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FBI Taps Cell Phone Microphones in Mafia Case

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the lots-of-conversations-about-merchandise dept.

Privacy 274

cnet-declan writes "We already knew the FBI can secretly listen in to car conversations by activating microphones of systems like OnStar. A new Mafia court case suggests that the FBI can do the same thing to cell phones. The judge's opinion and some background information [pdf] are available for reading online. The most disturbing thing? According to the judge, the bug worked even if the phone appeared to be 'powered off.' Anyone up for an open-source handset already?" From the article: "This week, Judge Kaplan in the southern district of New York concluded that the 'roving bugs' were legally permitted to capture hundreds of hours of conversations because the FBI had obtained a court order and alternatives probably wouldn't work. The FBI's 'applications made a sufficient case for electronic surveillance,' Kaplan wrote. 'They indicated that alternative methods of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance.'"

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274 comments

frosty piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079312)

winter's here.

It's all conspiracy (1)

itz2000 (1027660) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079322)

That's what I suggest.

Maff's conspiracy.

open-source (2, Funny)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079332)

well, we may not have open-source handsets, but is open-mic good enough?

In Soviet Russia (5, Funny)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079334)

In Soviet Russia, phone listens to you.

oh wait ....

Re:In Soviet Russia (3, Informative)

GnuDiff (705847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079614)

In fact, it did.

As far as I remember, just after the collapse of the USSR, there were published some information about how KGB was able to activate the mics of "normal" old phones by activating the line from substation; so that the phone didn't ring, but the mic was getting enough current flowing through it to work.

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080074)

That also happened to some people I knew in the UK, the police monitored their house via their POTS phone.

They then played the tapes back during interrogation, the bits where the housemates talked about each other behind their backs etc. to try and get them to tesify against each other.

Re:In Soviet Russia (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080204)

That also happened to some people I knew in the UK, the police monitored their house via their POTS phone.

I don't really see how that's possible.

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080216)

That also happened to some people I knew in the UK, the police monitored their house via their POTS phone.

Bah, bloody thing posted when I hit Enter.

I don't really see how that's possible. When the handset is on-hook, the microphone is disconnected. This is a requirement for BABT compliance.

Re:In Soviet Russia (5, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080302)

That also happened to some people I knew in the UK, the police monitored their house via their POTS phone. .

I don't really see how that's possible. When the handset is on-hook, the microphone is disconnected. This is a requirement for BABT compliance.
You are correct. The analog POTS system fully disconnects the microphone and speaker when on hook, as per design standards going back to the 1870's. It's not possible to listen in on-hook without modifying the phone. OP is either engaging in "urban legendry", or the incident took place before 1982, when BT still owned the entire phone system (including the sets themselves) and could believably send a technician 'round to "fix the phone".

Re:In Soviet Russia (2, Informative)

CBob (722532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080262)

Both sides have had that ability for quite some time now. Google "infinity transmitter", they used to be avail in kit form in the old Popular Electronics or Radio Electronics circa 1980-ish

What's so alarming here? (5, Interesting)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079342)

The fact that they are using a cellphone case as a carrier for the secondary microphone or that they somehow got a hold of the Mafia's cellphone without them knowing?!

And an open-source cellphone will do you no good when the seperate mic runs straight off the battery inside the phone regardless if your phone is on or not. This is not much different then having the FBI tap your watch, cd-rom drive, or shaver... but I guess that would be pointless since you don't talk to any of those about your secrets right? ...do you?

The real puzzle here is how they managed to swap the real phone with the one that was wired by the FBI, there must have been a mole. And since they got a court order to "monitor" the suspects, is it really that *alarming* that it worked even when the phone was off? Are there limitations as to when you can and cannot monitor dangerous suspects? For example when they sleep, or go to the bathroom, or between the hours of 9-5? Anybody know?

Re:What's so alarming here? (3, Insightful)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079372)

The alarming thing is the possibility that the bug could have been something that was not a physical modification to the phone's hardware, but a software modification. The article suggests that this may have been the case. So while it's probably not the case that the FBI could remotely turn any phone into a bug, the possibility of that being the case is alarming.

Re:What's so alarming here? (2, Insightful)

Anne Honime (828246) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079422)

The alarming thing is the possibility that the bug could have been something that was not a physical modification to the phone's hardware, but a software modification. The article suggests that this may have been the case. So while it's probably not the case that the FBI could remotely turn any phone into a bug, the possibility of that being the case is alarming.

The probability that the judge and the reporter both misunderstood the technical parts of the case is certainly much higher than the probability you can remotely control the microphone of the cellular phone.

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079504)

I agree completely. Ultimately, the only thing truly "alarming" about this story is the idea that it could happen, but the fact that it's still exceedingly unlikely makes the story rather unremarkable.

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

GnuDiff (705847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079636)


Doesn't sound improbable to me at all.

After all, most of the phones already have some kind of voice recording software that controls the mic, too.

I bet any comparatively modern cellphone would be susceptible to this. You might need to get access to the phone for a minute or two with some device (eg laptop with USB-phone cable), to modify the software, sure, if you can't do it remotely. But that's about it.

Re:What's so alarming here? (2, Interesting)

jackalope (99754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079706)

The FBI probably would not need physical access to the phone. They could just use the over-the-radio firmware upgrade feature many phone have to send the target phone some new firmware with the bug software integrated into it.

Yes, the software has bugs, it is supposed to have bugs.

Re:What's so alarming here? (3, Insightful)

nchip (28683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079704)

It is probably feasible with Qualcomm BREW based handsets in cdma networks. CDMA operator has power to "push" content, including applications to you device. BREW apps can access your microphone and don't necessary need to be visible.

GSM networks don't have such delivery systems, and use java for applications. Most phones don't support starting Java midlets automatically to backround, or access microphone. Even when in background, running applications are visible somewhere in the menus.

Basically the java applets are sandboxed, while BREW apps are signed by the operator to be "trustable".

Re:What's so alarming here? (4, Interesting)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079948)

The Irish networks are GSM and it's reasonably well known that the networks can turn on and control phones with the signature of a sufficiently senior police officer.

I'm actually surprised more people here hadn't heard about it.

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

Anne Honime (828246) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080106)

I'm sorry that I was misunderstood myself ; I was by no way implying that it's absolutely impossible to remotely bug a cell phone. But I don't think it's reasonably practical to do it, for a number of reasons, and I think anyway it makes a better headline to imply the contrary. Hence, my belief it's easier to bug conventionaly a phone (rewiring the mic or something like this) rather than fussing with the firmware, and I find it more probable the reporter exagerated the story.

Think about it for a minute : how long does a battery last while the phone is idle ? About a week generaly. How long does it last while phoning ? 2, maybe 5 hours ? And nobody would notice the depletion with the bug turned on ? Come on.

