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How To Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Bugged

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the your-shoe-is-ringing dept.

Privacy 338

Lauren Weinstein writes to point us to his essay on the realities of using an idle cell phone as a bug, as a recent story indicated the FBI may have done in a Mafia case. From the essay: "There is no magic in cell phones. From a transmitting standpoint, they are either on or off... It is also true that some phones can be remotely programmed by the carrier to mask or otherwise change their display and other behaviors in ways that could be used to fool the unwary user. However, this level of remote programmability is another feature that is not universal... But remember — no magic! When cell phones are transmitting — even as bugs — certain things are going to happen every time that the alert phone user can often notice."

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338 comments

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Well, I guess (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097156)

we'll be hearing all about this from the liberal media soo enough...
wonder how many high profile persons have been bugged...

How to tell (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097160)

You could check the old fashioned way - slide off the back cover if an insect falls out you can be sure it is bugged.

Re:How to tell (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097782)

I tell my phone everything that is going on in my life. When I hear the FBI agent snoring, I know my phone is being bugged.

Signed, /. reader

Not a bug (5, Funny)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097164)

It's not a bug, it's a feature!

Re:Not a bug (3, Funny)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097244)

640 minutes of evidence ought to be enough for anyone.
--Robert Gates [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not a bug (1)

Sillygates (967271) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097554)

So...Can I blame the FBI when my Treo crashes and restarts?

Re:Not a bug (5, Insightful)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097752)

It's not a bug, it's a feature!
Let me correct your spelling:
It's not a bug, it's the future

:D

Irony (1)

$pearhead (1021201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097172)

Wow, this is really a huge problem that has been bugging me for some time...

Disposable phones (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097174)

Just use a pay as you go phone, and get a new one every month or so.

That doesn't work, here's why (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097240)

I have a pay-as-go phone they are not anonymous. In many places (e.g. Germany), you have to register your details to get it, in other places your purchase details are used from the credit card to register it.

When I bought one with cash, just after I bought it, I received wrong number calls, but the people involved didn't seem to want to hang up like normal wrong number calls.

Them: "Is Mark there?"
Me: "I'm sorry, there's no Mark here, you must have a wrong number."
Them: "I'm sorry, are you sure you're not mark"
Me: "you have a wrong number"
Them: "Oh my mistake, thanks again erm Mr erm...." pauses to see if you'll complete the sentence.

This happened again and again and again, different scripts, but always a wrong number guy who just wouldn't go away. Until one day my wife answered and said my name.
Her: "No this is ???????'s phone"
After that I never received another wrong number call.

Now I put that down to random chance, since I'm not worth spying on. But then my wife got a new pre-pay mobile, again she paid cash, and sure enough she got the same pattern of calls. We were talking about it yesterday, when the phone rang, and it was woman this time, who again was a wrong number, but didn't seem to want to hang up.

Many different phone numbers used each time, we're building a list.

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (5, Funny)

CapitalT (987101) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097272)

Them: "Is Mark there?" Me: "I'm sorry, there's no Mark here, you must have a wrong number." Them: "I'm sorry, are you sure you're not mark" Me: "you have a wrong number" Them: "Oh my mistake, thanks again erm Mr erm...." Me: "Bond, James Bond"

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097808)

Now don't complain when SMERSH and SPECTRE come knockin' at your door.

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (2, Funny)

maddogdelta (558240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097850)

Them: Is Mark there? Me : I told you already! Them : No you didn't Me: Yes I did. Them : No you didn't Me : I most certainly did....

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (4, Funny)

spiderbitendeath (577712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097896)

I'm sorry, is this a 5 minute call, or the full half hour?

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (1)

solanum (80810) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097354)

That always seems to happen to me as well. I think there is probably a simpler explanation, that the new phone numbers are given out in batches, so when you get a new pre-paid mobile, there's lots of other new mobiles with similar numbers being bought around the country and when you get a new number and hand it out to people, some of those are going to get it wrong. Multiply that up by simialr new numbers and you get quite a few wrong numbers....

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (1)

MicrosoftRepresentit (1002310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097450)

In my old flat, my phone number was the first 6 digits of the number anyone with the same area code as me would dial if they where ringing someone in a particular part of Australia, if they accidentally hit '8' instead of '0' for the first key. I got so many fucking phone calls at 6am from grandmothers ringing their relatives it was ridiculous.

I'll try to record the conversations (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097518)

The first time it happened, I did what you were saying and write it off to chance. That was after 8 of these odd conversations in the first 2 months, by about the 5th I noticed they all were trying to talk me round into giving my name, so I was really angry when my wife answered my phone and gave my name.
After that it has so far been 10 months of no wrong calls.

I asked her why she told a total stranger my full name, and she said it was the way he persisted in talking, the conversation naturally led to a point where my full name was the gap in the conversation.

Then when *she* got a prepay and it started with her, the very first call she got was in front of me, she said you have a wrong number and when he didn't hang up the penny dropped. I signaled to her remind her about the previous time she'd handed out my name.

