Detecting Cell Phone / Mobile Phone Bugs / Taps / Spy Software
July 24, 2009
I get a lot of calls and questions from people concerned their cell phone might be bugged, tapped, or has some type of spy software on it enabling someone else to listen in on their calls. Working in the telecommunications business for almost eight years gives me some background to speak to this topic.
First, in today’s environment there are many more spyware devices than one might think, thus we have to take a broader look at protecting our conversations. If you're wanting a private and/or secret conversation, you should first consider meeting the person face to face. This eliminates the phone, internet voice, etc., tapping problems. This does not however, remove the possibility that someone could place a remote bug on you, the other person, of within the confines of where you meet. This also leaves the possibility open to remote microphone surveillance. How far to do you want to go to protect your conversation?
Use good common sense. If possible, meet the person directly to exchange your top secret information. Make sure you are in a location that is tap free. The middle of the desert is an excellent location, but not always convenient. To ensure no one has a parabolic microphone on you, make sure there’s no coverage in the immediate area. High gain microphones with a dish can hear up to 300 yards away. If you’re extremely concerned, you can use an audio jammer (similar to a white noise generator), which helps cover up your conversation so that anyone attempting to eavesdrop with a remote/laser mic will only pick up the white noise.
If a remote meeting point is not available, and you must use the phone, there are several options to help. Follow the above steps to prevent a bug or remote mic. Hardwired phones become such an easy target because of their fixed location. While two parties can use a scrambling device to prevent tapping, a simple wireless bug placed in the microphone of the phone would transmit your entire conversation quite easily.
This is where we turn to the cell phone. It’s mobile and thus you can take your conversation to a remote area where a wireless bug would be unlikely to be found. The wireless transmission of the conversation is quite secure. However, could your cell phone be bugged? Absolutely! However, there are some things to consider and think about. Generally speaking, someone wanting to tap your cell phone will need to install spyware on it first. This is usually done by taking the phone and manually installing the software on it (which might take a few minutes). However, they could also send you a link via a text message, and by clicking on it, this would install the software. So, take precautionary steps to protect your phone. Don’t ever let it out of you sight, and don’t just click on links sent to you via text message or e-mail. Also be careful who you lend it to!
IF spyware is installed on your phone, you might notice some erratic or strange behavior. If the battery runs low early in the day, or you notice it lighting up or receiving random text messages, these COULD be signs of spyware. However, they could also mean your phone is old and just having problems. The larger question, and purpose of this article, is WHAT TO DO if you think your PHONE has SPYWARE? Since there are so many varieties there are currently few options to detect spyware on your phone. At the time of this writing, SPYBOT has a mobile version of their Search and Destory spyware, however, upon our testing on a Windows Mobile device, it was not working correctly. Thus, we recommend taking your phone into your local dealer and requesting they backup your contacts, and then completely wipe the device of its memory. They should be able to restore your contacts and bring your phone back to normal operation without much hassle. However, you will lose all of your programs and software you have installed on your phone. So, you can choose to re-install those or go without.
It's not easy or comforting to know that others have many avenues to intercept your private conversations. If you suspect your phone is tapped, go to the police and let them know. Many areas have technology crime labs and are working to help prevent this type of unauthorized use, however, since it's a relatively new threat, many people are unsure how to deal with it.
Please feel free to contact us if you have have any questions!