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Ask Slashdot: How To Stay Ahead of Phone Tracking ?

samzenpus posted 1 year,15 days | from the watching-the-watchers dept.

Privacy 259

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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259 comments

Don't carry one (5, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329043)

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

Re:Don't carry one (1)

thephydes (727739) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329097)

This may well be the case for some phones but I'm not convinced that it it is for all phones. Mind you I'm more than happy with my "dumb" phone and have no interest or use for a "smart" phone - who the fuck knows what they are sending out, off or on.

Re:Don't carry one (3, Insightful)

gomiam (587421) | 1 year,15 days | (#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 (5, Interesting)

FrkyD (545855) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329293)

Well, we have known for quite some time that is is not just possible to use your dumb phone as a roving bug while it is turned off, but that it has actually been done.

http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029-6140191.html [cnet.com]

So even though you sound a bit (albeit justifiably) paranoid, you might not be paranoid enough.

Re:Don't carry one (1)

equex (747231) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329397)

To disable the GSM module you have to enter a code on the dial. It does need a battery, obviously, so the only way is to take it out.

Re:Don't carry one (1, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329181)

umm that's only the case if they've managed to fit something on your phone.
on most any phone offline mode means no connection to network.. but if you want to be conected you're going to be paged all the fucking time for your info. so staying in offline mode is the answer. of course you can't know if someone is calling you or not.

and if you're worreid about gsm attacks put your phone into umts only mode.

I have it. (5, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329349)

I am in a position to offer a perfect solution. Just move to rural Australia and move your phone contract to Telstra. They are so fucking incompetent, nobody will ever succeed in tracking you.

The only downside is that you won't be able to make phone calls either. :-/

Re:Don't carry one (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329201)

i have taken apart a "donated" huawei ascend2 earlier this year and found small watch type batteries hard wired (soldered) on to the circuit board
they were very small , 2 in quantity and were 3 volts each i dont know what they are used for other than to power the device even with the battery out
its amazing how few chips were in this devithe whole board had like three or four chips a couple of speakers and a couple of mikes and the sdcards
when i opened it i expected it to be jam packed full of components but the manufacturer really has done wonders with the SoC tehnology
TL/DR even without the battery inserted that phone has some functions that i was unable to determine what they are

Re:Don't carry one (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329245)

It's called a real-time clock. Your computer has one. A builtin battery too.

Re:Don't carry one (1)

scsirob (246572) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329435)

And why would it need one of these when it has a big battery to operate on, and an entire time-driven network to sync with as soon as the main battery is connected?

Re:Don't carry one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43329457)

Alarm clock.

Bullshit - mind control circuit (3, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329443)

That's what that battery is for - the mind control circuit. It's the only way they're keeping the people in line.

What most people don't know is that *that* is why there's a battery in your computer too! It has nothing to do with the stupid clock. The clock doesn't need the battery! You've seen the ones that work with a potato - that's proof enough that a clock doesn't need a battery. No, they have the computers programmed to reset your clock and bios after a short timeout to make you THINK you need that for the clock. And all you weak-minded losers fell for it, and the mind control circuit just keeps you believing that you need that battery.

Re:Don't carry one (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | 1 year,15 days | (#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.

Re:Don't carry one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329393)

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?

Because if we designed it to turn on instantly, it would embarrass our friends at microsoft by teaching the minions that it is not normal for a computer to take six minutes to boot up, and another 12 before it becomes operational

We have to keep of the farce that it takes a long time to boot up a computer

Re:Don't carry one (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43329467)

Don't confuse the time needed to load all the bloatware that comes with Samsung phones with the time needed to power on the radio modem.

Re: Don't carry one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43329501)

Don't confuse booting android with powering on hardware.

Re:Don't carry one (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329487)

Better put the phone into your pocket faraday cage...

Great. Another ad for Aluma-Wallet. Didn't realize they had a giant one now, big enough to fit a common smartphone.