I put my head up to listen in, and it is totally clear to me that he was trying to talk her into revealing information. If her phone supports recording, I'll try and record some of these calls and put them up on the web so you can hear for yourself. She's had 10 so far in her first 2 months of having the phone.

I also have a phone for work calls only, but I signed a service contract when I bought it and haven't made any international calls on it, it's never had a wrong number in the 12 months I've had it.

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (5, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097428)

What happens when you answer "Yes, this is Mark, what do you want?"?

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097466)

Nice conspiracy theory, but you do realize that you're identifiable without your cooperation if you have a cellphone, don't you? The network always knows where a cellphone is, as long as the phone isn't turned off. The least amount of precision is which cell the phone is in, but there are other clues which often provide much higher precision. With this data one can create a profile of the places that the phone regularly visits. If one really wants to know who is using the phone and if one dedicates some resources to the task, then the location data combined with the list of numbers that call and are called will reveal the identity of the phone user (social networking is the more important source of information, btw).

A more plausible explanation for the fishing calls is that someone wants to sell your name/number combination to an advertiser. Not that that isn't good enough a reason to avoid giving them your name, but you're probably more interesting as a consumer than as the target of a government surveillance operation.

I think it's call log profiling (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097674)

"Nice conspiracy theory, but you do realize that you're identifiable without your cooperation if you have a cellphone, don't you?"

I don't think they are interested in me or my wife, (not that they know she's my wife). I think they are profiling all telephone calls for patterns of interconnection.

We both make international calls to the far east, and I think we score highly on some equation in a computer somewhere. International calls from prepay phones in foreign languages where the phones were paid for in cash and the extended guarantee wasn't accepted and the top up cards are all paid for with cash.

If you only know us from our mobile phone logs we must look very suspicious if you were a spy agency involved in call profiling.

Re:I think it's call log profiling (2, Funny)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097798)

Not to mention all those AC posts they see you making...

Re:I think it's call log profiling (3, Funny)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097894)

make international calls to the far east,

Osama, is that you?

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (1)

chr1sb (642707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097736)

I agree that it is more likely to be for marketing purposes. If someone does call that fits the "fishing for a name" profile, give them a deliberately wrong name. Then, if anyone calls you using that name you know it's a marketing call and you can just hang up.

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097790)

In the UK is used to be possible to get pay-as-you-go phones and sims without registration. For years, I ran an O2 sim that wasn't registered, and every so often O2 would call me with special offers, and would try to get my details at the same time. The conversation would go something like this

"Hello?"
"Hi, this is $name from O2. We're calling to tell you about $promotion"
"Ok, if it'll save me money"
"First, for security can we confirm your full name?"
"You don't know my name"
"I can accept that as an answer. Now can you tell me your address and postcode?"
"I never registered this phone, you don't have that to confirm"
"I can accept that as an answer. What's your date of birth"
"*Sigh* Can we just accept that you don't know who I am and it's staying that way?"
"OK sir, would you like to hear about our new promotion? If you'd been using it already, you'd have saved 1 pound this month"
"I don't think I'll bother"

Hanlon's Razor (2, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097862)

Personally I wonder if it's not just a case of Hanlon's Razor: never attribute to malice, that which is adequately explained by stupidity. It could be that someone just wrote down the wrong phone number for someone named Mark, and your obstinacy to not give any detail tripped _their_ paranoia.

I'm saying it because something similar happened on my normal (non-mobile) phone line. And the Deutsche Telekom certainly had all my data there, so there would have been no need for such a masquerade.

Anyway, someone with an extra-thick arabic or maybe turkish accent repeatedly called, first to ask to talk to Achmed or something like that, then gradually after a few calls (spaced a couple of weeks apart) it turned into trying to bully me into "admitting" that I'm Achmed. (Dunno what gave him _that_ stupid idea.) And, yeah, demanding to know who I am, if not Achmed. By the time it turned into screaming at me in his weird language, I told him I'll call the police if he doesn't leave me alone.

Re:That doesn't work, here's why (2, Interesting)

Denial93 (773403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097874)

There are a couple of shops, in Germany and I'm sure in other places as well, which happily sell prepaid phones without proof of your identity. Telecafes, where you can make international calls at reduced prices, do that rather routinely. Some go as far as to offer three-day provider contracts, where they get to end the contract relationship (i.e. may delete your customer data) before any telephone surveillance order can even reach them.

What you're experiencing may be an attempt (made by whoever) to respond to these anti-surveillance strategies. Did you buy your phones in a known "hot zone" like Berlin-Neukölln?

Re:Disposable phones (5, Funny)

cronius (813431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097282)

Yes, I recommend everyone to do this. I also recommend everyone to change the apperance of their face with plastic surgery once a year, just in case. Also, only use rental cars, and change these just as often. Only pay by cash, change what appartment you're living in as often as you can. Sleep with a gun underneath your pillow, have few friends, and don't tell them much about yourself. It's all about protecting yourself from the government, we're all suspects until proven guilty after all.

