The Silent Witness & Hacking
With the proliferation of mobile phones in the public domain, many myths surround the actual truth that lies behind this wireless technology and the inappropriate use of the word Hacking associated with them in recent times. In my past role in a Police Technical Support Unit, I have interrogated thousands of mobile phones associated with serious crime and kindred matters.
From that experience, the views I hold, are mine alone, but are, in part, backed up by recent scientific research, to support the health issues surrounding, what I have called for many years “The Silent Witness”.
With the phrase used loosely by the media in recent times, namely, the words phone hacking, I will avoid any current cases when I refer to mobile hacking in this article, as they are clearly sub-judice.
Legal proceedings are forecast under the Metropolitan Police’s Operation WEETING which was set up at New Scotland Yard to investigate claims of intrusion on personal voice messages on mobile telephony by the media and others, and no reference to active cases will be mentioned in this article.
I will try and prove the operational health risks associated with using cellular phones in our area of expertise for long term security operations on you, the operator, and some of its operational weaknesses.
Home Office figures, place up to 82% of children up to the age of 12 years of age owning a mobile phone, with some 56 million of this country’s 60 million people in possession of one or more activated handsets with an airtime provider in the UK.
These numbers could easily be replicated in the United States I am sure. This would show which mobile phone manufacturer leads the field in innovation and miniaturisation across the world, and the favoured model of choice.
This means that nearly everyone has a mobile phone or has access to one on our two continents for example.
The safety issues surrounding ongoing miniaturisation of mobile phones are evident. With the eradication of small antennaes on the outside of handsets, to compete with other manufacturers styling, new aerial technology has been employed internally, making the art of what antennaes need to do to transmit and receive information even more difficult.
The power now needed to connect and maintain invisible handshakes with digitised cell sites as you travel, have had to increase accordingly, and I will refer to the health risks associated with that invisible radiation later in this article.
I have often remarked to operatives on technical courses, “that if it is a transmitted signal, it can be intercepted”, and this analogy is very true whether the signal is an analogue one or indeed digital and/or encrypted, and should always be remembered, especially when the security of your Principal is paramount.
In keeping with this digital technology I will try and explain in plain speech how your cellular phone can now be secretly turned ON and allow an eavesdropper to actually overhear every conversation you make in the close proximity to the phone, without you actually knowing that it has been turned ON.
The microphone technology used in mobile phones today allows the amplification of background noises to be louder than the spoken word to the silent listener on the other end. Always be mindful that even whispers are amplified and WILL be overheard clearly and easily by the other party monitoring the transmission.
Ambient noises or road noise are often responsible for what is blamed as ‘bad lines’ of communication as it overbears the spoken word due to the high and constant volume projected towards the microphone.
The myth is that there are no lines, and there are no typical landline based point to point wired technologies used in this powerful wireless system.
How many people ask at important security meetings or conferences that ALL mobile phones should be switched off?
Not only should mobile phones be switched off, but also the batteries removed whilst important meetings are held, or even better, left in secure lockers outside of the meeting areas.
Why you may ask?
The reason, as I am sure you will be aware of, is that nearly all mobile phones have direct access to emails, text messaging and web browsers now, in addition to live news updates, financial reports and the inevitable high quality built in cameras, which are improving and reducing in size every day.
Due to this capability of direct access to the World’s Internet, data is exchanged in an invisible handshake between these wireless technologies. Every large mobile phone manufacturer is currently working overtime to produce the ultimate computer interface built into a mobile phone in the smallest package available, and many model changes occur in a short space of time, using the iPad and iPhone as examples.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the common programmable language that cellular phones share across the world between handset and computers can be intercepted quite easily.
Computers are regularly “hacked” into regardless of any in built protection technologies applied to them, and there is a steady stream of highly intelligent people, including Government Agencies that carry out this work legally on behalf of that old umbrella of……….‘National Security’!!
It therefore follows that there will be illegal users with the same knowledge and experience trying to access telephony and the intelligence from such interceptions, as shown in recent hacking scandals on a lower scale, here in the UK and the U.S that inevitably reaches the public’s ears.
The press and the general freelance paparazzi have always used techniques to locate and intercept well-known individuals. The days of endless hours of following such individuals have long gone.
Using mobile phones and magnetic devices deployed on vehicles which supply locations on easy to read FREE or Pay As You Go mapping, are currently, completely outside of any legal framework when used in this way by these “media” or other private investigative agencies.
This can then be compared with the use of such devices, by say Government Departments who have to be authorised by the Surveillance Commissioners who are the legal body in the UK who apply the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in such use of sophisticated covert equipment by the Law Enforcement communities and Government departments.
Everyone outside of that framework who is caught, merely attracts the wroth of the Human Rights Act, Article 8, “the right to privacy” or Criminal Damage, or indeed Vehicle Interference as the Regulatory legislation to counter these practices if discovered!!