Re:Don't carry one (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329267)

Buy a pay-as-you-go phone with cash, they can still track you, but they won't know who they are tracking.

Re:Don't carry one (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329495)

Most of the cash prepaid phones still demand a name and address to activate. (YMMV... who are you using for burn phones these days?)

Re:Don't carry one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329335)

Yo, man. It's April Fools. This is the new slashdot's April Fool's joke.

Re:Don't carry one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43329483)

Well...maybe they can track iphone users that way....but I'm n900 owner... if its off ...its off!

turn it off (3, Insightful)

thephydes (727739) | 1 year,15 days | (#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.

Re:turn it off (-1)

Splab (574204) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329077)

Actually that might not be enough - some smartphones stay on when powered off, which is why you are told to put your phone in airplane mode *before* turning it off.

Same goes for the aGPS, it will usually try to keep track of where it is for acquiring location faster, even when "off".

Re:turn it off (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329131)

You are told to turn it to airplane mode FIRST so that when you turn it on mid flight it doesn't come on and start reaching for a cell. Now whether that will cause a problem or not is another matter entirely.

Re:turn it off (0)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329195)

uhh why is this modded up? it's not the truth. I don't remember a single time of being told to do that btw - and it only makes sense if you want to turn your phone back on while on flight(because you can't do that while booting up the phone!).

unless you count agps being "keeping track of where you are" because you're connected to a cellphone network(strictly speaking cell based locationing isn't agps but that's whats used in assisted gps to get the fix...).

Re:turn it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329215)

No, this is incorrect. The reason you're told to put the phone in airplane mode *before* turning it off is so that when you turn it back on it will not start transmitting during the time it takes you to get to the menu to switch to airplane mode.

Re:turn it off (1)

complete loony (663508) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329229)

Assisted GPS in cell phones is typically just a way to download accurate satellite position information from the internet. Otherwise your receiver will have to download that data from the satellites themselves, which takes a significant amount of time. It doesn't have anything to do with remembering where the phone is, and I highly doubt it helps the cell phone company to determine your position.

Re:turn it off (2, Insightful)

KZigurs (638781) | 1 year,15 days | (#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:turn it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329163)

April Fool's. Idiot.

Only one way (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329047)

Turn off phone, remove battery.

Re:Only one way (5, Funny)

thephydes (727739) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329103)

Thanks Apple, please tell your users how to remove the batteries!

Re:Only one way (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329209)

Thanks Apple, please tell your users how to remove the batteries!
 
WIth a hammer.

HAM radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329051)

You can always switch to HAM radio and connect your home phone up to your home transceiver and use a mobile transceiver.

Can you use a one-time-pad to send a character sequence to allow dialing or enable you to pick up the hook at your home?
You're not obscuring the message...

Re:HAM radio? (3, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329073)

Great idea! Then not only are you giving away your location but you're transmitting your message in the clear, for anyone to eavesdrop on!

I can't help but think you've missed the point a little...

Re:HAM radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329233)

Yeah, you're right.

It's not like cellphone encryption is fundamentally broken and silently disabled.

Oh wait.[1][2][3]
[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU8hg4FTm0g
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU8hg4FTm0g
[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU8hg4FTm0g

Re:HAM radio? (1)

thephydes (727739) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329119)

As a ham operator VK4YEH, I appreciate this solution, but sadly, realistically it is not and will not be available to most people. OH well back to my ham shack .......

Re:HAM radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329337)

I don't think so, Tim.

Re:HAM radio? (3, Funny)

DKlineburg (1074921) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329343)

I had a ham radio, but we ate it at Easter lunch. I don't know why my grandma insisted in carving the ham to look like a radio; but it was her house.

Re:HAM radio? (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329509)

Totally useful if you're more than say 50 miles from home.

If you're less than 50 miles from home, they know where you are anyway, and can triangulate your position.

Which autopatch are you suggesting that can answer a ringing line?