Re:Disposable phones (2, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097294)

Just use a pay phone. Get rolls of dimes from the bank.

Re:Disposable phones (5, Funny)

sbryant (93075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097496)

Just use a pay phone. Get rolls of dimes from the bank.

It's easier said than done. There aren't as many payphones about as there used to be*, and a lot of those that are left require phone cards.

Then, when you do find a suitable one, how do you know it isn't bugged already?

Lastly, getting a roll of dimes from the just isn't that easy in most of the countries in the world. Of course, most of the world's payphones don't accept dimes either...

-- Steve

* The UK has a unique situation: while the number of payphones in the UK may have decreased, the number of British Telephone Boxes has remained about the same - they've just moved to more exotic locations in other countries. The same goes for British Police Boxes, except that their movements appear not to be limited to the first three dimensions.

great advice (5, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097178)

When cell phones are transmitting -- even as bugs -- certain things are going to happen every time that the alert phone user can often notice.

For example, when using a Palm Treo 650, the phone will crash and reset often, and without notice.

Easy way to detect a bugged phone (5, Interesting)

siliconeyes (154170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097184)

Like a poster on the earlier story commented, why not simply connect one of those flashy LED thingies to your phone? My mom has them, and every time she's on a call, or even on an incoming SMS, the LEDs go berserk!! They don't even need batteries and power themselves off the cellphone radiation. Pretty foolproof method, IMHO.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (2, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097204)

What happens if the bug does *not* use the GSM network and is simply an old fashioned AM transmitter?
It can just be using the mic and battery for its service, but generally the chirps would give it fully away.

Hell, if done properly it might wait until an actual call is in progress and then push its buffer upstream.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (2, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097310)

What happens if the bug does *not* use the GSM network and is simply an old fashioned AM transmitter?

TFA isn't about hardware bugs, but software that hijacks your phone to send signals clandestinely.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (3, Funny)

conno (803539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097250)

And as an added bonus all of the mafia dudes would know who is the most baaadass among them (from the perspective of the FBI) just by who's phone is always flashing in a epileptic inducing technicolored lightshow.

Im sure they would love this.

Does it sound like Capt obvious here just got his first mobile telephonic device? fta

But if you're not on a call, and you hear a continuing rapid buzz-buzz-buzz in nearby speakers that lasts more than a few seconds and gets louder as you approach with your phone, well, the odds are that your phone is busily transmitting, and bugging is a definite possibility.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (4, Funny)

stormeru (1027946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097404)

I can't use this method. I am talking on the phone with my imaginary friend all the time but I don't have to really make a call. Now everybody on the street will think I'm nuts if that LED thing won't blink.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (3, Interesting)

Cee (22717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097462)

Like a poster on the earlier story commented, why not simply connect one of those flashy LED thingies to your phone? My mom has them, and every time she's on a call, or even on an incoming SMS, the LEDs go berserk!! They don't even need batteries and power themselves off the cellphone radiation. Pretty foolproof method, IMHO.
I would strongly advice against using them. They take some of the radiation energy to make them light up, which makes the phone think that the coverage is worse than it is which in turn makes the phone crank up its transmitting power.
In effect, the phone radiates more than necessary and the battery gets drained faster.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (4, Funny)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097570)

You mean you can't string 10 millions LEDs around a phone and light up a whole city for free while you talk on your phone? Stupid physics laws!

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (1)

asb (1909) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097580)

In effect, the phone radiates more than necessary and the battery gets drained faster.

The idea is to detect if the phone is listening while a call is not being made. We already know that FBI listens to criminals during the actual phone calls (through the service provider, the old way). And cell phone radiation is a problem only when the phone is next to one's brain. Since the flasher has no function while a call is being made (it flashes anyway) so it can be taken off if radiation is being considered a problem.

And if FBI is really a problem for you, then I think you can afford to recharge your phone just a little bit more often.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (1)

japa (28571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097704)

I would strongly advice against using them. They take some of the radiation energy to make them light up, which makes the phone think that the coverage is worse than it is which in turn makes the phone crank up its transmitting power. In effect, the phone radiates more than necessary and the battery gets drained faster.
...and it was that extra radiation that was required for the leds to blink. So outside the blinking antenna, radiation level is same than without the leds.

Re:Easy way to detect a bugged phone (1)

tricorn (199664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097710)

I don't know what typical cell-phone batteries are rated for, but for example for two typical NiMH AA cells (2800 mAh each), the LEDs are probably using no more than about 3-6% of the total battery capacity per hour (depending on how many and what kind and how bright the LEDs are; 3% would be about 10 typical red LEDs, 15 mA @ 1.7V).

Bip! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097186)

Bip-b-b-bip. B-b-bip. B-b-bip. B-b-bip. B-b-bip. B-b-bip. Bip-biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip.

