@net> on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:28AM (#17099368) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, but some aren't. I had an interesting run in with some credit card scammers earlier this year. I got a call from my credit card company about 10 minutes after I bought lunch one day. It was from the fraud early warning system, which I'd gotten a few times now. These were usually due to me flying around the country, or taking extended road trips, or making very large purchases ($900 in appliances, $1500 in furniture, etc.). I wasn't too worried about it.

        This time, though, I it asked if I could verify a purchase for "theme park tickets," "appliances," and some other things. I told it no, and an amazingly easy 15 minutes later, my account was frozen, all the obvious charges were rolled back, and a new card was on the way, along with some paperwork for me to flag other charges that the CC company missed.

        The scammers had my old address apparently. I knew this because they tried to order a convection oven (who'd have figured?) and have it shipped to my old address. My guess is that this is the address in whatever database that got cracked. When I did get my next statement, I noticed a few charges to some random "music store" .com that was based in the same state as this old address, and donations to a charity of a few cents.

        It turns out that credit card company had cancelled far more of these "song" purchases, and "donations." The thieves had made, over a few weeks, donations of varying amounts from a few cents to about $2, and random song purchases of about $1. It seems that they were trying to establish that I was "normally" spending money in the area where I used to live, and also verifying that my card was still legit.

        So yeah, some criminals are dumb. Others are not. The fraud detection systems we have are pretty good though.
  • by kbox (980541) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:42AM (#17097308) Homepage
    ... It's when your girlfriend, for no apparent reason, says: "who is nikki and why is she telling you to get tested for syphilis?"
  • by Pavan_Gupta (624567) <`pg8p' `at' `virginia.edu'> on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:54AM (#17097358)
    Ultimately, the question in this scenario goes far beyond the immediate problem posed here (cell phones being used as bugs), but lends itself to the more interesting question about why privacy should be held as one of the most important things in our society. I am of the persuasion that the following quote from The United States constitution should stand as one of the most important parts of our society -- and if you're not from the United States, than imagine that I'm suggesting you include this in your Government's constitution/body of laws if it is not already there...

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
    This has always stood as one of those easily reinterpreted components of the constitution -- just look at the way the US Supreme Court enjoys reinterpreting [erowid.org] it. And, to some degree, I do see why this should be interpreted in a somewhat fluid way. There are terrorists/freedom fighters out there, and governments should be capable of protecting their citizens-- that is what they're ultimately designed to do.

    However, the egregious trampling of our right to privacy, as outlined in the US constitution, starts moving us very quickly in the direction of fascism [wikipedia.org]. And people tend to use the term fascism lightly, but you have to ask yourself how a state can move from one type of government to another? History has shown that this happens everywhere -- just [wikipedia.org] look [wikipedia.org] at [wikipedia.org] history [wikipedia.org]

    So, why would I take a break from my ultimate presentation on latency markers in tuberculosis? Well, I feel strongly that you (the person reading this, not just the general "you") should take it upon yourself to encourage those people that you vote for to stand up and strengthen the first levee against tyranny -- our right to privacy. The FBI may, at this point, consider using your cell phone to track you as a legitimate means to and end, but when the FBI cycles through it's current leadership/membership then we can only hope that these means lead to good ends.

    And the hope that people mean well is not something I am willing to risk.

    • It is ironic that in a country where the government derives its power from the people, that they invade the privacy of those people at an increasing rate, while operating at a level of secrecy never before seen.

      So, my phone can be tapped without a warrant, but I can't find out who the Vice President met with from the Oil Industry when creating an energy policy. And a Supreme Court justice who voted to maintain the VP's private meeting goes hunting with the VP just before the decision comes down.

      My only comfort is that from looking at his face, Vice President Cheney is as miserable and unhappy as a human can be. That makes me feel a little bit better.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:30AM (#17097756)
      This does end up having an on topic point: misusing the word Fascism is bad for political discourse.

      I know that Imperial Japan is widely interpreted as being a fascist state, but Westerners really don't seem to understand that fascism and proto-fascism were ideologies based around European historical constructs (like German Romanticism) that don't apply to a country like Japan. I do understand that the term will frequently be thrown around because of the unique historical status of Japan as the only non-Western modern colonial power. While there were groups close to the power of the Japanese Imperium, to characterize the Dai-TeiKoku as fascist is wholly inappropriate.

      Fascism is essentially the aestheticization of the socio-political sphere . You'll notice here that Imperial Japan is described as being authoritarian in nature. Why people refer to imperial Japan as authoritarian is also puzzling, because Japan was dominated by an authoritarian ruling clique essentially since its inception. If we want to refer to Japan only since the time of Hideyoshi and the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan has been under seriously repressive rule since circa 1600 up until its defeat by the United States.