Transmitter off won't work. (5, Informative)

rew (6140) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329055)

If you want to receive calls or SMSes, you need to leave the phone on and transmitting:

When a call for your number comes in, the incoming call is NOT transmitted nationally. Only in the GSM-cell that you are actually in is the signal transmitted. So, the system has to know in which cell you are to be able to "call" your phone. If you properly turn it off, the phone will tell the GSM network it is going off. So when a call comes in, it will go to voicemail immediately. If you yank the battery, the system will assume you are still in that cell where you last had the phone on, but it will probably time you out if it doesn't hear from your phone for a while. (which happens naturally if for example you drive out of range).

Re:Transmitter off won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329155)

Why tap at radio level when you already have a nice tap at the provider level?

Re:Transmitter off won't work. (5, Informative)

KiwiSurfer (309836) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329257)

When a call for your number comes in, the incoming call is NOT transmitted nationally. Only in the GSM-cell that you are actually in is the signal transmitted. So, the system has to know in which cell you are to be able to "call" your phone.

Not quite, a GSM switch will keep track of which Location Area (LA) a mobile device is in. A LA can contain a few or upwards to several hundred cells. Using Vodafone's GSM network in New Zealand as a point of reference, their largest LA covers all of Auckland's (our biggest city with 1.5m population) CBD with around 150-200 sites while in rural areas a LA generally only has around 50 sites.

When a phone is being called, all the cells in the LA will send out a broadcast request to all mobile devices in the LA and the mobile device will respond by contacting the nearest cell. This is quite useful as it reduces the need for the mobile device to check in frequently — the mobile device only needs to check in with the network when it moves into a new LA.

I'm not too familiar with how UMTS or LTE works but I presume the same principles applies but I may stand corrected.

Re:Transmitter off won't work. (2)

rew (6140) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329305)

The cell-phone transmit is "expensive" in that it drains the battery. You can optimize the electronics all you want but if you have to transmit a 1W burst for 0.01 seconds to indicate that you're still there, the energy expense of that burst is fixed and cannot be reduced. This is apparently a trick to reduce the number of transmissions from the phone to the towers so that the battery can last longer. I didn't know that. Thanks for the update!

Futile (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329059)

You can't.

Those are functions performed by the baseband software stack, which cannot be modified by the end user. Also you can't be simultaneously connected and not connected to the network anyway. If you don't want to be tracked by the network, don't use a cellphone.

What you're asking for is impossible (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329061)

Can't work. Your phone needs to periodically broadcast its location to the network, otherwise the network won't know which cell to route your calls to.

There's this really cool app that... (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329075)

I suspect that's the answer you were looking for, but i'm afraid that's not an answer. Something like this would probably require hardware switches to be truly effective. It's much simpler to take out your battery as a few others have already stated. and dont forget to discharge the device by holding in the power key for a good 10-15 seconds.

Re:There's this really cool app that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329099)

dont forget to discharge the device by holding in the power key for a good 10-15 seconds.

Discharge what? The battery is out it aint working. Or is this some sort of anti-juju discharge technique?

Next time my battery is flat I'll be sure to try using the residual juju to make a call.

Re:There's this really cool app that... (2)

lazy_playboy (236084) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329283)

Discharge what?

The capacitors in the power supply circuitry.

Re:There's this really cool app that... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329363)

Which will be depleted very rapidly anyway - probably about a millisecond after the first time it tries to transmit your location.

(Assuming it tries to transmit your location when it's switched off, which I doubt...)

Re:There's this really cool app that... (1)

lazy_playboy (236084) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329481)

I wouldn't be so sure. Anyhow, I prefer to wrap the phone in tinfoil as well to make sure.

Re:There's this really cool app that... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329109)

I suspect that's the answer you were looking for, but i'm afraid that's not an answer. Something like this would probably require hardware switches to be truly effective. It's much simpler to take out your battery as a few others have already stated. and dont forget to discharge the device by holding in the power key for a good 10-15 seconds.