Yeah. You're being bugged.

No content (4, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097190)

The "essay" is nothing but speculation with a few facts, no references, and no actual testing or experience. I'm sure this is an amusing blog entry, but why is it on Slashdot? There's nothing to discuss.

mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097306)

this blog entry has no useful content. READY OK

Re:No content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097538)

You must be new here...

Should have been titled (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097602)

How to tell if you're a paranoid loony. Yes, Lauren, the government is /very/ interested in what you talk about when you're sitting on the loo.

Honestly...

Dear John (1)

megrims (839585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097200)

Don't be paranoid, but be careful.

Be alert, but not alarmed.

Mobster gratitude (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097208)

As a spokes person of the Mobsters Who Read Slashdot club, I'd like to offer my gratitude for bring this guide to our attention.

In return I offer 3 cheap bug puns for you to enjoy:

It's a feature, not a bug!

My phone isn't bugged, but I'm bugged by my phone.

If insects fall out of your phone, it's bugged!

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Good night.

Bug Detector (2, Insightful)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097242)

Put your cell phone next to your computer speakers. If it's transmitting you'll know it.

Sorry FBI for killing your wiretap program.

Re:Bug Detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097252)

Don't worry about it: they'll just turn you over the the CIA. You'll love their secret prisons and free waterboarding services!

Re:Bug Detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097304)

Wow, it's almost like you read the article!

Almost, but not quite.

Re:Bug Detector (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097342)

I did RTFA, after I posted first. I am on slashdot after all :). I should have made that post in the original FBI story.

Re:Bug Detector (2, Interesting)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097526)

...Sorry FBI for killing your wiretap program...
I know you were trying to be funny. But I seriously doubt this will kill this wiretap program. Criminals are idiots. Most people are idiots. Take for example, this journalist [theatlantic.com] who bought an unencrypted al qaeda laptop. Or how about the regular stories of criminals using yee old delete command to delete incriminating evidence. The world will continue to turn, criminals will continue to use cellphones, and the FBI will continue to bug them.

How to tell if your cell phone is bugged... (3, Funny)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097308)

... It's when your girlfriend, for no apparent reason, says: "who is nikki and why is she telling you to get tested for syphilis?"

Cipher indicator (1, Interesting)

Jhan (542783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097350)

Slightly off-topic:

An easy way to warn you that your GSM phone call may be intercepted: look for the cipher indicator icon. It typically looks like an open lock. If your phone displays this icon, the base station has turned encryption off for this call.

This typically happens when the They have ordered the phone company to spy on you, or when reception is low.

Re:Cipher indicator (1)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097588)

Does this work on all cellphones? I've got a foreign (Japanese) phone, and I'm not sure if the carriers there would do such a thing and include an indication of doing so.

Re:Cipher indicator (1)

Aehgts (972561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097776)

(IANAL)
Hate to tell you this but even if the icon says it's encrypted that only means the radio transmission is encrypted... it doesn't help that a wire tap is on the *wires* within the system. That part of the traffic is generally unencrypted.
So you are right, if the feds are sitting in a van listening to your phone's transmissions then perhaps the lousy phone encryption algorithms that the phone companies and carriers may or may not have actually implemented might slow them down.
It is a moot point though as by law all phone companies *must* be able to give law enforcement agencies a way to listen in.
That's how it is here in Oz.

Re:Cipher indicator (3, Insightful)

ahillen (45680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097876)

Well, if They have ordered the phone company to intercept your call, why would they bother with turning off encryption anyway? IIt's not like the phone company needs to break it to intercept your call. f state authorities want to listen in to a conservation, they surely don't have to tune in on the air interface between mobile phone and base station. The call has to be routed through a phone network anyway.

First Privacy, Then Those Other Freedoms... (3, Insightful)

Pavan_Gupta (624567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097358)

Ultimately, the question in this scenario goes far beyond the immediate problem posed here (cell phones being used as bugs), but lends itself to the more interesting question about why privacy should be held as one of the most important things in our society. I am of the persuasion that the following quote from The United States constitution should stand as one of the most important parts of our society -- and if you're not from the United States, than imagine that I'm suggesting you include this in your Government's constitution/body of laws if it is not already there...

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.
This has always stood as one of those easily reinterpreted components of the constitution -- just look at the way the US Supreme Court enjoys reinterpreting [erowid.org] it. And, to some degree, I do see why this should be interpreted in a somewhat fluid way. There are terrorists/freedom fighters out there, and governments should be capable of protecting their citizens-- that is what they're ultimately designed to do.

