Can You Trust Your Cellphone?

Protect your children! Catch your cheating spouse!

Those are the claims made by a rash of new websites selling cellphone based tracking and spyware software. And the scariest thing is that this dreadful software does exactly what it claims. Global Nomads researched and tested some of these packages and gave us some advance information ahead of a forthcoming update to their excellent mobile phone privacy report.

All you need is physical access to a cellular phone for less than five minutes, and you can install a kind of ‘virus’ that will track locations and make conversations and text messages available to you in real time. You can access the contacts list, see photos exchanged. You can even make outgoing calls from the compromised phone via your computer….

It may well be illegal, but that probably won’t stop jealous spouses. And if you can do this, just what capabilities does the real Big Brother government have?

There are very few technical restrictions on how this works. According to the frequently asked questions at for example:

Will this work in my country? Yes! This product does not depend upon country or mobile network. It will work anywhere in the world!

Will I have to install any software on the phone(s) I wish to spy on? No. This product only needs to be installed on your phone.

Whereas at least shows a sense of humor:

It’s time to catch ’em where they least expect it ON THEIR CELL PHONE! THIS PRODUCT IS BOTH CREATED FOR THE FAITHFUL AND PRESENTED TO THE FALSE-HEARTED TO DISCOURAGE INFIDELITY AND RENEW TEMPERANCE AND VIRTUE. goes one step further, actually showing a photo of a couple in flagrante with the testimonial:

Thanks to FlexiSPY I finally figured out my wife was cheating on me with my brother. I had a bad feeling about this for over a year. After the divorce, my life is so much better now. Thanks FlexiSPY, I’m free again – Divorced

Of course we find these sites somewhat distasteful and for that reason we are not creating hyperlinks direct to their sites. But you can search for them on Google and click on their sponsored ads (each click costs them money!)

Some of these sites, it’s worth noting, also sell a few more privacy-friendly products such as a cellphone voice changer.

Our advice for years has simply been to avoid cellphones. It’s better to communicate via e-mail that can be made secure more easily via open source security software. If you must use a mobile, it’s best to buy pre-paid anonymous phones in countries that don’t ask for ID for cellular service (Which countries don’t ask for ID for mobile phone service? Panama is one. We would welcome contributions from readers on others…)

Some of our Q Wealth friends are working right now on a new encrypted VOIP telephone service that should be available in the next month or two. This will pair nicely with secure laptops, privacy technology, and secure e-mail. If you would like to get advance information – especially if you are considering replacing your laptop or internet phone service soon – please talk to Peter Macfarlane or Brian Craig.

As for the consequences of this form of surveillance, even if done for something as seemingly innocuous as protecting your teenage daughter, asset protection expert Mark Nestmann warns “the consequences could obviously be catastrophic if you discuss anything on your cell phone you wouldn’t want published on the front page of The New York Times.” In an article on his blog he lists seven ways you can protect yourself against cellphone spyware.

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