Well. Thank you Captain Obvious(es). We sincerely appreciate your pointless fucking contribution here in suggesting that disabling the thing altogether would be a viable option that the OP somehow hadn't thought of, or anyone else above the age of 7 for that matter...

Here, let me help...how about you take a hammer and smash the thing to pieces. I'll bet they can't track it then. Ha! Take that shit, hackers! Hammer time FTW.

You don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329079)

The phone network isn't designed in a way that would allow you to not send your rough location every once in a while and still receive incoming messages or calls. Unless your phone regularly reports to the cell that it's in, the network will assume that the phone is off and not send anything to you. The network can page your last known location and even widen the search for your phone to a larger area when you get an incoming call or message, but if it hasn't heard from your phone, then it won't - and you can't make it, except by having your phone talk to the network in regular intervals.

That was one of the big advantage of pager networks over the mobile phone networks: Without a transmitter in the pager, there was no way of knowing the location.

Airplane mode and OsmocomBB (5, Informative)

asnelt (1837090) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329081)

I would say a good start is to just use the airplane mode of your phone. That should disable your RF transmitter. But of course you wont be notified when the network is paging your IMSI. The save option is to use a phone with OsmocomBB, a free software implementation of the GSM stack: http://bb.osmocom.org/trac/ [osmocom.org] It has limited functionality (no GPRS working at the moment) but at least you know exactly would your phone is doing. With that, you can even run CatcherCatcher, which is able to detect IMSI catchers: http://opensource.srlabs.de/projects/catcher [srlabs.de] The supported phones are a bit outdated, mostly old Motorola phones. But there is one supported smartphone: the Openmoko Freerunner. It is pretty usable these days and is fully supported by Debian. I love it, but you will need to tinker - a lot.

SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329087)

Don't make them WANT to track you, listen to you, and all else you think they do !! If you want to be a criminal, suffer the FEAR !! Scumbag !!

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329111)

This, unfortunately, is impossible. There is no way to live a full life and not annoy someone else. Annoy the wrong person and you'll have all sorts of illegal methods launched against you. There are a lot of vindictive assholes, and some of them have access to infrastructure.

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (4, Insightful)

AvderTheTerrible (1960234) | 1 year,15 days | (#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:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329197)

The red menace must be exterminated. How is it you card carrying commies are still around? What is your real name? Are you a Russian Ivan?

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329231)

Better: just cast a net made of search queries around the internet and phone calls/sms and get everybody that happens to be in the results set. No need to address a specific person but an efficient way to create suspects. You address single cases later on.

Automation is a great thing ;-)

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329239)

This is rather disingenuous and attempting to rewrite history to serve an agenda. It's not "free association with people they don't like" when said people urge the overthrow of the U.S. government. Just look at other countries where the government WAS overthrown by the people that McCarthy opposed - China comes to mind.

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43329505)

This is rather disingenuous and attempting to rewrite history to serve an agenda. It's not "free association with people they don't like" when said people urge the overthrow of the U.S. government. Just look at other countries where the government WAS overthrown by the people that McCarthy opposed - China comes to mind.

SERIOUSLY ??? The people that McCarthy chased were not the same people that were behind the cultural revolution in China, those were mainly chinese people.
There was never any measurable movement in the US to overthrow the government and establish a communist regime. Most people who were investigated under McCarthyism were only guilty of having opinions different from the average american.

Re:SOLUTION: DON'T BE A CRIMINAL !! (1)

peragrin (659227) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329417)

Two points.

1 :) if the authorities waited until after you commit a crime then people complain that they should have stopped it. if the USA had definite proof of the September 11th attacks and knew who want where and when but the perpetrators hadn't committed an actual crime until they hijacked the planes, at what point should they have been stopped? after hijacking the planes? how about after they flew them into the buildings?