Re:What's so alarming here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079976)

As far as I know the 3G cell phone standard *explicitly* requires that phones can be remotely activated, even when the user turned it "off". Unfortunately I never got hold of a copy of the standards (they are rather expensive and I'm not close enough to that business to have it floating around in the vicinity. Plus, I'd probably just get lost in the thousands of pages).
Did noone ever wonder why battery life decreases even when his cell phone is "off"? A right, Slashdot readers don't ever turn their phones off.

I was told: if you have an important meeting and want to be safe from espionage, have all participants drop their cell phones in a box before they enter the room. That, or take out the batteries - but that's far less practical.

Posted as AC, on purpose.

Re:What's so alarming here? (5, Informative)

Yokaze (70883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079386)

The poster of the story seems to be under the false impression that the FBI activated the mobile phone's integrated microphone. This would have been quite alarming. However, if he (or the original author) had read the affidavit correctly (as you probably did), he'd notice that they just bugged him. (Point 3: "[...] through a listening device placed in the cellular phone [...]").

Re:What's so alarming here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079458)

placing a listening device in the cell phone could be equally easily interpreted as installing a microphone OR installing software to activate the microphone and transmitter that are already there.

c/net says it was the internal microphone (5, Interesting)

femto (459605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079586)

According to c/net it was the internal microphone [com.com] . They give some consideration to the possibility of a separate bug but conclude the weight of evidence points to the internal microphone being activated without the owner's knowledge.

While I'm at it I'll repeat a comment I posted on Technocrat:

Given that all mobile/cell phones are required to be locatable (its for your own safety remember?) and need to be accurately synchronised with a base station, what are the chances of forming a phased array using all microphones within a certain radius of a point? That way one could eavesdrop on a conversation well away from the nearest mobile phone.

I would guess that there is no need for a super accurate location or time. Measure the two as close as possible then record all streams from mobiles in the area. Next feed the whole lot into a super computer and do a big cross correlation with sliding windows centred about the best guess at relative phase (based on the measured location and time).

It is worth noting that the wavelength of the radio signals a mobile phone uses is comparable to the wavelength of the audio frequencies of the human voice. Thus in theory it is possible for a mobile phone base station to locate a mobile phone to within a fraction of an audio wavelength, exactly what is needed for a phased array.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (2, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079808)

Umm, cell phones aren't required to be locatable. It's a byproduct of the technology used (as with any radio device) which means they are locatable whether there's a requirement or not.

As for the phased array, does it take into account things like pockets? Not to mention you'd need very detailed weather patterns to cope with the wind carrying sound, Doppler etc.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (1)

jcknox (456591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080088)

Actually, all new cell phones in the US are required to have internal GPS receivers so they can be located when dialing 911. All of the cell phones I've seen recently have a menu option for making this data available to services other than 911 so that location data can be pushed to mapping services, etc.

Many of the phones will show you your position (Lat/Lon) if you know how to get to the engineering/test menus -- unless you are stuck with Verizon (like I am) -- they handicap all of their phones in the false hope of being able to sell me the included features as an add-on later.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (2, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080344)

Actually, all new cell phones in the US are required to have internal GPS receivers so they can be located when dialing 911.
A nice idea in theory, but in practice it's largely useless. The nature of GPS is such that the receiver needs to have a fairly unobstructed view of a large sector of sky for a goodly amount of time in order to calculate position. It works passably well when someone's outdoors, not under any cover (including trees), and holding the phone up to their head. When the phone in your pocket, on your belt in a case, indoors, or in the car, GPS is not going to work.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080360)

that is not true, they must have GPS OR enhanced triangulation from cell towers.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079954)

Given that all mobile/cell phones are required to be locatable (its for your own safety remember?) and need to be accurately synchronised with a base station, what are the chances of forming a phased array using all microphones within a certain radius of a point?

I work with sonar systems, not cell phones, so I don't know how accurately you can timestamp the data stream from a cell, or how accurate the position location information is. However, given the speed of sound in air (333 m/s) and band of interest (200-4000 Hz), I can say you would need position accuracy within a few centimeters and timing accuracy better than tens of microseconds.

That said, if you had a hell of a lot of processing power, you could tap all the cell phones in an area and use a process called bicorrelation (or maybe even tricorrelation) to try to dig out individual voices, without having to know exactly where the phones are, or having them synchronized. It's just an O((n log n)^2) = O(n^3) algorithm or so.

All that said, I've been told that if you have the cell phone's serial number, you can remotely command it to switch on the microphone, and record the audio stream coming back from it, if you control the local cell network. The phone may indicate that it is switched on, and you can probably turn it off, but you have to notice it. The phone won't ring or vibrate if you turn the microphone on remotely.

Re:c/net says it was the internal microphone (1)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080340)

This is a fascinating idea, but I wonder if the cell phones could actually be located accurately enough. My understanding of cell phones is that each phone is "located" in the sense that the tower that it's communicating with is reported to 911 operators. Perhaps different cell phone towers could compare the time delay of the phone signals and perform triangulation? If so, this would seem to require nanosecond timing accuracy (1 foot at lightspeed takes 1 ns) and I'm not sure that's feasible across the country. Someone mentioned GPS receivers, but those are only accurate to within 10s of meters unless they're very expensive fixed geological stations as far as I know.

Re:What's so alarming LIAR! PHONE NOT ALTERRED! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079628)

NOT TRUE! LIES!

Parent poster is lying and trying to coverup the shocking truth! (parent is a fed shill?)! Parent post did not cite section three PROPERLY of wiretap judge affidavit.p1.120106.pdf. Read it yourselves folks and spot the blatant parent post lie The FBI used the blanket method "OR OTHER MEANS" as clearly specified in the document. No modification to the cell phone was made AT ALL. No mods needed. (or feasable)

There are actually a few secret goodies available to the feds in many modern cell phones.

First... Sat based GPS is NOT required in most cells phones to silently get precise location, as per FCC device regulations and as per millions of dollars in levied and honored fines to lagging noncompliant cell providers.

also part of underwraps subsections of ETSI LI spec framework for LI (Lawful Interception) hint at leveraging the E911 feature that makes a cell not be able to disconnect if a 911 operator toggles a cell phone into "stay online no matter what" mode. Heck, ive played with that mode once... had to rip out the battery! (no way to hang up). Technology was added to prevent poor signal drops during a 911 call, but then used to keep line open while victim is delirious or expiring. For docs, Just look for harvesting all spec docs starting with S3LI03 prefix on the net. Or hang around Cryptome or usual places.

Regarding the gov tracking your movements in real time (if battery not removed from your non-GPS cell : 1996 the FCC defined a fancier "E911 Phase 2" for more precise ALI information to PSAPs using latitude and longitude information, and to identify a mobile caller's location within 125 meters (410 feet) 67% of the time to the PSAP. A PSAP is one of over 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), some route , some deal directly with initial public calls. FCC 97-402 CC Docket No. 94-102 rules (October 1, 1996). besides the 34-bit Mobile Identification Number (MIN), being sent in Phase I of E911, the 34 bit MIN accepted a "call back' even without a valid phone number, as the 1996 regulation also stipulates that CELL PHONES WITH NO CONTRACT OR DORMANT DEVICES MUST HAVE FREE ACCESS TO 911 service, no matter what. The tracking protocol is independant of billing accept/reject.