However, the egregious trampling of our right to privacy, as outlined in the US constitution, starts moving us very quickly in the direction of fascism [wikipedia.org] . And people tend to use the term fascism lightly, but you have to ask yourself how a state can move from one type of government to another? History has shown that this happens everywhere -- just [wikipedia.org] look [wikipedia.org] at [wikipedia.org] history [wikipedia.org]

So, why would I take a break from my ultimate presentation on latency markers in tuberculosis? Well, I feel strongly that you (the person reading this, not just the general "you") should take it upon yourself to encourage those people that you vote for to stand up and strengthen the first levee against tyranny -- our right to privacy. The FBI may, at this point, consider using your cell phone to track you as a legitimate means to and end, but when the FBI cycles through it's current leadership/membership then we can only hope that these means lead to good ends.

And the hope that people mean well is not something I am willing to risk.

There is no right to Privacy in the Constitution! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097438)

You will *never* get your naturalization papers until you learn to read, boy!

Re:First Privacy, Then Those Other Freedoms... (1)

Tankko (911999) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097514)

While I agree with everything you said, it is important to point out that in this case the FBI did have a completely legal warrant, as spelled out in the constitution.

Re:First Privacy, Then Those Other Freedoms... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097686)

It is ironic that in a country where the government derives its power from the people, that they invade the privacy of those people at an increasing rate, while operating at a level of secrecy never before seen.

So, my phone can be tapped without a warrant, but I can't find out who the Vice President met with from the Oil Industry when creating an energy policy. And a Supreme Court justice who voted to maintain the VP's private meeting goes hunting with the VP just before the decision comes down.

My only comfort is that from looking at his face, Vice President Cheney is as miserable and unhappy as a human can be. That makes me feel a little bit better.

Re:First Privacy, Then Those Other Freedoms... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097756)

This does end up having an on topic point: misusing the word Fascism is bad for political discourse.

I know that Imperial Japan is widely interpreted as being a fascist state, but Westerners really don't seem to understand that fascism and proto-fascism were ideologies based around European historical constructs (like German Romanticism) that don't apply to a country like Japan. I do understand that the term will frequently be thrown around because of the unique historical status of Japan as the only non-Western modern colonial power. While there were groups close to the power of the Japanese Imperium, to characterize the Dai-TeiKoku as fascist is wholly inappropriate.

Fascism is essentially the aestheticization of the socio-political sphere . You'll notice here that Imperial Japan is described as being authoritarian in nature. Why people refer to imperial Japan as authoritarian is also puzzling, because Japan was dominated by an authoritarian ruling clique essentially since its inception. If we want to refer to Japan only since the time of Hideyoshi and the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan has been under seriously repressive rule since circa 1600 up until its defeat by the United States.

Many often will point to the promotion of the Showa emperor as a living God and the discourse of the Yamato race as examples of Japanese fascism; however, such constructions were built from the blocks of the European-inspired Enlightenment-era notions of a global racial hierarchy as a way to sidestep the Western racist gaze on Japan as being a member of the Asiatic "Yellow Race." They had nothing to do with European Fascism. While the Japanese may have viewed Westernization (ideological Westernization - as distinct from Rangaku, or Western Learning) as ultimately corrupting, the Imperial Japanese viewed themselves as equals of the "White Races" of the West - not as superiors.

Furthermore, Fascism as understood in Germany and Italy were essentially mass-based movements. Imperial Japan was constructed by the social elite of the country, and in many ways is more similar to the British Empire than to Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. Britain, on the other hand, had the benefit of conquering India a) before the genie of nationalism escaped its bottle, b) as the preponderant hegemon during Pax Britannica period of the 19th century, and c) as a European country conquering a non-European country.

Japan, on the other hand, faced Chinese nationalism, other European powers that wanted a piece of the China pie, and a reinvigorated Soviet Union. Combined with no natural resources, an expansionist drive for autarky seemed reasonable at the time to the Japanese leaders. It allied itself with the Axis powers not because of any ideological affinity (indeed, most of the Imperium regretted deeply the abrogation of the bilateral treaty with Britain in the early 1920s - the Japanese saw themselves as the Britain of the East), but because Italy and Germany had no colonies in East Asia (whereas the Americans held the Philippines; the British Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and India; the Dutch the East Indies; The French Indochina).

Japan had the misfortune (and China and Korea the luck) of attempting to build an empire as the sun was set to dawn on 19th century style imperialism. Americans like to call Japan fascist because it makes American war crimes seem justified. /rant!

Anyway, to link back to the topic, while Fascism is Authoritarianism, Authoritarianism IS NOT Fascism. Throwing around the F-word devalues its true meaning, and allows authoritarians to undercut such critics by labeling them leftys, pinkos, etc. No regular citizens in the West today actually believe that their government will become Fascist (especially because so many people misunderstand the term, and think of it in relation only to the Axis power governments), so using such terms will just cause you to isolate yourself in an argument. Most people may buy, however, that their government is making (or has made) a power grab and is on the track to becoming authoritarian.

What about recording to internal memory? (2, Insightful)

loraksus (171574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097360)

It would seem to be much easier to have the phone record to its internal memory and then transmit later. Transmitting needs a fair bit of power (while recording to memory from the microphone doesn't take much and can be compressed) and I would think people would start to notice that their phone would be dead after powering it off for several hours.
The amount of memory and processors in some modern phones makes this a possibility...