2:)Organizations that protest the government are generally the ones that might shift into violence and actually try it. You can't watch everyone all the time so you watch the ones that are most likely to do something. It is a relatively short jump from peaceful protest to full on riot. you already have the people in place, and have them angry about something. all you need is the right spark to set them off.

Build your own mobile network (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329095)

Then you can use it on whatever terms you chose. If you use the network of someone else, you'll have to accept their terms.

Get a pager (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329123)

Pagers are receive-only. Turn off your phone and only turn it on if you want to respond to a page. Or use a public phone, or ask to borrow someone else's phone.

here's a thought (1)

amnezick (1253408) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329127)

register a data-only sim to your oldest relative (grand-grand-grand mother?!?!?) and only use voip and messaging clients that support encryption. Whoever's watching you will only find nothing.

Re:here's a thought (3, Interesting)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329199)

this thread is probably a response to Google reporting they could identify the owner of a phone by where it went - so no cigar today,

The correct answer is live in a third world country Smart phones are about the only thing that will work reliably. After the electricity supply, security forces and tracking technology are the things least likely to work reliably

It's not really possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329141)

While you can easily make your phone "untrackable" when the phone is not in use or needing to be used, the instant that it is used to receive a call, the provider will know approximately where it is. They have to to in order for their network to efficiently route the call without wasting backhaul and spectrum bandwidth across their coverage area. If you really want to go about designing it, you could design a repeater and receiver solution. Put the cell phone in one area, say your house, and then route all incoming calls to another device. You'd likely have to actually stream the audio rather than the signal wholesale. This actually wouldn't be that hard, but depending on the end-to-end delay between your actual location and the location of the device, you could get a lot of hangups before you can formally "answer" the call.

Switch it off or throw it away. (1)

stooo (2202012) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329161)

There's no way you can be paged without being discovered. Paging is discovery. Silent paging is always possible. Even without paging, the phone needs to be registered to a cell.

So
Switch it off or throw it away.

Use sombody else's phone (3, Interesting)

qaz123 (2841887) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329167)

- 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.

Re:Use sombody else's phone (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329321)

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:Use sombody else's phone (2)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329375)

They can figure out who's carrying a phone by their daily habits (where you go, what time, how long you stay there).

Google claims to be able to do this - see last week's news stories.

VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329183)

As other people have pointed out, there is no way to avoid tracking and still be able to get phone calls. Your best option would be to get a prepaid sim that doesn't require a name or address. Or, have a friend (or random person) register the phone for you so it doesn't show up under your name.

Then, don't use the actual phone network, but use some kind of voice over ip over your data plan. To be extra paranoid, write your own gateway that waits for a random period of time before notifying you of the call, and keeps the connection open for a random period of time afterwards, so it's harder to associate the data traffic with the phone call.

Is even taking out the battery any guarantee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329191)

I'm not convinced that even taking out the battery is going to be a guarantee that your phone cannot be turned into a listening device or a location tracker. How do you know that the removable battery is the only battery in the phone? My computer keeps the correct time even if you yank the cord by using an on-motherboard battery that most people are not aware of. There is no reason a phone couldn't have a second integrated battery that you can't remove. Sure, eventually that battery will run out, but how long will that take? Especially if the second battery is reserved for covert purposes when that bit is flipped, not for making your phone instant-on or anything like that. Your phone could also have a bug in it with its own battery. If you don't trust the manufacturer (and all suppliers) of a physical device and also everyone who has been in contact with the device since it was made (which at a minimum requires you to be certain who those people are who have been in contact with the device), then you don't have a guarantee that it only does what you think it does.

In this day and age, fighting covert surveillance against a highly motivated and advanced attacker is a losing battle for anyone without enormous resources - and possibly even then. Google couldn't keep out the Chinese all the time, what chance do you have? If you really want something kept secret, a major concern that you should have is to ensure that you do not attract the attention of parties with disproportionately more resources than you have, because if you do then you will lose. you probably also will never know that you lost unless your attacker decides to reveal itself.