To allow the cell to be detected within 410 feet WITHOUT GPS, cell phone towers use triangulation methods automated with cellular geolocation systems involving time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA)

As for REMOB mode of cell phone (remote observation) the details seem to be partially vender unique, but it is suspected that the table is trivially assigned via Mobile Identification Number (MIN) table lookup in REMOB snitch mode.

PLEASE NOTE that the court documents allowing the voice tapping of the MAFIA suspect stated "OR OTHER MEANS". the "OR OTHER MEANS" is the non modified NON_ALTERRED original cell phone being merely set in a VOX mode for packet burst with simple threshold to sleep unless steady VOX activation, controlled partly by other terminal point. Otherwise battery of a modern cell will last only a few hours.

I cannot believe all the fools in this thread that actually believe the FBI has ability to add devices INSIDE a modified cell phone. Yeah... like there's lots of empty space!!! The judges papers said OR OTHER MEANS and this other means is the REMOB mode. Similar to onstar silent snitch mode in Cadillacs.

If you really want to panic... the FBI buys the RFID scans of all the points on NY turnpike that record car tire RFID that the TREAD act mandates to allow gov to uniquely track movements of all cars by untamperable chips in the tires... even at 90 miles and hour adn 12 feet away (though instead of overpasses for RFID car tires as in parts of I-75, reading coils UNDER the pavement are used, as with the RFID tire impressions collected at canadian border customs booths.

sorry for all the lazy typos. I am very tired. an i know that factual anon posts stay +0 until the FBI shills squelch them to -1 rapidly with there grooming accounts they use here to stifle agitator insider posts like this one.

Mod up! (0, Redundant)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079782)

Whether the parent post is correct or not, it certaily deserves an "interesting" mod.

-jcr

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080138)

Cell phones are so heavily engineered for size, it's hard to imagine that the listening device was anything other than software -- most phones simply don't have room to hide a separate mic.

Re:What's so alarming here? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079414)

Um, actually, i think thats exactly what they did. TFA says "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone."..."remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

they don't steal the phone and put in a microphone and the software to run it. They send the phone software over the cell net that activates the built-in microphone discretely.

Maybe there should be a cellphone version of Little Snitch to guard against this kind of thing.

Re:What's so alarming here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079460)

The alarming part is that "the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance". It's entirely understandable that the judge would see this as justification for spying on them. Next people will be refusing to have spy cameras in their homes and of course that will mean that the government is justified in placing spy cameras in their homes. It's good to see the Courts still protect us from such fiends who seek to preserve their right to privacy.

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079670)

Good to see your comprehension of English doesn't outweigh your knee jerk abilities. Otherwise you would have seen that was only one fact that was considered, along with at least 1 other fact accompanying it (more likely many more facts).

Re:What's so alarming here? (2, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079676)

All aboard the clue train, last stop is A.C.:

FBI: "Judge, these guys are mafia and they're not falling for the typical eavesdropping routines."
Judge: "Ok, try planting bugs in their cell phones." /signs warrant

Not everyone trying to preserve their privacy is doing so for good reasons. The purpose of a warrant is to isolate the shitbags who are hiding something illegal before invading their personal lives. It's the 4th amendment: Reasonable suspicion that you're covering something up voids your right to privacy.

Re:What's so alarming here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079792)

The test for issuance of a warrant is actually probable cause, not reasonable suspicion. Probable cause is a stricter test and makes your point a bit stronger.


From the Bill of Rights (emphasis mine): The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

From Wikipedia: PROBABLE CAUSE - In the context of warrants, the Oxford Companion to American Law defines probable cause as "information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime (for an arrest warrant) or that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search (for a search warrant)." "Probable cause" is a stronger standard of evidence than a reasonable suspicion, but weaker than what is required to secure a criminal conviction. Even hearsay can supply probable cause if it is from a reliable source or is supported by other evidence. REASONABLE SUSPICION - Reasonable suspicion is evaluated using the "reasonable person" or "reasonable officer" standard, in which said person in the same circumstances could reasonably believe a person has been, is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity; such suspicion is not a mere hunch. Police may also, based solely on reasonable suspicion of a threat to safety, frisk a suspect for weapons, but not for contraband like drugs. A combination of particular facts, even if individually innocuous, can form the basis of reasonable suspicion.

For example, if you see a genuinely "suspicious person" standing on a corner with a bulge in his front pocket, you may have reasonable suspicion that it may be something illegal. You don't have probable cause to believe so until you see him do something that corroborates your suspicion, such as make a "hand-off".

Re:What's so alarming here? (1)

deviceb (958415) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079850)

ya, any mic can be made a bug. thats old news.. I have a mic and & cam staring me in the face atm, and no way to physically unplug it from my laptop /shrug
and then there is always the tracking device hidden inside your tooth..

Re:What's so alarming here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080090)

What is a "dangerous suspect[]"?

FBI? (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079344)

I bet that the NSA uses "feature" a lot more than the FBI, and when they do it they certainly don't tell anybody about it.

The big difference is that the NSA will use this for counter-terrorism and also for industrial espionage, while the FBI probably only really uses it for crime investigation.

Re:FBI? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079400)

Industrial Espionage? Get over Euroself. AirBus got caught bribing officials.

Re:FBI? (1)

Captain Jack Taylor (976465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079750)

Mmm, quite probably, and it's too bad. It's quite a useful technique when it's used for legitimate surveillance.

The Solution (4, Insightful)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079362)

Remove the battery.

Or better yet, don't have one!

Re:The Solution (3, Interesting)

rjdegraaf (712353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079450)

... or stick on one of those funny led-light-devices which lights up when the phone transmits data.

Re:The Solution (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079970)

I did that once and it must be broke. The thing lighted up all da time. Fohgedaboutit.

the Mafia? (1)

s16le (963839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079378)

I didn't know those dagos are still around.

In that same vein, I'm careful not to use software that was written by Italians(that means no python!), because last time I ran something coded by a dago, I spent the next week pulling greasy body hair out of my cpu fan. It was disgusting to say the least.

Thankfully, it's easy to mod your phone (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079426)

Due to the design of cell phones, it's actually very easy to modify a phone so that it gives a clear visual indication of whether it is transmitting or not.

If, for whatever reason, your phone starts transmitting (be it on a call, or because the FBI have remotely activated it), then some LEDs can be configured to light or flash - providing clear visual feedback. This could be a bit more convenient than removing the battery except when needed.

In fact, you can get the modification kits ready for use, for less than $5 - and installation, can take less than 30 seconds.