Re:What about recording to internal memory? (2, Interesting)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097422)

With the new phones you could probably go further then that. Have it randomly listen in and then parse the conversations heard for keywords and if a keyword happened within a set time then listen in more.

Compress what you want and then send it as burst transmission.

Only one call? Not true (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097410)

> First, when the phone is operating as a bug, regular calls can't be taking place in almost all cases

This is often not true in the case of GSM phones - particularly those models targetted at business.

GSM is capable of making two calls at once:- the other typically goes on hold and you switch between them, but hosting of conference calls is also possible.

This is true of every Nokia I've owned over the the last 8 years and also the high-end Motorola I owned for a month before it was stolen.

Re:Only one call? Not true (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097592)

No. You can make one call whilst another's on hold. The conference calling is initiated by the handset, but relies on the *network* joining the calls - it is not done within the handset. You can send *data* simultaneously to voice, but not make two calls.

Old, old news (3, Funny)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097416)

The RISKS digest [ncl.ac.uk] carried this news a few years ago.

It's been long known that;

1. some providers can download arbitrary software to some phones
2. a phone can be running that software while appearing not to be making a call

The potential for abuse is obvious.

I gave up my mobile phone about a month ago now. I read through a full list of the ways in which the British State monitors me. When you read them all at once, it has quite an impact. The simple question I have is this: I am completely innocent. I have commited no crimes and am not suspected of committing any crimes.

SO WHY AM I BEING WATCHED?

Re:Old, old news (1)

irote (834216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097486)

Who says you are being watched? You sound a little paranoid...

Re:Old, old news (4, Interesting)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097664)

The calls I make from my home phone have the time of the call and the phone number called recorded.

The calls I made from my mobile had the time of the call, my location and the phone number called recorded.

All the websites I visit, have the domain name recorded.

All the emails I sent have the time of sending and the receipient recorded.

When I pay by credit card, the location, time and amount of the transaction are recorded.

When I cycle into town, I go past about six cameras - I'm recorded by each one.

All of this information is available to the State without any form of judicial oversight. A policeman on a whim could keep a very close watch on my life.

So I'm not being paranoid here - this list *IS* the list of the monitoring conducted on all of us.

I've committed no crime. I'm totally innocent.

Why am I being monitored? why does the State have to keep records of who I talk to and when I talk to them and where I am when I talk to them? am I suspected of something? I'm not. So why? because I *might* do something? that's outrageous! and in fact it's proper tantamout to suspecting me of something - it is suspected that I *might* commit a crime, which is just a weaker version of we *do* suspect you comitted a crime.

What people don't realise is that although the State has always recorded plenty of information on us, the game has changed because of computers. Computers plus surveillance isn't just more of the same; it's something utterly new and *different*.

Re:Old, old news (1)

gigne (990887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097566)

I read through a full list of the ways in which the British State monitors me.

Hmm... sounds interesting, got a link?

Re:Old, old news (5, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097628)

"I am completely innocent. I have commited no crimes and am not suspected of committing any crimes."

I'm sorry, but I cannot accept that anyone can live in Britain today and not commit any crimes. You've never driven over 70mph on a motorway? You've never put recyclable waste in your dustbin?

There are so many laws in Britain today that you're pretty much a criminal the instant you get out of bed; in fact, you're probably a criminal if you stay in bed all day too. The real problem is _too many laws_, not too many criminals; if the cops stopped chasing people for bullshit crimes with high-tech gadgetry they could get all the real criminals off the streets.

Re:Old, old news (1)

Bog Standard (743863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097806)

None of the above are crimes in the criminal sense. I am more worried about the info being used for decriminalised offences. Such as speeding and parking offences and the like. In fact the parking/traffic enforcement system is already using cctv and point to point camera/number plate recognition. The worry is how the government protects this (our) information.

Re:Old, old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097644)

If you've committed no crimes at all, you're DEFINITELY up to something.

Alternately, if you're this paranoid when you're not worth watching, then perhaps they'd conclude you're mentally ill and need watching.

Re:Old, old news (2, Interesting)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097648)

You're being watched because you're within six degrees of seperation with a terrorist.

er, tin-foil hat (4, Interesting)

Aryeh Goretsky (129230) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097418)

Hello,

Just as an experiment, I tried placing my cell phone into an anti-static mylar baggy and the signal went from 100% to 40% (or five bars to two). Repeating this with tin foil with a small opening to see the LCD (about 1cm^2) reduced the signal to 20% (or one bar).

I am wondering that if someone wants to have a private verbal conversation sans listeners on the cell phone, all they have to do is place their cell phone in metal box?

This would seem much more convenient than having to pull the battery out, as well as reduce wear and tear on the contacts or thin plastics of today's cell phones.

