Privacy Breakdown of Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are today a basic gadget that everyone should have at all times. They are communication tools not only used for making calls but also for sending messages. They ae also of use in accessing the internet and documenting happenings all over the world.
Privacy Breakdown of Mobile Phones
Unfortunately, the noble tools for communication aren't designed for security and privacy by default. Mobile phones are poor at protecting communications happening through them. And, are also recipes to new attacks that hackers may go through your way, more so location tracking. This happens because phones give a user lesser control compared to a laptop or a computer. You can never replace the operating system.
In addition, it's hard to investigate phone malware attacks. So remove unattractive bundled software, and prevent mobile operators from monitoring your device. Worse of all, the device manufacturer can declare that a device is obsolete. Thus, stop providing software updates that include security fixes. If this happens to you, you may not have anywhere to do the fixes, and the device may be useless.
You can address some of these problems through the use of third-party software to boost privacy. But, some of the problems surpass this type of use. Here are some ways mobile phones help surveillance and undermine user’s privacy
Location Tracking of Mobile Phones
The greatest invisible threat mobile phones have is announcing your whereabouts every time through the signals they broadcast. Other people can track an individual’s phone location through this ways:
Mobile Signal Tracking from Towers
Every time you power on your phone and register it with the network, the mobile operator is able to locate your phone. This is called triangulation and depends on how a mobile network is built.
An operator is capable of doing this by observing signal strength that diverse towers see from specific subscribers’ mobile phones. Then, the operator calculates where the phone can be located to account for the observations coming from the tower. This is achieved with AoA – Angle of Arrival measurements. Besides AoA, the accuracy of an operator to figure the location of a subscriber also depends on other factors. They include the technology used by the operator and the number of cell towers present in the area. Modern-day cell phones also need network trilateration to get the exact location.
Even though this type of tracking is by the mobile operator, the government can force its way into the track. It can vouch for the over location data of a specific user to know more about someone through their activities. Or request for a tower dump where the government asks for a list of mobile devices. This may be in a specific place at a particular time from an operator. Majorly, this is for investigative purposes like crimes, burglary, and others.
Mobile Signal Tracking – The Cell-Site Simulator
Here, a government or other organization collects data from a specific location directly by use of a cell-site simulator. The simulator is a fake cell tower that disguises as a real one to collect users' particulars in their mobile phones and detect physical appearance. It can also spy on subscribers’ communications making it be referred to as Stingray or IMSI Catcher.
IMSI denotes International Mobile Subscriber Identity that helps to recognize subscribers' SIM cards using IMSI catcher. It may target other devices that use the properties of the said device. You will need to take an IMSI catcher to a specific location in order to monitor or find devices in a location. However, IMSI traffic can be intercepted by law enforcers that can meet warrant parameters. However, rogue CSS can still operate outside the legal parameters like the ones serving the dark web.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Tracking
Besides smartphones having a network interface, they also have radio transmitters that support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The signals are usually transmitted having less power compared to a mobile signal, and they can be received within the shortest range. Though someone having a sophisticated antenna can detect the signal from long distances.
When Wi-Fi is turned on a smartphone, it will transmit probe requests like the MAC address. Consequently, it lets other devices know that the device is present. This is also something Bluetooth devices are known to do. The identifiers are a valuable tool for coffee shops and retail stores. They act as passive trackers to collect data about people and devices.
However, the recent updates on Android and iOS have the MAC address as a randomized probe address by default settings. This feature makes tracking a bit complex since the randomization is software-based. Furthermore, some Android devices do not implement MAC randomization in the right way.
Even though this is happening, some phones still share MAC addresses. This happens with the respective networks they join, just like sharing a link with a wireless headphone. This means an operator can know a device after some time or recognize if someone joined a network recently.
Location Information Leaks from Applications and Web Browsing – Malware
Smartphones today use GPS to determine the location and at times use services given by location companies. This is a package offered by Google and Apple bearing the name Location Services. Applications often ask a phone for this information in order to give services available for the said location like maps.
Besides, the apps can also transmit location over a network to a specific service provider. It happens by allowing third parties to share information to track a user. Some phones may also give control. This happens when the apps need to find a physical location or restrict the app from accessing sensitive information.
This implies that location tracking isn't about knowing the location of someone. It can also answer questions on people's activities, beliefs, personal relationships, and participation in events. For example, the tracking is helpful to find if certain people are in a romantic relationship. Or even, if someone is attending a specific meeting. Besides, it can help show whether someone is in attendance at a rally. Plus, it helps to justify if a journalist's activity is incredible and confidential.
Besides locating places, the apps can share information on interactions like application installation, opens usage, and other multiple activities. Remember, the information can be shared with other third-party companies that may leak the information to the dark web.
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