      Many often will point to the promotion of the Showa emperor as a living God and the discourse of the Yamato race as examples of Japanese fascism; however, such constructions were built from the blocks of the European-inspired Enlightenment-era notions of a global racial hierarchy as a way to sidestep the Western racist gaze on Japan as being a member of the Asiatic "Yellow Race." They had nothing to do with European Fascism. While the Japanese may have viewed Westernization (ideological Westernization - as distinct from Rangaku, or Western Learning) as ultimately corrupting, the Imperial Japanese viewed themselves as equals of the "White Races" of the West - not as superiors.

      Furthermore, Fascism as understood in Germany and Italy were essentially mass-based movements. Imperial Japan was constructed by the social elite of the country, and in many ways is more similar to the British Empire than to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. Britain, on the other hand, had the benefit of conquering India a) before the genie of nationalism escaped its bottle, b) as the preponderant hegemon during Pax Britannica period of the 19th century, and c) as a European country conquering a non-European country.

      Japan, on the other hand, faced Chinese nationalism, other European powers that wanted a piece of the China pie, and a reinvigorated Soviet Union. Combined with no natural resources, an expansionist drive for autarky seemed reasonable at the time to the Japanese leaders. It allied itself with the Axis powers not because of any ideological affinity (indeed, most of the Imperium regretted deeply the abrogation of the bilateral treaty with Britain in the early 1920s - the Japanese saw themselves as the Britain of the East), but because Italy and Germany had no colonies in East Asia (whereas the Americans held the Philippines; the British Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and India; the Dutch the East Indies; The French Indochina).

      Japan had the misfortune (and China and Korea the luck) of attempting to build an empire as the sun was set to dawn on 19th century style imperialism. Americans like to call Japan fascist because it makes American war crimes seem justified. /rant!

      Anyway, to link back to the topic, while Fascism is Authoritarianism, Authoritarianism IS NOT Fascism. Throwing around the F-word devalues its true meaning, and allows authoritarians to undercut such critics by labeling them leftys, pinkos, etc. No regular citizens in the West today actually believe that their government will become Fascist (especially because so many people misunderstand the term, and think of it in relation only to the Axis power governments), so using such terms will just cause you to isolate yourself in an argument. Most people may buy, however, that their government is making (or has made) a power grab and is on the track to becoming authoritarian.
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:20AM (#17098098) Journal
      and if you're not from the United States, than imagine that I'm suggesting you include this in your Government's constitution/body of laws if it is not already there...


      You know, no offense meant, but it's sorta funny to hear that coming from the _USA_.

      What you have over there is some vague principle, that, as you say, is constantly being reinterpreted to mean, "yeah, well, it says we can't search your papers, but your computer's files are still fair game" or "yeah, well, once you gave that info to someone else, or it passed through someone else's servers/wires/whatever, then you have no more claim to privacy" or other such.

      What we have in the EU, on the other hand, are very precise laws saying what can you do with other people's data (very little without their consent), what you _can't_ do with it, and what kind of data you're not even supposed to be collecting at all. And not just for government agencies. Your bank or phone company also can't just sell your information to everyone for an extra buck, for example.

      So maybe, dunno, maybe you could include _that_ idea in your body of laws?
      • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:32AM (#17098188)
        So maybe, dunno, maybe you could include _that_ idea in your body of laws?



        Absolutely not.



        1. It's un-American (anything those Europeans do is by default).

        2. It could hurt the economy.

        3. It most definitely helps the terrorists.

        4. Since when did the US ever take advice from backwater countries in the middle of nowhere ?

    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:38PM (#17108186) Homepage Journal
      This case had judicial oversight, but the principle is sound and here's an illustration.

      A man living under the Franco dictatorship asked a sympathetic secret policeman how to stay out of trouble with the government.

      The secret policeman didn't pull out the usual lie "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear". The secret policeman didn't say "Just obey the law". The advice was far simpler:

      "Be invisible".
  • by loraksus (171574) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:55AM (#17097360) Homepage
    It would seem to be much easier to have the phone record to its internal memory and then transmit later. Transmitting needs a fair bit of power (while recording to memory from the microphone doesn't take much and can be compressed) and I would think people would start to notice that their phone would be dead after powering it off for several hours.
    The amount of memory and processors in some modern phones makes this a possibility...
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:09AM (#17097416)
    The RISKS digest [ncl.ac.uk] carried this news a few years ago.

    It's been long known that;

    1. some providers can download arbitrary software to some phones
    2. a phone can be running that software while appearing not to be making a call

    The potential for abuse is obvious.

    I gave up my mobile phone about a month ago now. I read through a full list of the ways in which the British State monitors me. When you read them all at once, it has quite an impact. The simple question I have is this: I am completely innocent. I have commited no crimes and am not suspected of committing any crimes.

    SO WHY AM I BEING WATCHED?
    • Re:Old, old news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:02AM (#17097628)
      "I am completely innocent. I have commited no crimes and am not suspected of committing any crimes."

      I'm sorry, but I cannot accept that anyone can live in Britain today and not commit any crimes. You've never driven over 70mph on a motorway? You've never put recyclable waste in your dustbin?

      There are so many laws in Britain today that you're pretty much a criminal the instant you get out of bed; in fact, you're probably a criminal if you stay in bed all day too. The real problem is _too many laws_, not too many criminals; if the cops stopped chasing people for bullshit crimes with high-tech gadgetry they could get all the real criminals off the streets.
    • Re:Old, old news (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AndroidCat (229562) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:06AM (#17097648) Homepage
      You're being watched because you're within six degrees of seperation with a terrorist.
    • by davidsyes (765062) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:30AM (#17099394) Homepage Journal
      I for a number of months heard computer speakers popping and buzzing away, even if no one was in the nearby cube. I suppose someone COULD have left their phone in the cube while at lunch or a meeting, but... now I am wondering if it was MY phone. Might not have been. But, for shits and giggles, I sometimes just turn off my phone, or leave it "somewhere" for a few hours, then retrieve it.

      What's REALLY weird, is during November, on no fewer than THREE outbound calls, I got cross-connected with OTHER people who were NOT even IN my contact list, and were NOT the people I was trying to reach. One acted like she was already talking to someone as if in another conversation. Another I think didn't quite want to hang up, either. Then, I've gotten the "wrong number" call where they caller asked for "Mo", and despite my saying I'm not "Mo", he didn't want to hang up. My friend standing next to me noted my time with this caller and then told me "You're very nice, patient...I would have just hung up..." Truth is, if I could reach through the phone, I'd probably tear the jaw off that caller, even if it were an agent just doing his/her job. Or, euphemistically, I'd deal with that situation.

      (I could also go on about my website having been experiencing WEIRD stuff, like my updates not going through, the server crashing on the ISP side (I asked them, "Don't you have fail-overs or redundancy to cover this stuff?" The rep didn't answer. Thing is, I don't know about outtages of my site when I'm NOT on my site, but at least 3 times over the past few months, my site croaked while I was updating pages. Not doing anything special. Just using THE (major Host)-provided tool, just text, a few pics and some flash-based image presenters... And, on my log stats, there are sometimes more "unresolved IP" sites than normal IPs/geography. Some are from overseas as I expect/presume, but some go to the US east coast, and have weird names, making me think a front company for some agency is periodically checking my site. Go ahead. look all you want. I wish I had friends all over the world and could reach them anonymously; I could have them report to me their successes and failures to see my site to once and for all put my mind at rest over possible disruptions and plain old blocking of my site. http://www.otanashide.com/ [otanashide.com] is one of them. I suppose some bastard will try to throw the 2006 military commissions act against me, retroactively...)

      I also, notice that my inbound calls' timestamps are set for the east coast. I called my carrier and the CSR told me I had to go to a landline phone, call them, then he would give me a sequence of codes to reset the phone. I told him I don't HAVE a landline phone, and that he could help me by giving me the sequence. He said he couldn't do that. He suggested I go to the local authorized retailer and have them punch the code into my keypad.

      Sheesh.

      Then, there are times when I have had my phone turned off, and not just by my OWN hand. When I turn it on, it tells me "Updating Contacts". This is MetroPCS, for shit's sake. It's a cheap, lousy, S14 from 2004, and they can "update" my contact list? Hell, I've for some time been thinking they or some agency is lifting my contacts. Fine, go ahead. But when/IF I enter a contact "bomb local FBI office" I'm SURE they'll REALLY up the ante, like knock down my door, confiscate my shit, and ship me off to Guantanamo. Could probably happen to ANYONE, if you become a person of interest. Might be safer to just stick with "Fuck you through and through" as a contact name...

