A mobile communicates with the network announcing it’s presence as it turns on, every now and again, and when it moves around.
The mobile listens to it’s nearest base station in terms of signal strength when making a call or simply in transit. Once it has negotiated with the strongest tower, it’ll hang on to you until your phone detects a stronger cell tower.
The mobile then negotiates with the strongest signal cell tower who, if it has spare capacity, takes over the call or overall monitoring. At the same time it informs the network what is going on and releases the lock on the old cell tower.
Thus the network can ‘track a mobile’ i.e. it’s approximate location and it’s direction of travel.
If the network is tasked with calling a mobile, it sends out a general call to that mobile firstly in the surrounding area it ‘knows’ was its last location, and then outward to trigger a response. The mobile then replies with it’s identification code and all the cell towers hearing it records it’s signal strength, passes that information to the network, and the network then selects the strongest cell tower.
However, the network now knows the relative signal strength from surrounding cell towers and with its computers can calculate not only its position to 100 sq.m but the general direction it’s moving.
So how’s about an accurate GPS fix to the nearest 10 sq.m.
Most modern phones are GPS enabled.
First question, do mobiles need a network to get a fix?
No but it helps to enhance the speed of getting a GPS fix if it can hear a mobile network.
Does the network get to know that position? In some cases yes.
Smartphones may use something called A(Assisted)GPS to get a rough fix from the mobile towers. However that ‘fix’ has no effect on accuracy of GPS readings, it simply speeds up the speed of the GPS function.
So can you turn the GPS facility off? Yep.
Can anyone turn it on remotely?
In theory and according to the advertising literature no.
In practice yes, and that list is a who’s who in government agencies let alone hackers using Apps which are loaded with malware, and there are legal ways to allow the bad guys (that includes government) to listen to your calls and track the cellphones movement.
Is any system safe?
Nope. Because you will eventually switch it on and the networks will instantly learn everything they need to know in terms of it’s ESN (unique electronic serial number), phone number, last location, make, model, and operating system. Right down to what apps it has installed. Once ‘they’ know that, it’s just a matter of time.
What if I change the SIM Chip.
That’s just the phone number as each phone as a unique electronic number.
If you are computer aware, it’s like your MAC number. The only way to change that on the fly is software and I don’t think that’s readily available in cellular phones. Chucking that phone and getting another ‘burn phone’ is your best bet. Only the person you call may not be changing their number. Dial that too often and a pattern emerges.
Funny bit about it?
Most smartphones use open-source apps and operating systems.
Open-source. That’s just another name for putting your dick on a chopping block.
If the bad guys get hold of the source code, and your equipment allows for AUTOMATIC UPDATES, THEY OWN YOU.
A mention about Bluetooth and the NHS App Track and Trace.
The ‘infected’ phone sends out a Bluetooth signal and if you are too close, it will communicate it found you to the NHS. What price your privacy now?
Now a few Q&A I’ve been asked.
My phone is switched off, nobody can track me.
Wrong. Your phone is just dormant. Just like when you turn your smart TV off using a remote. Basic functions can be kick started by the network or one of the security services on certain phones. A 2014, Edward Snowdon disclosure. Was he wrong?
Same question, can I be tracked? As systems improve the likelihood is yes no matter what phone you use.
So how can I be ‘safe’. Remove the battery BUT be aware, as soon as you replace that battery, if the network/ state security is continuously pinging your cell phone, it will respond in the same way as above.
Is anything truly secure?
Yes, if you don’t put power to it.
Is 1024 bit and beyond encryption safe?
For now maybe, for tomorrow, probably not.
So it is safe? Yep, but too much regular encryption will raise a red flag.
Remember, most governments keep a track on their digital populations.
They listen to everything, let AI pick out key words, and the phone numbers, and if 2+2=5, you end up on a watch list.
Is using a public access system safer? With the amount of CCTV around, they might not be able to read what you sent, but they will know from WHERE it was sent and a visit may get your picture.
Is the trick of saving an email to a draft a way of NOT transmitting something that is intercept-able? Maybe!
Most governments require Internet companies to record your browsing. That would include Smart phones. Use the Internet, it’s been logged. Once you become a person of interest, they (after some legal process) can view your browsing and telephone records. So, connected to the Internet, using your email, is logged. What is in that email ‘may or may not be’ copied, that’s an unknown and I move into a grey area where rumour and the true reality are unknown. One thing is certain, where the original email was written, outside of a secure system like (but not limited to) Tor, it will be logged as will you using Tor. So if your message pops up on the other side of the planet on the same day, and the reader is ‘known’, what conclusion do you think the bad guys will draw?
What is safer wired connection or wired.
The third option actually. If you don’t want someone to read your scribbles, don’t put them on an electronic device and transmit them to another.
How have I come by this Intel.
On and off I have been working on, repairing, and customising, cellular, computer, radar, and radio equipment for the last 35 years. Since the baby steps of the first cell phones, technology has come on leap and bounds. You should remember, everyone wants everything to do everything they want. That has produced a market for apps and software. Only can you be sure about the confidentiality of the writers, or even who they were, and if they have criminal or snooping intent?
Add whistle blowers making government cringe thus opening loopholes, and better hackers.
You can also buy the most sophisticated of ‘snooping’ equipment over the Internet.
The increased use of open source operating systems I’ve mentioned.
Not forgetting everyone likes a free App or new gizmo for their Smartphone.
Eventually you will get caught out.
Am I Mr. Paranoid?
Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t mean someone isn’t out there looking at you. Being paranoid just means you will probably take extra precautions.
For instance, a secret isn’t if it gets passed on via a third party.
There is always a weak link where people are concerned.
Thinking you are invulnerable comes before a fall.
Incidently I keep speaking about the bad guys. Who are they?
Criminals, hackers, bored teenagers, Microsoft, military and state security (both foreign and domestic).