Cell Phone Tapping: Are You at Risk?


Recently I met two soldiers who alerted me to the new security risk of Cell Phone Tapping. SigInt (or signal interception) has long been a part of warfare and espionage. But the possibilities erupt with the advent of cell phone tapping. Imagine the conversation of a soldier being overheard by the enemy – deployment details, troop locations, command structure, strategic and tactical information. The prospect is terrifying for our national security.

This week, I was asked to help with a case of domestic abuse: the husband had installed Cell Phone Tapping Software (like computer spyware or keyloggers) on his wife’s phone prior to their divorce. During the divorce proceedings, he listened to every conversation, read every email and text sent from her phone, and could even control her calendar and applications (thanks to iPhone Tapping Software). Because of GPS tracking, he always knew where she was. When she switched to a new phone number and iPhone, iTunes must have synced the malicious software to the new phone along with all of the legitimate programs — allowing the abusive husband access to the new phone and continue stalking her. Cell phone tapping software allows the user to perform all of these tasks without your ever knowing it:

  • Silently record the entire text of all SMS text messages (allowing them to read all of your incoming and outgoing text messages)
  • Log information about each call (so that they know who you called, when and for how long)
  • Provide actual GPS positions (so that they know where you are anytime your phone is on)
  • Receive a text message when someone uses the cell phone so that the spy can call in and listen to everything being said (every conversation you have can be overheard and recorded)
  • Turn the cell phone into a remote listening device, even when the phone is not open or in use (allowing the spy to listen in on conversations anytime your cell phone is near).

I ran into this video from WTHR Indianapolis about tapping cell phones that corroborates all that I had learned — make sure you watch through to the ends:

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Tapping a cell phone is quite easy with the right software (which can be purchased very inexpensively and legally). You see, the software was designed for “legitimate” purposes:

  • Parents who want to track their child’s usage and text messages
  • Husbands and wives who want to determine if their spouse is cheating on them.
  • Businesses that need to enforce Acceptable Use in Vehicle Policies on company-provided phones or track their employees by GPS
  • Law enforcement officials use the software to catch child predators.

You can also back up your own cell activity as a record of all important text conversations and travels. And now cell phone tapping software is being used by stalkers, hackers, and identity thieves for around the clock surveillance.

Cell Phone Tapping Solutions

Until there is a better solution, your options are minimal:

  1. Password protect your cell phone so that only you have access (this isn’t as safe as it sounds, but it’s a start).
  2. Don’t allow anyone to have physical access to your cell phone if you think they have a reason to tap your communications (competitors, angry spouses, ex-partners, etc.).
  3. Consider turning off the GPS function when you don’t need it. This makes it harder for someone to track your location.
  4. Consider pulling the battery out of the phone if you are in a conversation where you do not want to be heard.
  5. Keep your eye open for software that detects spyware on your phone.
  6. If you have a cell phone issued by your company, they probably reserve the right to monitor your location and potentially to intercept your communications. Watch what you say.
  7. If you are in the military and feel like your phone is tapped, alert your S2 or InfoSec contact. the end

Image credit: Adam Tinworth

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