      Yep, my phone mysteriously and occasionally TURNS ITSELF OFF, even when the battery is fully charged. I COULD be a bad battery, as only one of the two regularly does it, but I think they both will or have. So, I suspect someone is trying to test whether I am monitoring my phone, or maybe trying to reinitialize some soft-feature in the phone. Maybe I'll just give up cell phones all together. Could save me $55 per month, anyway.

      When
  • er, tin-foil hat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aryeh Goretsky (129230) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:10AM (#17097418) Homepage

    Hello,

    Just as an experiment, I tried placing my cell phone into an anti-static mylar baggy and the signal went from 100% to 40% (or five bars to two). Repeating this with tin foil with a small opening to see the LCD (about 1cm^2) reduced the signal to 20% (or one bar).

    I am wondering that if someone wants to have a private verbal conversation sans listeners on the cell phone, all they have to do is place their cell phone in metal box?

    This would seem much more convenient than having to pull the battery out, as well as reduce wear and tear on the contacts or thin plastics of today's cell phones.

    Perhaps someone who is a bit more familiar with electronics could explain whether or not a "tin foil hat" (or a metal box or foil bag, ala Enemy of the State) for a cell phone would work?

    Regards,

    Aryeh Goretsky

    • Re:er, tin-foil hat (Score:4, Informative)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:11AM (#17097678)
      First, a bugged phone could still record what you were saying and transmmit that later. Remember that the people who bug phones don't want them to drain their batteries dry in only a couple of hours, it would be suspicious.

      Secondly, those bars are more a qualitative information than a quantitative one, at 4 or 5 bars, the signal is clear with low power, with less bars, it means that there are transmition errors or that the radio needs a boost, either way, it is an indication to the phone it might be a good idea to look for another base station, but only a "no signal" notification will prove (if you can trust your phone display) that it is incapable of communication. If you shield your phone, it won't see any good base station and will lose a lot of energy scanning the frequencies looking for one.

      You can try to shield your phone, but then, you need to test its effciency. I once tried to put a phone in a tin box and I still could call it. Of course, grounding that box terminated the call.

      So I would say shielding is a lot of effort for what you want, if you are only slightly paraniod, shut the bugger down, if you are a real paranoid, leave it at your place with the TV on (during a movie you already saw, in case they will check your alibi) then use the bus to meet whoever you need in a parking lot.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:16AM (#17097434)
    You could tell that your phone was bugged, because you had an extra wardrobe in your room.
  • by ettlz (639203) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:31AM (#17097476) Journal
    Gangster 1. OK, so I'll just phone [insert non-ethnocentric name here] to confirm the date of the shipment. How many kilos again?
    Gangster 2. NO! Shh! Keep your voice down until you dial out — that thing could be bugged.
    Phone. "This phone is not being used as a covert surveillance device. Please continue to arrange your morally and/or legally questionable activities as normal."
    Gangster 1. Muh?!
    Phone. "Please ignore this message."
    • by cheekyboy (598084) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:01AM (#17097624) Homepage Journal
      Use their own designed encrypted systems, or buy $5000 comms talkies from the russians.

      They use high tech RF mapping signature maps to see where there are dark spots
      in the FBis monitoring systems.

      If your making billions in profit each year, you can afford to spend $5-10m in custom design hardware from china
      or fly 1000s of flights to map the intercepts.

      Only part time low lifes use mobiles, because they cannot afford anything greater than $200USD, which means they must
      be very small time crooks.
  • by danceswithtrees (968154) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:34AM (#17097492)
    Given that computers are everywhere, I am starting to worry about computers being bugged (let me adjust my foil hat here). Keyloggers, rootkits, and worms are often mentioned but we seldom worry about them when we are not actually using the computers- they have become part of the office and home environment.

    All current laptops have microphones and some have built in cameras. Desktops also usually have microphones and often have cameras. Many have continuous internet access. Computers are ubiquitous and they are often left on. It is not hard to imagine infecting a vulnerable computer with a small program to send back continuous audio and an occasional picture. With reasonable bit rates and good encoding, it would not use much bandwidth.

    Does anyone else worry about such things? Has this been done already? If it has, would you know about it? (pull foil hat on tighter)

  • by dabadab (126782) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:53AM (#17097584)
    Is there any evidence that such features are implemented in (GSM) phones? Because to me it looks more like an urban legend than anything else. Such a feature should have to have some traces: like being part of the GSM specifications, for one. Also, programmers working on cell phones should also be aware of such functionality (when I was working on conventional telephone switches I had - not too deep, since I was uninterested - knowledge of the wiretapping features).
    But, it seems, all this craze comes from some over-paranoid tinhats and has no grounding in reality.
  • by towaz (445789) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:02AM (#17097630)
    I did have a friend who was worried he was being bugged by his mobile, it seems to made a buzzing noise from the speaker, I checked mine and it appears to do the same thing so probably nothing to worry about.

