The weakest link.
Without a phone it is impossible to imagine the life of a modern person. The phone has ceased to be a common means of communication. Today it is a repository of important information, a payment instrument, a personal identifier, and more. But, despite the endless number of useful functions, the phone is the weak link through which attackers can gain access to the most valuable – your information.
In this article, we describe the main methods of unauthorized connection to a mobile phone and recommendations on how to protect the phone from wiretapping and access to information stored on it.
What is the purpose of listening to the phone and access to information on it?
It is necessary to distinguish between the concepts of listening to information and access to digital data that are stored in the phone’s memory. The wiretap on the phone is installed in order to obtain information that you exchange during telephone conversations, as well as conversations that you conduct in the immediate vicinity of your phone in the off state. This may be business information, personal, discussion of any issues that may interest your competitors, partners and family members, private detectives, law enforcement or fraudsters.
What can you learn from your conversations and how to use it? During conversations, you voluntarily or not inform everyone who listens to you about their schedule of movement and location, contacts, hobbies, problems and achievements, plans, work issues, personal life. Options to use this information depending on the goal – the mass. If the goals of law enforcement officers, detectives and jealous spouses are clear, the field of activities for competitors and scammers is more than broad. Recently, cases of fraud have become more frequent when people call and say that your relative went to the hospital (police, …), offering to transfer a certain amount to solve the problem. Many are underway. Now imagine a situation where, after listening to your conversations, fraudsters will know the names of all your relatives, family and official details, and other seemingly confidential information. How will they use it and will you believe them, having heard something that only a narrow circle of people can know? Do you think someone might be interested in information about where you live and your plans for the holiday period?
Information that is stored in the memory of your phone is equally useful for an attacker. Please note that most of us keep in your phone memory: contact information of your surroundings, photos and video files, not all of which you would be ready to upload for free access, correspondence archives (email, SMS and instant messengers) and most importantly – your accounts, logins and passwords in social networks, online banking services, and many other applications related to confidential information. Access to all this data can leave you without pants literally in a matter of minutes.
The main methods of wiretapping the phone and access to information on it.
To listen to the phone, use the following methods:
Listening to your phone using mobile hardware and software systems. These complexes are an analogue of the base stations of mobile operators. When activated, the complex is able to replace the base station to which your phone is currently connected and to pass through all incoming and outgoing calls. The range of such a complex is up to several kilometers. Small size, can be moved in a case or car. Able to access control of your phone, calls, messages, remote switching in silent mode for listening through the internal microphone. The connection of the complex can cause a short-term loss of communication, similar to the transition of the phone to the reception of another cell of the carrier, however, in practice, in most cases no one pays attention to this. The use of complexes is permitted to operational units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine. At the same time, there are cases of illegal use of such complexes by other structures.
Listening to telephone conversations using fixed equipment installed by mobile operators. In many countries of the world (and we are not an exception), government agencies oblige telecom operators to install stationary listening, recording and analysis of telephone conversations at the level of server equipment. This equipment is not only similar in functionality to the one described above, but also surpasses it in many respects. So, it records and stores all telephone conversations, analyzes key words and phrases, usually related to terrorism, and so on. This does not mean that we are all totally listened to, but we must understand that we are not alone on the telephone.
Listening to telephone conversations using hardware installed inside (the so-called “bugs”). Radio microphones that work autonomously or connected to the power system of the telephone can be installed with little effort on the phone. All information that is voiced in the vicinity of the phone becomes the property of third parties.
Wiretap telephone conversations using software installed on the phone. A number of programs installed on the phone, allows you to get full access to its functions and remote control. For example, when an incoming or outgoing call is made, the program in the hidden mode connects to the conversation of the third subscriber. Also, having access to the program, you can turn on the phone to listen even if at that moment it was turned off. In addition, the “spyware” programs installed on the phone allow you to easily access all the digital information stored there.
How to find out if the phone is tapped and available for reading information?
In addition to guessing the presence of wiretapping, it is important to know a few basic principles that can confirm the fact of unauthorized connection, the presence of bugs, or malware:
Rapid decrease in battery charge. Accelerated reduction of battery charge may indicate abnormal use of a mobile phone (additional load due to a working microphone, information transfer, activated control program).
Increased battery temperature. As in the previous case, this characteristic may indicate the presence of a wiretap in your phone.
Software failures, autonomous launch, or termination of various programs. Similarly, the phone can behave under the influence of malicious software and remote control.
The appearance on the phone of new icons, or programs and applications that are unknown to you. If you did not install the programs and applications on your phone, and suddenly found new ones on it – attend to the advice of specialists. It is likely that this program came to you not by chance.
Noise and extraneous sounds during telephone conversations. An important aspect is the extraneous noise that is heard when talking to subscribers. If there is extraneous noise, there is a high probability that the phone is tapped.
Network outages. Each subscriber has one or two SIM cards of mobile operators, which are displayed with corresponding icons on the screen above. If instead of the name of the operator there is an incomprehensible set of numbers, this may indicate the management of the smartphone from the outside.
At the same time, it should be understood that in the case of using software-hardware mobile and stationary complexes, determining the fact of listening becomes an insoluble task. In this case, it will be almost impossible to determine the difference between the standard equipment of telecom operators and the complex.
How to protect your phone from wiretapping
There are several basic ways by which you can protect your mobile phone from interception and access to information.
Restrict access to your phone. Activate on the phone login features through the password. Do not leave the phone unattended and do not pass it on to anyone.
Be careful with the phones you received as a gift. It is advisable to clear all the information on it by returning everything to the factory settings. It would not be superfluous to check it for the presence of embedded bugs. The built-in microphone can be detected with the help of professional search engines by contacting specialists.
Install antivirus application on your phone. Thus, the management of the phone from the outside will be impossible.
Set the function to prohibit automatic installation of applications by setting the confirmation request mode.
When conducting confidential conversations indoors, leave the phone outside. Disconnecting the battery, using special covers and signal-shielding boxes will not help if there is a bookmark in the phone that records offline with the transfer of information on demand, or at a set time.