Next-Gen Cell Spying: Like Straight out of a Movie

Dennis Faas's picture

According to reports, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been busted once again for illegal surveillance. Worse yet, it seems the NSA has moved beyond wiretapping land lines to the wireless phone industry, too. (Source: nytimes)

Legal experts suggest that collaboration between the wireless phone industry and the NSA runs far deeper than originally thought. There are over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the U.S.; furthermore, the majority of industry-aided snooping is quietly handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of. (Source:

Major Networks Sold Data Starting 2002

For years there has been a global market for off-the-shelf data-mining solutions that deal with analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information.

ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs and Aqsacom are a few of the companies that sell 'passive probing' data-mining services to governments all over the world, including the United States. Major networks started to sell location data to any company willing to pay for it, starting in 2002.

Anyone can sign up to and pay a yearly fee that lets anyone map and monitor the movements of friends and family on a computer screen, as long as the person being monitored consents to being tracked. (Source:

3.3 Billion Phones may be Monitored

Last year, the London Review of Books had an article detailing how there are 3.3 billion active mobile phones worldwide that are susceptible to being tracked and monitored, including how the data tracking is done. (Source:

Services like that were obscure and barely legal but that has all changed. Apple's iPhone owners can download an application that will display a friend's location as a bright green dot on a map. Google's Android operating system is designed to show users in pictures how to reach that green dot while avoiding traffic, along with a lot of other information.

Like computers, your cell phone leaves a trail of information behind every time you use it. That information is logged on a telecom providers servers and is usually retained for up to two years.

Next-Gen Spy Phone Software

Recent developments in 'spy phone' software make it easy for anyone to wirelessly transfer an inexpensive wiretapping program to any mobile phone. The wannabe spy has to physically possess the cell phone to authorize the download, which only takes a few minutes to install. (Source:

The next generation of spy phone software became widely available last year. The latest programs can turn on handset microphones -- even if the user is not making a call. Call logs and phone bills do not show the user evidence that their information is being secretly transmitted.

More than 200 companies sell spy phone software online for as low as $50. Sellers of this software try to avoid revealing how much is sold, but experts claim that a surprising number of people are using mobile phones that have been compromised, oftentimes by a spouse, significant other, parent or a co-worker, which indicates that a surprising number of otherwise law-abiding citizens are willing to break wiretapping laws. (Source:

Spyware for Law Enforcement Agencies can Install Itself

Spyware developed for law-enforcement agencies will accompany a text message that installs itself automatically when the victim opens the message.

Some worry that this type of spyware could fall into the wrong hands. Decisions by Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion (RIM) to open their phones to outside application software has created an opening for spyware. Security programs are available for phones, but most users haven't given security threats to mobile phones much thought ... yet.

Information on how the NSA can use this type of software can be found from the Dissident Voice and the Center for Research on Globalization.

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