Short answer: you can't. (1)

koan (80826) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329205)

Stop using phones with GPS.

Re:Short answer: you can't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329269)

How do I select a phone without GPS ? I understand it's mandatory in some countries.

Re:Short answer: you can't. (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329301)

Why would GPS be "mandatory" on a phone? It's only in the past two or three years that GPS receivers have got small and low-power enough to fit to phones, without requiring a battery the size of a brick.

If you want to locate a phone, GPS is close to useless.

Phone tracking is just part of a wide grid (3, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329217)

Phone tracking was a result of the troubles in Ireland and the NATO/US need for Red trouble makers in 1980's Europe.
Think of an early Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) hardwired into every generation of phone by default.
Then came GPS, web 2.0, maps and cloud ... your phone is sucking up details about your life as you walk around with/use it.
Stop using your phone other than for family to say hi and ask for help/shopping.
Meet your people/tribe/business associates without a phone and talk face to face or in some other hi tech/no tech way.
Soon a working phone with CCTV (camera pod), facial recognition, 24/7 city wide look down drones, covert LEO in-car cameras will be filling in even more details.
Dont forget the private sector is also doing its part to link all their cameras in too :)
No warrants are needed. Deep extended boarder search, gang area 'random' searches, drink driving tests will all have rows of plate reading cameras, passenger face capture, driver logging, train station federal task forces, anti war mil protest watching... all add up to very deep efforts if you make a list.
All the tech used in 1950's Soviet watching, Vietnam, Iraq is now so cheap, tiny and sold to even the smallest, struggling police forces as federal 'gifts' to help with 'drugs', 'terror' or just as free 'surplus' with never ending private maintenance contracts.
The next big thing will be state level voice print records- no longer the play thing of GCHQ, NSA - expect a fake cell towers in a region of interest to do more than just log calls, numbers and record flagged people - your voice will soon be all that local law enforcement needs on any network.
Swap the phone sim all you want, better stay off the voice too.

Re:Phone tracking is just part of a wide grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329325)

maybe when you grow up you should consider a job in law enforcement

Re:Phone tracking is just part of a wide grid (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329373)

All you did was provide a few concrete examples of the issues the submitter posed, and threw in some buzzwords. How are you remotely Insightful?

Don't use it. (2)

complete loony (663508) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329237)

So don't use your cell phone as a cell phone. Buy a pre-paid with no ID (if you can), use the data connection to open a VPN link, use whatever voice and IM protocols you want over the VPN link.

Re:Don't use it. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329333)

if you use it as a data link they can still see where you are.
if they're really tracking the guy then can deduce which imsi it is that he is carrying with himself with couple of days of surveillance.

of course by that effort they could just slap a transmitter on his car as well.

some thoughts (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329251)

As stated you cannot turn off the transmitter and have the network be able to reach your phone. However you can get a smartphone with good custom rom and kernal support. Then you can build your own kernal and be sure it has a real gps switch. You may also be able to implement filtering of the network stack bit iirc, the radio section is often a binary blob. Find a phone where you can code all thos and you may have a popular product.

GPS is not the issue. (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329271)

Even with GPS disabled or if your phone doesn't have GPS, cell triangulation allows for a reasonably accurate position of the phone. In urban areas this works well, in rural areas less so but still enough to provide someone with potentially useful information. This is a function of the cell phone network and not the GPS of your phone.

Re:GPS is not the issue. (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329377)

Even with GPS disabled or if your phone doesn't have GPS, cell triangulation allows for a reasonably accurate position of the phone. In urban areas this works well, in rural areas less so but still enough to provide someone with potentially useful information. This is a function of the cell phone network and not the GPS of your phone.

Location by using cell tower triangulation can be off by as much as 10 miles.

Re:GPS is not the issue. (3, Informative)

DontScotty (978874) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329413)

If you are only using one tower - sure...