    I'm far too boring to be bugged anyway. ;)

    Anyone else have a razor that buzzes all the time?
  • by The Famous Druid (89404) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:09AM (#17097666)
    My life is so boring, spying on me is its own punishment.
  • by Zachary Kessin (1372) <zkessin@gmail.com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:11AM (#17097676) Homepage Journal
    In theory in the USA they need a warent to listen in on your phone (I live in Israel, I have no idea what the local laws are). But to be honest if you are that worried about somone listening in on your phone then don't pass sensative information over the phone lines.

    Could someone listen in on my cell phone? Maybe I don't know. To be honest if they did most of what they are going to hear is my calling neighbors to arange a lift home after work or me talking to my wife about important things like does she want me to pick up something at the store. I don't think the local cops care enough about this type of thing to make listening in important (At least I can't figure why they would). If I was aranging drug deals I would not use my cell phone, or even my home phone.
  • by xtal (49134) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:15AM (#17097690) Homepage
    You already have one of these: Optoelectronics Scout [optoelectronics.com]

    Now, if your communications were encrypted end-end with hard encryption with keys you control, this would be a moot point. Coming soon to a VOIP / programmable cell phone near you.
  • by Zapotek (1032314) <tasos.laskos@gma ... com minus distro> on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:21AM (#17097706) Homepage
    OK, this has come up a lot in many conversations.

    First off, cell phones have batteries internally, much like the battery your mobo has to keep it's settings.
    Why would cell phones differ? Take your main battery out, the time/alarm/etc settings are saved, doesn't that give you any clues?

    The phone is powered at any given time, it's not a matter of whether the screen is lit or not...

    They could, and can, and do, use cell phones as bugs, there's nothing new to that.
  • by Marton (24416) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:27AM (#17097738)
    There's nothing in this "article" that the discussion related to the original bugging story did not already cover in much greater detail. No news is better than crappy news, slashdot.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:34AM (#17097780) Homepage Journal
    If we are concerned with the ability of somebody to alter the phone's behavior sufficiently to initiate a call without your intervention, then we shouldn't assume too much about what other things can or cannot be done.

    For example, not being able to make a call when a call is in progress. In time division multiplexing, you're taking one or two timeslots out of eight or sixteen. However, it's pretty clear that if we have modified the phone ostensible behavior enough to use it as a bug, it could also take more than one half channel at a time.

    Checking the warmth of the phone is good idea, but not perfect either. The assumption is that the phone is transmitting your words live. What if the phone recorded your conversations at a reduced bit rate, say 3kb/sec, using voice activiation. It could the be stored and dribbled out intermittently, particularly when close to a cell tower. This would reduce telltale power effects. This might not be enough to monitor your every waking moment, but it could be used to monitor snatches of your conversation, particularly as part of a surveillance program.

    Even if the phone doesn't transmit your speech, it could use the signally channel to record that you are talking, combined with the GPS or wi-fi snooping, over time the network of people you talk to could be recontructed.

    It's a bit paranoid to worry about these things, unless you think the government has a compelling reason to snoop on you. But if you do have such a reason, then you shouldn't make too many assumptions about what they could do with a phone, particularly a "smart" phone which might have megabytes of storage. A simpler phone with a removable battery would be a good choice.
  • Zing! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:54AM (#17097918) Homepage
    If your phone is warm to the touch even when not in use, is that an indication of bugging or a battery designed by Sony?
  • by coinreturn (617535) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:07AM (#17097992)
    A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems like General Motors' OnStar to snoop on passengers' conversations. When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored.

    I missed this when it happened, but I always suspected as much. Imagine this...

    Driver: Hand me another brewski.
    Passenger: Here you go.
    ...Police cruiser shows up in rearview mirror.
  • How to tell (Score:4, Funny)

    by thaig (415462) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:37AM (#17098218) Homepage
    Just phone your own land-line and then say, "Binladenbinladenbinladen" 10 times.

    Wait 30 minutes.

    If there are no black helicopters after 30 minutes then you probably aren't being bugged.

  • by sammyo (166904) on Monday December 04, 2006 @10:43AM (#17098794) Journal
    If you're really worried, get a hex die from a gaming store. Then get
    8-16 *different* friends to each buy you a prepaid phone. Number them.
    When you need to make a call, roll the die, use the phone, toss it in
    the trash or better, give it to a random teenager to use up the minutes.

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