Cellphone surveillance

Cellphone surveillance, also known as cellphone spying, may involve the tracking, bugging, monitoring, interception and recording of conversations and text messages on mobile phones.[1] It also encompasses the monitoring of people's movements, which can be tracked using mobile phone signals when phones are turned on.[2] In the United States, law enforcement agencies can legally monitor the movements of people from their mobile phone signals upon obtaining a court order to do so.[2] Cellphone spying software is software that is surreptitiously installed on mobile phones that can enable these actions.

Mobile phone tracking

Main article: Mobile phone tracking

StingRay devices are used by law enforcement agencies to track people's movements, and intercept and record conversations, names, phone numbers and text messages from mobile phones.[1] Their use entails the monitoring and collection of data from all mobile phones within a target area.[1] Law enforcement agencies in Northern California that have purchased StingRay devices include the Oakland Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, San Jose Police Department and the Fremont Police Department.[1] The Fremont Police Department's use of a StingRay device is in a partnership with the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.[1]

In 2007, StingRay devices assisted the Oakland Police Department in Oakland, California in making 21 arrests, and in 2008, 19 arrests were made in unison with the use of StingRay devices.[1]

StingRay devices are often used in combination with Hailstorm towers that jam the mobile phone signals forcing phones to drop down from 4G and 3G network bands to older, more insecure 2G bands.[3]

In most states, police can get many kinds of cellphone data without obtaining a warrant. Law-enforcement records show, police can use initial data from a tower dump to ask for another court order for more information, including addresses, billing records and logs of calls, texts and locations.[4]

Hidden cellphones


Cellphone bugs can be created by disabling the ringing feature on a mobile phone, allowing a caller to call a phone to access its microphone and listen in. Intentionally hiding a cell phone in a location is a bugging technique. Some hidden cellphone bugs rely on Wifi hotspots, rather than celluar data, where the tracker rootkit software periodically "wakes up" and signs into a public wifi hotspot to upload tracker data onto a public internet server. In the United States, the FBI has used "roving bugs", which entails the activation of microphones on mobile phones to enable the monitoring of conversations.[5]

Cellphone spying software

Cellphone spying software is a type of cellphone bugging, tracking, and monitoring software that is surreptitiously installed on mobile phones. This software can enable conversations to be heard and recorded from phones upon which it is installed.[6] Cellphone spying software can be downloaded onto cellphones.[7] Cellphone spying software enables the monitoring or stalking of a target cellphone from a remote location with some of the following techniques:[8]

Cellphone spying software can enable microphones on mobile phones when phones are not being used, and can be installed by mobile providers.[5]


In 2005, the prime minister of Greece was advised that his, over 100 dignitaries' and the mayor of Athens' mobile phones were bugged.[6] Costas Tsalikidis, a Vodafone-Panafon employee, was implicated in the matter as using his position as head of the company's network planning to assist in the bugging.[6] Tsalikidis was found hanged in his apartment the day before the leaders were notified regarding the bugging, which was reported as "an apparent suicide."[6]


Some indications of possible cellphone surveillance occurring may include a mobile phone waking up unexpectedly, using a lot of the CPU when on idle or when not in use, hearing clicking or beeping sounds when conversations are occurring and the circuit board of the phone being warm despite the phone not being used.[7]


Preventative measures against cellphone surveillance include not losing or allowing strangers to use a mobile phone and the utilization of an access password.[7][8] Turning off and then also removing the battery from a phone when not in use is another technique.[7][8] Jamming or a Faraday cage may also work, the latter obviating removal of the battery.

Disconnecting the microphone from the circuit board (or smashing the mic with a needle and hammer), and then using an external plug-in or bluetooth mic when you want to make calls, is a solution.

Another solution is turning the MIC input to the DAC off. However, this requires operating system and in some cases, kernel modification in order to prevent MIC input.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bott, Michael; Jensen, Thom (March 6, 2014). "9 Calif. law enforcement agencies connected to cellphone spying technology". ABC News, News10. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  2. 1 2 Richtel, Matt (December 10, 2005). "Live Tracking of Mobile Phones Prompts Court Fights on Privacy" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  3. Mysterious Fake Cellphone Towers Are Intercepting Calls All Over The US, Business Insider, Jack Dutton, Sep 3, 2014
  4. John Kelly (13 June 2014). "Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA". USA today.
  5. 1 2 McCullagh, Declan; Broache, Anne (December 1, 2006). "FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool". CNET. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 4 V., Prevelakis; D., Spinellis (July 2007). "The Athens Affair". Volume:44, Issue: 7. Spectrum, IEEE. pp. 26–33. Retrieved 26 March 2014. (subscription required)
  7. 1 2 3 4 Segall, Bob (Posted: November 13, 2008, Updated: June 29, 2009). "Tapping your cell phone". WTHR13 News (NBC). Retrieved 26 March 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. 1 2 3 News report. WTHR News. (YouTube video)

Further reading

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