--------
  The tower can also measure how long it takes to get a response from your phone, and use that to estimate how far away you are. That puts you on the edge of a circle that distance from the tower.

Usually your phone can be heard by multiple cell towers. If two can hear you, then you're on the edge of each of 2 circles, and two circles can only meet at 2 points, so you must be at one of those 2 points.

If a third tower can hear you, its circle can only meet the others at one point, so there you are.

Emergency services (like 911) can get this information from the cell towers. The information exists whenever your phone is on and in range of a tower, whether you're making a call or not. The information is not meant to be publicly accessible.

Re:GPS is not the issue. (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329469)

The actual process is called "trilateration", if I haven't botched the spelling. Sprint was claiming 1000 meter accuracy minimum.

If you can't get at least 3 towers, you have to fall back to less accurate options. I'm not sure if the 2-tower approach is employed or whether they simply take the easy way out and look for the tower with the strongest signal. I suppose it depends on provider and local equipment.

Build a big tin foil hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329279)

... and wrap it around your phone.

voila.

OFF pocket (2)

Simon Brooke (45012) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329291)

Curiously enough I saw an idea to solve this problem [ahprojects.com] this morning. It's a small bag lined with material opaque to radio waves (possibly lead foil or barium, I don't know). Whether this particular implementation works or is a tin-foil beanie, again I don't know. But the concept seems to me good. With modern phones like iPhones or my HTC One, the battery is non-removable, so it isn't easy for the user to verify that all radio transmission is in fact shut down - there could still be things like, for example, passive RFID. But if you had a radio-opaque bag in which you kept your phone, you could have a phone with you in case of emergencies, without the possibility of being tracked except when you were actively using it.

Bruce Schneier says we've already lost (1)

wild_berry (448019) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329303)

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/03/our_internet_su.html [schneier.com]

But... if I were going to try and confound the system which can correlate almost all of your electronic records, you'd need to have a rolling list of sock-puppets who supply proxy identifying information to the cell towers. You'd need to have a bundle of SIM cards in the handset to do this, or to have electronics which fake the same data. Then, to make sure you can actually be contacted, you need to have a call redirection system sending you SIP calls (though if you're designing the hardware for this, you can encrypt the data streams carrying your voice over the existing cell transports - note that Skype may be encrypted but we don't know how well or who has a back door key). To avoid that being a single point of obfuscation failure, it probably needs to be a distributed network of TOR-like relays across hardware and cloud providers, and even then, it will probably need to be steganographically hidden in ordinary-looking traffic.

Not impossible, but still a pipe-dream since 1993.

GSM Module (1)

Thor Ablestar (321949) | 1 year,15 days | (#43329311)

For the REALLY paranoid geek I have a variant. There are lots of GSM modules that are intended for installation in some equipment. They need some power source, keyboard and microphone to operate. You may use something like the simplest PIC controller for keyboard and microphone control and be sure that unless you explicitly turn the microphone on it will be off.

It will still be a beacon, but you can invent some countermeasures, too. Your controller can detect the transmission and duly warn you if it finds something suspicious, for instance, long transmission without calls. If you are STILL overparanoid you may add a GPS device that will just turn the phone off while in zones where you don't want to be tracked.

Stationary GSM module with WiFi link to your real phone (or to your second secret GSM phone) is to be added according to taste.

Buy a phone that turns off (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329329)

Sorry, that's it.

Well, put the phone in a foil bag, under your tinfoil hat ?.

You can't beat this if you are stupid enough to rely on all the time connectivity.

Dump samzenpus (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43329371)

Dump the idiot.

Ask Slashdot? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | 1 year,14 days | (#43329465)

As I have mentioned before:

Dear Editors,

There is an 'Ask Slashdot' section for a reason. Please use it!

Thanks.

Fnord666

PS Putting "Ask Slashdot" in the title doesn't do it.

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