These kits are more usually sold as novelties for 'ricing' phones, but they can also be used for serious purposes:
Example kit [ebay.com]

Re:Thankfully, it's easy to mod your phone (1)

Ziwcam (766621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079886)

When I was in Germany, a local Chinese restaurant would hand out cutsie little bangles that you could attach to the top of your cellphone that would blink when your phone was transmitting and receiving. They would also go off if someone within a few feet of you was also on their phone...

I find it amusing that those frilly foo-foo things could be used to combat legal (or illegal) eavesdropping.

My Opinion (2, Informative)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079444)

As someone who has on several occasions had to listen to my brother's phone pick up in his pocket without him realizing, I don't think this is much of a problem. If the FBI wants to listen to my pocket lint, more power to them.

Re:My Opinion (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079624)

Of course, because you have nothing to hide. For now.

where's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079446)

At least here, in Estonia, this technique has been in use for many years. I'm sure same goes for all other EU countries. Btw, if you remove the phone's battery, you still can't be sure it's powered down... sometimes the police install a second, hidden battery in the phone.

I guess this also has been going on in the US for years. But I guess the US gov is so f*cked up in every possible way that nothing really matters when it comes to "protecting the world from terrorists". Even if it's illegal. So for-god(f*ck that too)-knows-what now they need to make this spying legal. Big news.

Re:where's the news? (4, Funny)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079488)

> sometimes the police install a second, hidden battery in the phone

You guys must have some awfully big c-phones there in Estonia.

Re:where's the news? (1)

Simon Garlick (104721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079552)

Given the state of the mobile-phone industry in the USA--i.e., five years behind the rest of the world--my money would be on Estonia having the better hardware.

As long as there's a court order... (5, Insightful)

plnrtrvlr (557800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079468)

...then I don't care whose phone is getting bugged or how. Technology is constantly changing, so our abilities to moniter the public changes as well. It is the job of the courts to assure the public that this does not occur without probable cause. As long as there was a court order to bug the mob guys' phone, I don't care how they do it. I just want constant assurances that our government is allowing judicial oversight. This is all just a rehash of the same old story from back in the days when they were first tapping phone lines across the street from Ma Bell's switchboard.

Re:As long as there's a court order... (4, Insightful)

idlake (850372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079696)

It is the job of the courts to assure the public that this does not occur without probable cause.

Well, as the Bush administration has shown, it's not the job of the courts to do this. And if spying becomes as simple as pushing a bunch of buttons, you can be certain that people will do it without a court order.

This is all just a rehash of the same old story from back in the days when they were first tapping phone lines across the street from Ma Bell's switchboard.

Well, no, it isn't. That required physical access and had significant costs associated with it. Now, the costs are considerably lower, and surveillance follows the person around. That changes things considerably.

Overall, it's a question of balance, not black-or-white-it's-all-the-same style arguments, like you're making.

Re:As long as there's a court order... (2, Insightful)

plnrtrvlr (557800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079984)

Actually, the argument you are making is totally different..... I've said "as long as there's a court order" and you've said "but the Bush Admin has shown......" Well, this is the crux, isn't it? As long as the law is followed and a court order is issued before such surveilance occurs, no big deal. "The Bush administration has shown they ignore the law" is a different argument. If the law is followed, it's only the tech that has changed. And according to the article, this new tech still requires physical access first...........

Re:As long as there's a court order... (0)

idlake (850372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080026)

"The Bush administration has shown they ignore the law" is a different argument. If the law is followed, it's only the tech that has changed.

It's not a different argument at all; my point is that if you make it easy to do these things, the government will invariably abuse the technology sooner or later. Nixon showed that there was the desire (but not the ability), Bush showed that there was the ability (but perhaps not the desire), and sooner or later, both ability and desire will meet in the same administration.

And according to the article, this new tech still requires physical access first...........

You misread the article; in fact, the article was pretty clear that (1) this can be done without physical access, and (2) the government is probably doing it without physical access but just doesn't want to admit it.

The old 'it is legal' argument. (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080272)

We're not falling for that one! I can't wait until a Democrat controlled gov't uses these privacy-invading laws to expose fundamental religious 'tards for mistreating the litters of children they keep shitting out! You can't hit your kid with a stick if he misbehaves, Mr. Savage, this is 2006.

(See, it goes both ways)

Re:As long as there's a court order... (2, Informative)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080096)

Just because the Bush administration ignored the Constitution and broke the law does not change the fact that it IS the job of the courts to issue warrants for wiretaps. Just because wiretapping is so easy that the President authorizes it without a warrant does not make that authorization legal.

Your argument that physical access and high cost made tapping phone lines legal is just weird. Just because the costs are lower and there's new technology shouldn't change the principle behind the wiretapping laws. With probable cause the FBI can get a warrant to take your computer, too. They can get a warrant to bug your office, and even hide a bug on you as in this cell phone case. Keeping the process transparent to the courts is critical to avoiding abuses, which is why Bush kept his illegal wiretapping secret. You're right about one thing: people will abuse power if they can get away with it. But again, just because they get away with it does not make it less illegal.

I appreciate that some laws may be interpreted and are not always black and white, but in this case it's just the technology that has changed, and not the law. But good laws SHOULD be black and white because what good are legal grey areas? That's why the courts interpret the laws, to make them less grey.

Re:As long as there's a court order... (1, Insightful)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079770)


"It is the job of the courts to assure the public that this does not occur without probable cause."

We have a 2nd Amendment to make sure the WE can enforce the 1st.

RELYING on a court to provide for your Freedom and Liberty, when you have NO RIGHT to a Writ of Habeas Corpus is just plain dumb.

You might NEVER SEE A COURT.

Hmmmm (1)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079470)

I have no doubt the ability to record from the microphone when the phone is off is available to certain people, most phones nowdays have alarms where you can set it for a time - turn the phone off and it will turn itself back on at the specific time and sound your alarm. Now if you think about what does this, then surely there are other abilities built into using the phone when you believe it is "off". Hell, the whole "geographic communications cell that the call was made in is stored with the details of the call" giving away your location, and then being able to pinpoint it via triangulation from other cells is worrying enough.

It seems as if with the advent of mobiles taking over from landlines in the vast majority of calls, network operators are being made to (or doing it for their own reasons) to provide vast amounts of information and features so that calls and conversations can be tracked like this. It's all very well catching criminals (although the Orwellian feelings are building within me already), but what happens when it's misused. This situation reminds me very much of ISPs and net service providers with the email tracking/reading and browsing history situations.

I must then ask (3, Interesting)

the_REAL_sam (670858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079474)


Which phone manufacturers did NOT sell all of its customers out to the government? Perhaps there are specific model numbers that are not compromised? Or perhaps before a certain year?

Anyhow...if I unplug the phone battery it's off for sure...right?

Re:I must then ask (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079710)

Which phone manufacturers did NOT sell all of its customers out to the government?


The ones with low profits & high taxes over the last decade.