The recent Hacking scandal, will I feel, ultimately attract unnecessary legislation being applied to us in the private security sector, due to the totally inappropriate use by a few who will eventually be prosecuted!!!
Many mobile phones, whilst reporting to cell sites as you enter them, provide adequate locations of your actual handset on their own.
However, nearly all tracking devices now incorporate GSM/GPRS and GPS together, resulting in each complimenting each other when one system fails, an example being, no satellite signal due to obstructions or parked in multi storey car parks out of satellite view.
The unit would then use the remaining technologies combined, to pinpoint the tracking device. Because many tracking units now have GSM as their on board backup, it therefore follows that microphones can be attached as well, so the spoken word can be remotely accessed from anywhere in the world.
Unlike computers, mobile phones DO NOT have firewalls. How many people actually, even now, type in passwords to protect the entry to their phones? Not many. It has been deemed an unnecessary delay to our busy and active lives in the security marketplace.
It may only be deemed as a stalling tactic, but passwords do frustrate the casual thief and are the first line of defence, and would have prevented much of what has now been deemed the “Hacking of Mobile Phones”.
In simple terms, owners have not password protected their voicemail access from those who may have been provided with the handset number by whatever means, resulting in the illegal listening of voicemail messages.
NEW EMERGING THREATS
A new threat exists as I alluded to earlier, where a virus called the “Cell Finity Bug” which uses an access code which calls the infected handset silently, with no ringtone, and secretly turns on the microphone. The phones screen does not illuminate either, and what is worse, there is NO record of the callers details retained in the phones memory.
This bug also then recovers ALL the stored contact list details and repeats the formula with all your associates in the memory without their knowledge. A hidden text message simply operates those handsets without the user being made aware of them.
Do not become complacent and discuss SECRET or HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL information on mobile phones. And especially those that have direct access to the internet.
You may be familiar with the recent interception by the American Intelligence agencies of a Blackberry which held sensitive Intelligence being used by the French Secret Service. This then surely raises more questions than answers, and how these alleged “secure” pieces of equipment could be hacked!!
Electronic Counter Measures, or Bug sweeps should always be encouraged, prior to any important meeting taking place. All mobile phones should be switched off, and batteries removed.
My advice to you all, concerned in security, is that NO mobile telephony equipment or laptops whether fitted with WIFI or not should be taken into sensitive meetings, all should be safely stored away from the meeting venue to provide that essential security to you and your client.
ECM equipment should be left on during meetings, to instantly highlight any Cellular transmissions or secret handshakes to any transmittable device being activated and turned on remotely. In the case of cellular phones (DTMF) Dialled Tone Multiple Frequencies, pulses will therefore be detected by the use of such equipment, covering the entire (RF) Radio Frequency spectrum, and will provide reassurance to sensitive operations or meetings.
I care not for so called “EXPERTS” stating that using a mobile phone for long duration’s against the head has no long term effects. Mobile phones emit signals via radio waves, which are comprised of Radio-Frequency (RF) energy, a form of electromagnetic radiation.
Therefore long term use of such a device in my submission, against the head is dangerous. Many manufacturers and Governments alike cannot afford to provide the real truth about the dangers of mobile phones, as the revenue provided by their continued and popular use, sustains many economies in vast sums of cash, and taxes applied to them, or not as the case may be!!!
It is not simply a means to scare monger when I raise this issue, but common sense should prevail, which should also be applied alongside all microwave technology and the inherent risks associated with that.
If it is dangerous to be near microwave technology and the “stepped up” power radiated to ensure its effectiveness in transmitting video or audio over long distances, it is certainly dangerous to transmit it next to the human body in general terms. The power output of any transmitter is wholly relevant to the risks associated with it.
So often, news articles with Government findings appear stating that either the hands free kits are safe, or then there is contrary publicity to say they are not, should make you realise, they themselves are uncertain of its true damaging potential to us mortal humans. It is over time that answers will be forthcoming, and the truth will be released as such as illnesses occurring around disturbance of vision, and unexplained headaches unfold.
The truth is as I have explained, if you have to use mobile phones, use them in short bursts, and try to keep them away from your head for long durations, and DO always try to utilise hands free devices, where no earpiece is used, in that way all bases are covered, and as the truth comes out, which will be several years of detailed study and monitoring, it will be seen that they do have an element of high risk attached to their continuous use.
For your children’s sake, whose skull thickness would not have reached its full development if they are under 12 years of age, and use mobile phones frequently, make them aware of the possible hazards that are associated with them, and that Silent Witness…………….radiation!!!.
Always, remember the simple phrase: “ If its transmittable, it is interceptable”.
Gil Boyd B.E.M formally a Principal Technical Officer, covering all aspects of covert technology within the Serious and Organised Crime Unit for a UK Police Force is now the Technical Director of The British Security Association.