Perhaps someone who is a bit more familiar with electronics could explain whether or not a "tin foil hat" (or a metal box or foil bag, ala Enemy of the State) for a cell phone would work?

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

Re:er, tin-foil hat (1)

jnelson4765 (845296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097446)

One of these [wikipedia.org] will work better - Mythbusters built one for one of their shows, and a lot of radio telescope facilities enclose their microwave ovens in 'em so that they don't interfere with the telescope...

Not the most convenient thing to carry around, though. A clanshell case built out of acoustic foam would probably work as well. Or leaving the cell phone in another room. Or standing next to a waterfall or a large, noisy fan. Lots of things can be used to defeat most microphone-based eavesdropping.

Re:er, tin-foil hat (3, Informative)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097678)

First, a bugged phone could still record what you were saying and transmmit that later. Remember that the people who bug phones don't want them to drain their batteries dry in only a couple of hours, it would be suspicious.

Secondly, those bars are more a qualitative information than a quantitative one, at 4 or 5 bars, the signal is clear with low power, with less bars, it means that there are transmition errors or that the radio needs a boost, either way, it is an indication to the phone it might be a good idea to look for another base station, but only a "no signal" notification will prove (if you can trust your phone display) that it is incapable of communication. If you shield your phone, it won't see any good base station and will lose a lot of energy scanning the frequencies looking for one.

You can try to shield your phone, but then, you need to test its effciency. I once tried to put a phone in a tin box and I still could call it. Of course, grounding that box terminated the call.

So I would say shielding is a lot of effort for what you want, if you are only slightly paraniod, shut the bugger down, if you are a real paranoid, leave it at your place with the TV on (during a movie you already saw, in case they will check your alibi) then use the bus to meet whoever you need in a parking lot.

Oh so much easier in the old russian times (3, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097434)

You could tell that your phone was bugged, because you had an extra wardrobe in your room.

Re:Oh so much easier in the old russian times (2, Funny)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097700)

It still happens anywhere to a lot of people, it's called wedding. The funny thing is that they can't really complain, since it is the only spying procedure that involve opt-in.

Somewhere in a poorly lit dockyard... (4, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097476)

Gangster 1. OK, so I'll just phone [insert non-ethnocentric name here] to confirm the date of the shipment. How many kilos again?
Gangster 2. NO! Shh! Keep your voice down until you dial out — that thing could be bugged.
Phone. "This phone is not being used as a covert surveillance device. Please continue to arrange your morally and/or legally questionable activities as normal."
Gangster 1. Muh?!
Phone. "Please ignore this message."

Real columbian businessmen, or Dlords.... (2, Interesting)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097624)

Use their own designed encrypted systems, or buy $5000 comms talkies from the russians.

They use high tech RF mapping signature maps to see where there are dark spots
in the FBis monitoring systems.

If your making billions in profit each year, you can afford to spend $5-10m in custom design hardware from china
or fly 1000s of flights to map the intercepts.

Only part time low lifes use mobiles, because they cannot afford anything greater than $200USD, which means they must
be very small time crooks.

What about bugging computers? (2, Insightful)

danceswithtrees (968154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097492)

Given that computers are everywhere, I am starting to worry about computers being bugged (let me adjust my foil hat here). Keyloggers, rootkits, and worms are often mentioned but we seldom worry about them when we are not actually using the computers- they have become part of the office and home environment.

All current laptops have microphones and some have built in cameras. Desktops also usually have microphones and often have cameras. Many have continuous internet access. Computers are ubiquitous and they are often left on. It is not hard to imagine infecting a vulnerable computer with a small program to send back continuous audio and an occasional picture. With reasonable bit rates and good encoding, it would not use much bandwidth.

Does anyone else worry about such things? Has this been done already? If it has, would you know about it? (pull foil hat on tighter)

Re:What about bugging computers? (2, Interesting)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097594)

Just to remind you Microsoft has the power to install just about any software in your computer with the automatic Windows Update method. To give a different set of "updates" to a given IP address would be trivial.

If we are talking Windows Genuine, then, delivering something to a specific Windows registration code should be trivial.

Re:What about bugging computers? (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097880)

A simple firewall would solve that problem, though the paranoid I guess would wonder if their firewall was bugged as well.

FRoST PIST! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097558)

Is there any evidence? (2, Insightful)

dabadab (126782) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097584)

Is there any evidence that such features are implemented in (GSM) phones? Because to me it looks more like an urban legend than anything else. Such a feature should have to have some traces: like being part of the GSM specifications, for one. Also, programmers working on cell phones should also be aware of such functionality (when I was working on conventional telephone switches I had - not too deep, since I was uninterested - knowledge of the wiretapping features).
But, it seems, all this craze comes from some over-paranoid tinhats and has no grounding in reality.

Easy one-step algorithm (0, Flamebait)

martinde (137088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097586)

Have you done anything to warrant surveillance from the FBI?
Yes) Consider it bugged
No) Why would they bother?