Technically feasible (1)

ruppel (82583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079554)

The activation of cell phones microphones by the underlying network is actually possible with a lot of mobile phones (maybe all of them). The finnish government has had a guideline for classified meetings in place since the early nineties that strictly mandates all cell phones to have their batteries removed during the meeting because of exactly this possibility.

secrets of cell phones (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079564)

there are actuially a few secret goodies available to the feds in many modern cell phones.

First... Sat based GPS is NOT required in most cells phones to silently get perecise location, as per FCC device regulations and as per millions of dollars in levied and honored fines to lagging noncompliant cell providers.

also part of underwraps subsections of ETSI LI spec framework for LI (Lawful Interception) hint at leveraging the E911 feature that makes a cell not be able to disconenct if a 911 operator toggles a cell phone into "stay online no matter what" mode. Heck, ive played with that mode once... had to rip out the battery! (no way to hang up). Technology was added to prevent poor signal drops during a 911 call, but then used to keep line open while victim is delirious or expiring. For docs, Just look for havesting all spec docs starting with S3LI03 prefix on the net. Or hang around Cryptome or usual places.

Regarding the gocv tracking your movements in real time (if battery not removed from your non-GPS cell : 1996 the FCC defined a fancier "E911 Phase 2" for more precise ALI information to PSAPs using latitude and longitude information, and to identify a mobile caller's location within 125 meters (410 feet) 67% of the time to the PSAP. A PSAP is one of over 6,000 Public Safety Answering
Points (PSAP), some route , some deal directly with initial public calls. FCC 97-402 CC Docket No. 94-102 rules (i.e., by October 1, 1996). besides the 34-bit Mobile Identification Number (MIN), being sent in Phase I of E911, the 34 bit MIN accepted a "call back' even without a valid phone number, as the 1996 regulation also stipulates that CELL PHONES WITH NO CONTRACT OR DORMANT DEVICES MUST HAVE FREE ACCESS TO 911 service, no matter what. The tracking protocol is indepentdant of billing accept/reject.

To allow the cell to be detected within 410 feet WITHOUT GPS, cell phone towers use triangulation methods automated with cellular geolocation systems involving time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA)

As for REMOB mode of cell phone (remote observation) the details seem to be partially vender unique, but it is supected that the table is trivially assined via Mobile Identification Number (MIN) table lookup in REMOB snitch mode.

PLEASE NOTE that the court documents allowing the voice tapping of the MAFIA suspect stated "OR OTHER MEANS". the "OR OTHER MEANS" is the non modified NON_ALTERRED original cell phone being merely set in a VOX mode for packet burst with simple threshold to sleep unless steady VOX activation, controlled partly by other terminal point. Otherwise battery of a modern cell will last only a few hours.

I cannot believe all the fools in this thread that actually believe the FBI has ability to add devices INSIDE a modified cell phone. Yeah... like theres lots of empty space!!! The judges papers said OR OTHER MEANS and this other means is the REMOB mode. Similar to onstar silent snithc mode in cadillacs.

If you really want to panic... the FBI buys the RFID scans of all the points on NY turnpike taht record car tire RFID that the TREAD act mandates to allow gov to uniquely track movements of all cars by untamperable chips in the tires... even at 90 miles and hour adn 12 feet away (though instaed of overpasses for RFID car tires as in parts of I-75, reading coils UNDER the pavement are used, as with the RFID tire impressions collected at canadian border customs booths.

sorry for all the lazy typos. I am very tired. an i know that factual anon posts stay +0 until the FBI shills squelch them to -1 rapidly with there grooming accounts they use here to stifle agitatant insider posts like this one.

Re:secrets of cell phones (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079692)

They don't track cars via the tires. They detect cars by detecting the body of the car or the pressure exerted on a hose in the asphalt. They can also use EZ-pass to track. But this isn't much of a concern as they could just have toll operators write the license plate down of everything that goes through.

Re:secrets of cell phones - WRONG! RFID tires real (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079870)

WRONG! The feds do in fact log all car tires that pass secret monitoring points on certain highways and have for many years since T.R.E.A.D. was enacted by law. License plates are transferrable and also not 100% discernable.

It is a US felony to commercially import or sell auto tires that do not have a sanctioned spy chip RFID radio transpnders in them, with a unique GUID for every tire.

A secret initiative exists to track all funnel-points on interstates and US borders for car tire ID transponders (RFID chips embedded in the tire).

Your tires have a passive coil with 64 to 128 bit serial number emitter in them! (AIAG B-11 ADC v3.0) . A particular frequency energizes it enough so that a receiver can read its little ROM. A ROM which in essence is your GUID for your TIRE. Multiple tires do not confuse the readers. Its almost identical to all "FastPass" "SpeedPass" technologies you see on gasoline keychain dongles and commuter windshield sticker-chips. The US gov has secretly started using these chips to track people as far back as 2002.

I am not making this up. Melt down a high end Firestone, or Bridgestone tire and go through the bits near the rim (sometimes at base of tread) and you will locate the transmitter (similar to 'grain of rice' pet ids and Mobile SpeedPass, but not as high tech as the tollbooth based units). Sokymat LOGI 160, and Sokymat LOGI 120 transponder buttons are just SOME of the transponders found in modern high end car tires. The AIAG B-11 Tire tracking standard is now implemented for all 3rd party transponder manufactures [covered below].

The US Customs service uses it in Canada to detect people who swap license plates on cars when doing a transport of contraband on a mule vehicle that normally has not logged enough hours across the border.

Photos of untamperable tracking chips before molded deep into tires! :
http://www.sokymat.com/index.php?id=94 [sokymat.com]

the first subcontracter secretly hired for providing gear for bulk logging of tire RFID on highways in 2002 was :
http://web.archive.org/web/20021014102238/telemati cs-wireless.com/divisions.html [archive.org]

ALL USA cars can be radio tracked using the tires. Refer to tire standard AIAG B-11 ADC, (B-11 is coincidentally Post Sept 11 fastrack initiative by US Gov to speed up tire chip standardization to one read-back standard for highway usage).

The AIAG is "The Automotive Industry Action Group"

The non proprietary (non-sokymat controlled) standard is the AIAG B-11 standard is the "Tire Label and Radio Frequency Identification" standard

"ADC" stands for "Automatic Data Collection"

The "AIDCW" is the US gov manipulated "Automatic Identification Data Collection Work Group"

The standard was started and finished rapidly in less than a year as a direct consequence of the Sep 11 attacks by Saudi nationals.

All tire manufacturers were forced to comply AIAG B-11 3.0 Radio Tire tracking standard by the 2004 model year.

(B-11: Tire & Wheel Label & Radio Frequency ID(RFID) Standard)

http://mows.aiag.org/source/Orders/index.cfm?task= 3&CATEGORY=AUTOIDBC&PRODUCT_TYPE=SALES&SKU=B-11 [aiag.org]

(use google cache to glance at that link if you are a hacker, all access to that page is watched by the feds, as are orders.)

