HOUSTON, July 22 // -- This quarter's topic is "Cellular Phone Wiretapping and Eavesdropping." Two forms of cellular "snooping" are common today:
- SIM Cards: Reading standard and deleted numbers and text messages from SIM cards
- Smart Phones: The newest form of cellular snooping using Smart Phones such as iPhone, BlackBerry, and others that allow active wiretapping and live undetected cellular eavesdropping
A few points and countermeasures for each:
How is it done: The SIM card is removed from the phone and the card is read using a device that is easily purchased on the Internet for less than $200.00. SIM card readers work with most GSM cellular phones and the phone record and text messages are stored, in most cases, even when the person believes they have deleted the messages. Information that is able to be retrieved can be extensive, including time, date, number called/texted, and the exact content of the sending and receiving messages.
Countermeasures: Typically software used to read SIM cards also includes a feature to "wipe" the SIM card. The SIM cards also work on a limited storage, so once you exceed the maximum storage of the card, the newest message will remove the oldest message. A point of reference, the SIM cards have continued to expand in size to support the use of photos so storage can be significant.
How is it done: The phone is accessed and a software program is downloaded. The software program is quick to download and easy to install. It is also difficult to detect on the device. This software allows the person wishing to "tap" the phone to not only listen to active calls, but they can also use the phone as a listening device or "room bug."
The software on the installed phone is controlled remotely via another smart device or computer. The "bugged" phone can be programmed to alert the eavesdropper so that they can listen in to the private call.
This software is cheap and easily purchased on the Internet, for under $50.00. The software is also easy to set up and is designed for the layperson to use.
Countermeasures: In most cases, but not all, you must have access to the phone to download the software, so putting a lock-out code on the keypad will help. Second, if you think your phone has been compromised, changing the SIM card can also be an effective method of removing the software. Turning the phone "off" is not an answer, because the software can turn the phone "on" remotely. Removing the battery is a best answer when you want to make sure that the phone is not being used against you.
A good overview can be found in this news report from NBC News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i7vXSazuFc
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