1/2 :-) goes here, but more like 3/4 of a :-(

This article is a sham (1)

locksmith101 (1017864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097606)

The article tell you absolutly nothing about How To Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Bugged

Re:This article is a sham (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097650)

I agree. The way your phone is tapped is more interesting - and completely transparent, if done by your service provider. They can simply send a service SMS, coding the phone to forward everything it does to another "number". You'll never know what happened. If something goes wrong, you may get an alert that a call is being forwarded, but nothing else. And that message you can reset.

More interestingly: There is no protection against fake service SMS'es. The originating domain is not checked by the GSM standard. But of course, if the forwarding is not an "official" secret, you'll start noticing weirdess on phone-bill by and by.

buzzing razor mobile (1)

towaz (445789) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097630)

I did have a friend who was worried he was being bugged by his mobile, it seems to made a buzzing noise from the speaker, I checked mine and it appears to do the same thing so probably nothing to worry about.

I'm far too boring to be bugged anyway. ;)

Anyone else have a razor that buzzes all the time?

Re:buzzing razor mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097852)

almost any phone will make some buzzing sounds on unshielded speakers. If you hear simple short pulsing, it's usually just contacting the tower for sms,voice mail, etc, and checking QoS. if it starts pulsing then buzzing continuously..you have an incoming call...so be prepared for the phone to ring in a second or two.

It's not magic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097652)

Sounds like just another ploy of the Technocracy to keep the Virtual Adepts down.

"virtually fullproof" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17097656)

His place is "virtually fullproof". He's got the feds there. Yutz.

I have the ultimate protection against snoopers... (2, Funny)

The Famous Druid (89404) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097666)

My life is so boring, spying on me is its own punishment.

Risks (1)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097676)

In theory in the USA they need a warent to listen in on your phone (I live in Israel, I have no idea what the local laws are). But to be honest if you are that worried about somone listening in on your phone then don't pass sensative information over the phone lines.

Could someone listen in on my cell phone? Maybe I don't know. To be honest if they did most of what they are going to hear is my calling neighbors to arange a lift home after work or me talking to my wife about important things like does she want me to pick up something at the store. I don't think the local cops care enough about this type of thing to make listening in important (At least I can't figure why they would). If I was aranging drug deals I would not use my cell phone, or even my home phone.

If you're a real bad guy.. (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097690)

You already have one of these: Optoelectronics Scout [optoelectronics.com]

Now, if your communications were encrypted end-end with hard encryption with keys you control, this would be a moot point. Coming soon to a VOIP / programmable cell phone near you.

Cells are never off..... (2, Interesting)

Zapotek (1032314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097706)

OK, this has come up a lot in many conversations.

First off, cell phones have batteries internally, much like the battery your mobo has to keep it's settings.
Why would cell phones differ? Take your main battery out, the time/alarm/etc settings are saved, doesn't that give you any clues?

The phone is powered at any given time, it's not a matter of whether the screen is lit or not...

They could, and can, and do, use cell phones as bugs, there's nothing new to that.

Slow news day? (1)

Marton (24416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097738)

There's nothing in this "article" that the discussion related to the original bugging story did not already cover in much greater detail. No news is better than crappy news, slashdot.

Not entirely reliable advice (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097780)

If we are concerned with the ability of somebody to alter the phone's behavior sufficiently to initiate a call without your intervention, then we shouldn't assume too much about what other things can or cannot be done.

For example, not being able to make a call when a call is in progress. In time division multiplexing, you're taking one or two timeslots out of eight or sixteen. However, it's pretty clear that if we have modified the phone ostensible behavior enough to use it as a bug, it could also take more than one half channel at a time.

Checking the warmth of the phone is good idea, but not perfect either. The assumption is that the phone is transmitting your words live. What if the phone recorded your conversations at a reduced bit rate, say 3kb/sec, using voice activiation. It could the be stored and dribbled out intermittently, particularly when close to a cell tower. This would reduce telltale power effects. This might not be enough to monitor your every waking moment, but it could be used to monitor snatches of your conversation, particularly as part of a surveillance program.

Even if the phone doesn't transmit your speech, it could use the signally channel to record that you are talking, combined with the GPS or wi-fi snooping, over time the network of people you talk to could be recontructed.

It's a bit paranoid to worry about these things, unless you think the government has a compelling reason to snoop on you. But if you do have such a reason, then you shouldn't make too many assumptions about what they could do with a phone, particularly a "smart" phone which might have megabytes of storage. A simpler phone with a removable battery would be a good choice.

Phone Bugged? (1)

tech_guru5182 (577981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17097814)

I know the article doesn't say what the subject suggests, but there is a simple solution to tell if it is being bugged live. Simply get one of those antennas that flash when the phone is transmitting. If it is flashing when the phone is "off" you know it is bugged. Just remember that phones normally will transmit about every 15 minutes to check in with the network.
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