A huge (28 megabyte compressed zip) video of a tire being scanned remotely was at http://mows.aiag.org/ScriptContent/videos/ [aiag.org] (the file is "video Aiagb-11.zip").
THAT LINK was still valid as recently as Feb 2004, long after my 2002 ignored warnings on slashdot. But in July 2004 died after feds saw my origianl warnings regarding T.R.E.A.D. act (RFID citizen tracking)

Just as showerheads are now illegal to import into the USA from Canada or mexico, as are drums of industrial Freon, and standard size toilets are illegal to import for home use, now car tires lacking spy radio transponders (RFID) are illegal to commercially bring across state borders.

US Congress's recently passed Transportation Recall Enactment, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD or T.R.E.A.D.) making it illegal to import or sell car tires and light truck tires without these radio transmitting RFID coils readable on them to track us citizens in a retroactive database. The New York throughway has over 200 RFID reader points and I am not discussing the few at actual exits I am talking about 200 along the highway itself. New York says its for "safety" though they already get over 20 FBI subpoenas per year for RFID records from these transmitters. They get full computer files each time, but the FBI wants fresh data.

The TREAD act is just a branch of the Patriot Act, though much more sinister.

TREAD link (not a great one, look toward bottom) : http://www.zebra.com/id/zebra/na/en/index/rfid/faq s/rfid_considerations_specific_industries.html [zebra.com]

Goodyear, Michelin and other tire manufacturers are claiming TREAD is the reason they are forced to put in spy RFID transmitter chips in all tires... not whims. A bylaw document addendum for TREAD is merely one strongarm tactic by feds that aided it to be fully adopted. AIAG manipulation was another.

Goodyear RFID tires from TREAD :
SNIPPET QUOTE EXCERPT:
"Tires have to have a unique identification number called a DOT number," he said. "Cars have a vehicle identification number. Under the TREAD Act, carmakers have to associate the unique number on each tire with the VIN of the car it's put on. RFID offers a cheaper way to do that association

web source : http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/122 3/1/1/ [rfidjournal.com]

Michelin RFID tires from TREAD :

SNIPPET QUOTE EXCERPT:
"The tire industry faces regulatory pressures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requiring tire companies to monitor pressure and temperature in tires as part of the Tread Act, a much-publicized law passed in 2000 in response to the rollovers of Ford Motor Co.'s Explorers equipped with certain Firestone tires. The Tread Act states that the vehicle identification numbers must correlate with the Department of Transportation's number for the tire."

web source : http://informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml ?articleID=49901180 [informationweek.com]

Industry and TREAD RFID ..

SNIPPET QUOTE EXCERPT:

"There are no industry-based automotive mandates out there today. Perhaps the only exception to this is the Tire TREAD Act in which RFID is specified as a method of identifying tires supplied to OEMs. The U.S. Congress passed the TREAD (Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act after the Firestone/Ford Explorer issues emerged. The act mandates that carmakers closely track tires from the 2004 model year on, so they can be recalled if there is a problem. "

web source : http://www.zebra.com/id/zebra/na/en/index/rfid/faq s/rfid_considerations_specific_industries.html [zebra.com]

Industry abd RFID TREAD :
SNIPPET QUOTE EXCERPT:
"For example, Michelin and Goodyear plan to use RFID to aid their compliance with the Transportation, Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act."

web source : http://www.fawcette.com/wss/2003_10/magazine/colum ns/trends/ [fawcette.com]

How effective is reading and logging car tire transmitter chips? 100% effective at highways speeds. Here is a meticulous research PDF paper entitled "Test Report : Single-lane Vehicle identification with UHF RFID"

http://www.ipico.co.za/technology/Whitepapers/Sing [ipico.co.za] le-lane%20EVI%20Test%20Report%2020030618.pdf

And that shows a LOW POWER 4 watt reader at a height of 5.7 meters (18.7 feet) above a passive RFID coil product can read at speeds of 160 km/h for common tollway type RFID. The US feds buy >4watt readers and also use better gear. And the feds have scored the highway surface to embed RFID wires too.

Learn and read. Every word in this post is sadly factual. The USA records car traffic on highways into databases for retroactive searches.

Please quit trying to coverup the shocking truth with lies denying these truths. When I claimed the feds have databases of car movement on certain highway chokepoints (I-75 for example) that use soley tire RFID, I am not making it up.

But now expect me to end up with an inexplicable poisoning death/suicide for taking the time to point out these facts.

I was also the one to point out the forensic yellow dots in us printer firmware 5 years before the press learned about it.

I also exposed gasoline taggants first. (The gas taggants, NOT CAR TIRE TREADS, were used to back trace the purchase of the fuel used in the many georgia arsons a year back to catch the prankster-arsonists) The fbi falsely claimed tire tread and good hard work caught the arsonists... it was the chemical taggant forsed into all gasoline batches by secret federal laws. (a binary number based on trace non-volatile chemicals, semi unique per gas station delivery).

FBI "Taggants" are in in fertilizer and "Taggants" in Gasoline and Bullets, and Blackpowder (smoke-powder for muzzle loading).

Taggant chemical research papers :
  http://www.wws.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/byteserv.prl/ ~ota/disk3/1980/8017/801705.PDF [princeton.edu]
(remove spaces in url from slashcode if needed)

Anyways... eventually EVERY highway will record car travel of ALL cars for reverse lookup after the fact, to lookup where a known car was in the past.

Its simple, they want to know where a car was, they can LEGALLY radio read your tires without a warrant, then cross index into older databases from the days before.

TREAD took away all usa freedoms.

No one cares.

No one cares that cell phones can silently VOX xmit packets in special REMOB mode for LI either, or log your precise movements, if a judge rubberstamps a warrant.

Re:secrets of cell phones - WRONG! RFID tires real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080010)

This would need the cooperation of every mechanics shop that sold tires, similar to the system set up for tracking gun purchases. And you could just buy the tires yourself with cash. I'm calling bullshit.

Re:secrets of cell phones - WRONG! RFID tires real (2, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080318)

maybe, maybe not.

Sure you can buy the tires in cash and put them on with no paper trail to tie them back to you. However, how hard would that be to correlate?

As soon as you go through a toll booth or a detector with a camera nearby, it would be trivial to tie your tire IDs to your cars License plate. In fact, they wouldn't even need to do it en mass. All they need to do is store the data.

Then when they have an ID to look for, they can go back and see when they saw it previously, or where it has been since.

Once you have detectors in place, it becomes a data mining issue. Put some of them at toll booths, where they already have cameras, and hell, with speed pass, they should be able to correlate your tires with your car the first time you use your speed pass.

-Steve

Re:secrets of cell phones - WRONG! RFID tires real (1)

drrobin_ (131741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080152)

Where can I learn more?

Re:secrets of cell phones - WRONG! RFID tires real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080320)

thanks, good post.

The Article Points Out (2, Insightful)

cybercrime (930352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079606)

Several ways which suggest that FBI and Nextel were able to actually activate the built-in cell phone microphone remotely, or least use the cellular network to obtain some remote surveillance.

The affidavit seeking the court order lists the target's phone number his 15-digit International Mobile Subscriber Identifier, and lists Nextel as the service provider. Why would they have to disclose this information to the court if they were just planting an ordinary bug which requires none of the above information? Maybe the affiant wanted to create a diversion for the thousands of slashdoters who would read it and wonder how they did it, or maybe there was a legitimate reason to put all of this information in the affidavit and actually use Nextel's network and the phone capabilities to listen on the target.

Not the issue... here is the issue. (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079632)

Assuming cell phones can be listened on in the way described, I have this to say. The issue is whether the government is forcing cell phone manufacturers to include backdoors.

Re:Not the issue... here is the issue. (1)

Cheeze (12756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079824)

and also if they are letting the government listen in without warrants, and violating the phone owner's right to privacy.

Re:Not the issue... here is the issue. (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079852)

The government already has before for other products, such as scanners and printers for various purposes. And it was kept secret for quite awhile - do a search on google, slashdot, etc for the articles.

Most scanners are designed to detect the special markings on currency and subsequently will not scan it accurately; most printers are designed likewise.

In addition, in both categories of products, many of them embed a unique identifier in their output. Only realistic way to determine if one's scanner and/or printer is doing this is to use several different units of the product with identical inputs and compare the outputs for differences; would most likely be indicative of tagging.

Ron

maybe they just bought a COTS phone (2, Interesting)

SaberTaylor (150915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079662)

Maybe they just bought a commercial off the shelf (COTS) bugged phone, and surreptitiously replaced the phones after copying the user settings.

These phones went the rounds of the blogs a while ago so I think they're real:
http://www.spyphones.com/ [spyphones.com]

Not to mention you can use a phone itself as a remote GPS tracker. See this link from cruel.com in August:
http://forums.accutracking.com/viewtopic.php?t=494 &postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 [accutracking.com]

Open Src? (2, Insightful)

guysmilee (720583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079702)

An open source cell phone wouldn't fix any of your problems ... there isn't secret software on your cell phone ... imagine a huge company trying to keep a secret like that ... the equipment has simple physical properties that make them easy to assist in snooping no software required. A basic vase in your apartment could be used to pick up sound remotely using some basic physics.

Not so new (2, Informative)

oki900 (60161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079744)

In the cell phreak/hack community this has been suspected for quite some time. It's also suspect that the GPS can be activated regardless of whether you have it set for 911 only or not. If you need total anonymity with a cell around the best thing is to remove the battery completely and if you are still paranoid place a 1k ohm resistor across the positive and negative terminals of the phone (not the battery) to drain the capacitors that may still hold a charge. Further you can remove the antenna which will greatly reduce or eliminate the transmission range of the phone.

Re:Not so new (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079898)

Easier yet, simply turning off phone (if concerned about battery life, then remove it too) and then placing phone into a securely sealed EZ-Pass bag; supplied to EZ-Pass users for use when they don't intend to pay with it at a toll.

Ron

Anyone up for an open-source handset already? (1)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079822)

You mean like the TuxPhone?
http://www.opencellphone.org/index.php?title=Main_ Page [opencellphone.org]

Or the FIC Linux phone that SlashGear talked about last month?
http://www.slashgear.com/fic-linux-cellphone-can-i t-capture-the-imagination-of-the-open-source-commu nity-072392.php [slashgear.com]

Known feature of cellular handsets (1)

smithfarm (862287) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079860)

This is a known feature of cellular handsets. At least here in Europe it is. There's no way to turn it off, although you can get around it by removing the battery or leaving the phone at home. Politicians and businessmen here routinely remove the batteries from their cell-phones during sensitive negotiations. Basically, carrying a cell-phone is like voluntarily carrying a remote-controlled mic with you everywhere.

There are relatively easy hard-wire mods (at least for some phones) to make the light on your cell-phone activate whenever the phone is transmitting. That way at least you know when you're being listened in on.

I heard about this in the local (European) news several years back...

Alarming? Disturbing? (1)

Cardiakke (953559) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079866)

What is alarming or disturbing about the FBI obtaining a warrant to eavesdrop on criminals???

Key Words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079890)

"FBI had obtained a court order"

Nothing to see here.

Re:Key Words: (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079918)

When the "terrorists" are all gone this will be used for copyright enforcement "But the FBI agent recorded a conversation of you discussing new ways to get past WMV13 DRM"

Re:Key Words: (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079922)

Problem is that court orders are handed out like candy... and that's when the government, collectively speaking, even bothers getting one.

What is the penalty for the government, lets say at the Federal level, [b]not[/b] getting a court order?

Ron

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080168)

The "penalty" for getting information without a warrant is that it will be excluded from use at trial: "Exclusionary rule". Also, "fruit of the poisoned tree".. The courts, when looking for remedies for illegal searches came up with this method of providing a disincentive. Collect data illegally, you don't get to use it in court. You don't convict the bad guy, your boss gets on your case, etc.

Mind you, there are all sorts of ways to try and work around it to get excluded evidence into the record, and there are always cries for "let the cops do their job and put those bad guys in jail". But, it IS a fairly effective sanction, when allowed to do it's thing.

This is sort of the problem with the "breaking the wall" between data collection for intelligence and collecting for prosecution.

Easy countermeasure (4, Interesting)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079906)

There's an easy countermeasure to this. The method described is effectively causing the phone to make a call without the GUI showing that a call is being made. You can get very cheap toys that detect the microwave signal when the phone is making a call and light up - some are in the form of a novelty hand or other cradle that the phone sits in. I've found with mine that is will blink every so often as the phone syncs up with the nearest cell. If a call is being made it blinks all the time. So just carry one of these, and if you see it blinking constantly, somebody within 30cm or so is making a call. Take the battery out of your cellphone and see if it stops - if it does, you've been bugged.

Where is "not practical?" (3, Interesting)

takeya (825259) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079914)

No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Sounds like the judge should be impeached, because my constitution doesnt make any exemptions.

I don't like this. (1)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079932)

Yeah, this won't get abused. Big brother is listening to your powered off cell phone just itching to send you to gitmo.

Judge Kaplan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17079934)

This the same Judge from the DeCSS case?

no such thing as privacy now (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17079946)

"alternative methods of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance." - amd what the fuck is wrong with not wanting assholes listening into your private conversation? i would deliberately avoid government surveillance as well, for no reason other then i don't like it. if that's all thats required to spy on your population, america is in BIG trouble

Things heard on Mafia cellphones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080040)

Ohhh Jonnycakes...
Fuggedaboudit...
Tony, she was a who-er...
You talk to da guy about da ting?..
Anyone want some sanguiche?..
oh marone...

deliberately avoided surveillance (1)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080118)

the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance

Ok, so what does that mean, and when exactly is that taken as on offensive/criminal activity ? If you see a cctv camera and go around it, or if you don't take your mobile phone with you on the road, or wear sunglasses and baseball cap, or just simply don't leave your house ? Or what ? Since the wording of the short quote sounds like that avoidance is a bad thing or illegal or something. Is this yet another case of if you didn't do anything you should have nothing to hide (we should make an automatic system like there was in the Demolition Man movie which should automatically fine everyone coming up with that sorry excuse) ?

Easy countermeasure... (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080128)

... place the phone next to any sort of audio equipment. My RAZR spews so much crap all over the spectrum that it's easy to tell when it is talking to the tower -- if it's next to my car stereo, my computer speakers, my clock radio, or a zillion other things I get treated to a characteristic pattern of buzzes as it negotiates with and/or broadcasts to the cell phone net.

To find out if your phone is being used for eavesdropping, just keep it near your stereo.

WHY are Slashdotters of all people surprised?! (4, Interesting)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080140)

I'm not surprised that someone is shocked by this, but what I don't get is how Slashdotters are shocked by this? I mean? This is a technical site, right?

Listen: you have an embedded device that in its normal state is always on-network on a packet network. It has a limited range of connectivity, but this limitation is mitigated by having a large number of serialized access points that are geographically situated so as to make connectivity seamless. The embedded devices are reasonably computationally powerful (much moreso than PCs of a few years ago) and have a digital or soft-user-interface (including the power circuitry, which is not a physical full-throw SPST that connects or disconnects power, but is rather an input that runs through the embedded software). The software itself is secured and controlled by the network administration, and software and content can be "push" downloaded to the devices by the network.

From this description, all of the following seem technically obvious:

1 - You have no control over the software in your phone; the vendors and networks do.

2 - Since said software controls the power interface and user interface, you have no control over (or reason to trust as being consistent with your expectations) these interfaces either.

3 - Your phone could thus be easily set by the network to be "always on" without having any such indications in the user interface. The user interface could continue to give the appearance that you are controlling such functions as power and connectivity when in fact the phone is doing everything opposite from what you believe it is doing. There is no technical reason why a phone can't show "no signal" when it has "full signal" or a blank screen when the rest of it is still live, or that it is not transmitting or engaged in a call when actually it is transmitting.

4 - While on-network (and as we've already established, you as a mere user have no way of knowing with real certainty whether it is on network or off network, you have only your trust in the consistency with your expectations of the embedded software) it is a simple matter to observe at any moment to which access point a given user is connected. In fact, you should know that this is recorded already, or how should they know when you are "roaming" and when you are not. The side effect of this information's recording is that (even if we assume they don't automate triangulation with tower handoffs/multiple towers, which is a silly assumption) it is always known to within a few hundred feet exactly where a given phone is, since the network can clearly see to which tower it is connected.

---
---

I mean... duh.

A cell phone is a bug. Period. Anyone who doesn't get this has clearly not been paying attention. There is absolutely no technical reason (and in some cases it's technically unavoidable) why your cell phone isn't right now:

- Reporting your position to the network, and thus, to anyone who has access to the network's database (e.g. government)

- Altered by software "pushes" from the network to seem off when it's still on, or to transmit whatever the mic pics up anytime you happen to be in a certain part of town between the hours of 7pm-10pm, or to transmit whatever the mic pics up for the 10 minutes after you call some specific number

- Sending your complete contacts list and recent and missed calls lists to the network provider (e.g. government)

I mean, come on, people. Technically this isn't even a question. Whether this actually happens or not is just a matter of policy ("Do we want to track location and bug people?") on the part of networks and the government, certainly not a matter of technology ("Can the equipment do it?")

Of course the equipment can do it.

---
---

Thought experiment for the dubious.

Imagine that you have been assigned by work to carry a laptop with you at all times. This "GovCorp" laptop has a solid-state hard drive so that you can't tell if it's spinning or not and a cool VIA x86 processor so that no fan is needed either. Thus when it's on there is no more "physical motion" to your laptop than there is when it's off.

This laptop has Windows 2000 on it, installed by GovCorp, with whom you have a draconian contract in which you are associated by serial number to the laptop. You don't have the administrator password to this laptop, and aren't able to see most of the software that's installed on it. While GovCorp is very secretive about what the software might be or how it might work, they're happy to admit there's a lot of software on it, and that this is a feature, not a bug.

In the start menu, there is no "Shut down" option, just a "Suspend" option. Suspending and resuming are very reliable on this laptop, and only take a second or two. Of course, there's no hard drive to spin up and no fan, so it's hard to know exactly what it's doing when you suspend, beyond turning the screen off.

The laptop has a built-in mic and you keep most of your communication with friends, your emails to your representatives, a few credit card numbers and transactions, and most of your contacts on the laptop.

The laptop+GovCorp contract came with free network connectivity via a number of clearly labeled GovCorp ethernet jacks around the city. You don't know how the security or firewalling on the laptop might be set up (only the Administrator account can see the configuration and of course you don't have Administrator access), but you trust that something has been done to ensure that your data is private from GovCorp, with whom you have the contract.

So for the next year you walk around with this laptop whose Windows 2000 you did not install or configure and for which you do not have Administrator access or even a full start menu (but for which GovCorp has both), communicating, suspending, and resuming, and very often plugging your ethernet cable into the GovCorp jacks around the city.

Do you feel as though the data that you put on this laptop is secure?
Do you feel as though your location when plugged into the GovCorp network is private from GovCorp?
Do you trust that the mic is not recording you just because you don't see an audio app on the screen or the laptop has been "suspended" and the screen is dark?
Do you trust that the laptop is not evolving (i.e. that software is never added/removed without your knowledge?)

Your cell phone is the same thing, only smaller, even more tightly tied to GovCorp, and it finds and connects to networks through the air, by itself, without your having to plug in a cable.

Not news. (1)

design.sound (913825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080144)

This capability of cell phones has been known for a long time -- and is the primary reason why you're not allowed to carry a cell phone in an embassy, even if it's off.

AHA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080228)

So that explains why my standby time is so crap :-)

Bomb in a phone (1)

Catmeat (20653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080240)

If it's possible to hide a lethal bomb in a phone, then a bug should be easy.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahya_Ayyash [wikipedia.org]

Secure phone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17080300)

These guys should use Raseac Secure Phone. (Free download at http://www.raseac.com.br./ [raseac.com.br]

Tape recorder mode (1)

kabdib (81955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17080314)

Many phones have *lots* of storage on them these days. You could imagine a mode that takes voice, compresses it to spare space in the flash file system, then squirts the data up at opportune times (e.g., trickle during a conversation, the tail end of a conversation, etc). This way you wouldn't have to have the radio on all the time (which is easily detectable with $5 dongles). In "VOX" mode I'll bet you could get several days of recording compressed into a few megabytes.

Either technique will have an effect on battery life, however. This is hard to hide, but most people would probably write it off to the general flakiness of batteries.

Anyone remember the flap in the 90s about the software controlled "off hook" LED on ISDN phones? (... didn't think so....)
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