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Ask Slashdot: How To Stay Ahead of Phone Tracking ? 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the watching-the-watchers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In the last few years there has been a significant upsurge in subverting the cellular network for law enforcement purposes. Besides old school tapping, phones are have become the ideal informant: they can report a fairly accurate location and can be remotely turned into covert listening devices. This is often done without a warrant. How can I default the RF transmitter to off, be notified when the network is paging my IMSI and manually re-enable it (or not) if I opt to acknowledge the incoming call or SMS? How do I prevent GPS data from ever being gathered or sent ?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Stay Ahead of Phone Tracking ?

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  • turn it off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thephydes (727739) on Monday April 01, 2013 @05:11AM (#43329045)
    Turn your phone off when you aren't using it. Do you really have to be contactable 24/7? I suspect not for most people and if your phone is off then you cannot be tracked.
  • by AvderTheTerrible (1960234) on Monday April 01, 2013 @05:44AM (#43329133)
    The issue is that the government does not wait until they think you *are* a criminal to do this stuff, they start doing it when they think you *might* be a criminal, or worse yet, when someone *wants* you to be a criminal. It's not the stuff that would actually manage to fetch a warrant that a lot of people are worried about, it's the fishing expeditions that lazy crime fighting agencies and power abusing bureaucrats engage in if they don't like some of your associations. Just look to what happened during the McCarthy era to see what can happen when persons in power don't like the idea of you exercising your right to free association with people they don't like, regardless of if any rules are being broken.
  • Re:Don't carry one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gomiam (587421) on Monday April 01, 2013 @06:21AM (#43329241)
    Not to raise your paranoia, but your "dumb" phone isn't as dumb as you think it is. While it is acting as cell phone it needs to keep the towers appraised of its location so you can receive calls and it can roam from one cell to the next.
  • Re:Don't carry one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Monday April 01, 2013 @06:24AM (#43329249)

    As you know, they can track you even when the device is off, unless you've taken the battery out.

    I don't dispute it's possible that the phone while 'off' is simply in standby and pops on now and again to ping the network.

    But.. if so, why does my Galaxy S3 take 10+ seconds to 'boot up' after it's been turned off, and then another 5-10 seconds before it has service?

    There might be some phone out there that is 'always on'... but is there actually one? More than one? Is it actually common?

    This seems more 'urban ledgend' / paranoia then real -- the sort of paranoia where you think the NSA has installed a rootkit to simulate your phone shutdown sequence when you turn it off while it remains transmitting. Possible, theoretically? Sure.

    But then what makes you think taking the battery out will work? The NSA inserted a secondary battery with enough juice to keep tracking you for days even when the battery is out. Better put the phone into your pocket faraday cage...

    And take a shower and change your clothes to rinse off the micro RFID they hid in the dirt on your shoe and are tracking with a satellite equipped with some sort of super pringles antenna...

    I think my Galaxy S3 is off when I turn it off. I'm prepared to be educated that it really isn't, but I need more than some handwaving or links to rumors on some guys dubious blog.

  • by pla (258480) on Monday April 01, 2013 @06:48AM (#43329321) Journal
    Buy it using a fake id. - Ask a homeless or drug addict to buy you a prepaid phone/sim and use it. - Buy it in another country.

    Actually one of the most realistic answers so far, except, you don't need an ID or a straw buyer... Just pick up a tracphone at Target and activate it at the in-store Starbucks' hotspot. Done and untraceable-to-you, unless "they" want you enough to manually hunt down security footage from one of those two stores.

    That said, who do you plan to call with it? I consider it a sad commentary on our times that who (on the whole) you associate with matters far, far more than your own identity - Though the two end up largely interchangeable, unless a lot of people in your immediate circle of friends call to chat with your folks once a week. And of course, you probably use it at home - Lot of people living there? Keep in mind, even pre-GPS requirement, the cell providers could still get a decent lock on a phone just from the towers that can see it; and going back to the original FP question, you can't use the phone if no towers can see it.
  • Re:turn it off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KZigurs (638781) on Monday April 01, 2013 @06:56AM (#43329347)

    Bollocks. Unless by 'turn it off' you mean 'press the power button sending the phone to sleep', there is no smartphone out there that will 'stay on' when 'powered off'.

    aGPS works by sending a small data packet to a nearby server (ether over gprs or sms) when starting to triangulate your location to speed up the satellite discovery process.

    (Mind you, that does not exclude possibility of compromised software and radio modem + bootstrap indeed being kept alive for eavesdropping purposes. For what it's worth modern smartphones generally consist of a small PC part (buttons, input, screen, cpu, sound, etc) and small separate dumbphone (cellular modem) part that talk to each other over serial bus)

  • Re:I have it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sentrion (964745) on Monday April 01, 2013 @12:02PM (#43331225)

    Trying to make yourself untraceable while still using modern technology is not an easy task. People have thought that they could avoid being tracked by buying an item with cash, but there are numerous cases of store security cameras recording purchases at the checkout counter and these images used to identify the culprets of a variety of alleged offenses. Combined with facial recognition software and the increasing cross-linkage of databases, such as photos from your driver's license or passport; combined with the fact that your face is probably online somewhere, such as your own Facebook page, or your friend's Facebook page if you avoid using facebook, or Flickr, or one of hundreds of image intensive online depositories, it is only a matter of time and effort to track you down. Even using a laptop you bought a garage sale and public wifi can't guarantee anonymity since surveilance cameras can show you within the vicinity of the wifi hotspot at the time of a particular event - such has already been used to identify "cyber-crooks" on more than one occasion.

    Best defense is security by obscurity - don't do anything that will make you a target. If for sure you are going to be a target, then I'm not sure what will help you. If you try to live in some remote area with no technology at all, chances are people will be talking about you for miles around where you set up camp. "Ya, he's the guy living in the middle of that forest with nothing but a cabin and messenger pigeons."

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan