Did you know that your innocent-looking little cell phone can be used to listen in on your regular conversations – conversations which aren’t even taking place on your cellphone but just in the room in which your cell phone is sitting – without you even knowing? Known as a “roving bug”, this technology can be used for eavesdropping even when your mobile phone is turned off!
This is no urban legend – in fact the evidence came out in some genuine legal evidence, at the Federal court level just this past week.
It turns out that the Feds had been using this method of eavesdropping, which is now known as a “roving bug”, to eavesdrop on some mobsters in a sting of the Genovese family. The defense objected, and this past week the Federal court ruled that the use of the roving bug technology was covered under the federal wiretapping law.
“The FBI can access cell phones and modify them remotely without ever having to physically handle them. Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone’s location to within just a few feet,” explained counterintelligence security consultant James Atkinson.
And to use the cell phone’s microphone as a room bug.
It’s all done by sending a piece of software, remotely, to the cell phone – something which can be done without your ever knowing it was sent and installed on your phone.
“A cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone,” confirms the U.S. Commerce Department.
And because the cell phone can be used in this way even when it is turned off, the only way to disable it is to actually pull the battery out of the cell phone.
“If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to either have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which is not practical, or to peel the battery off the phone,” explained Atkinson.
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According to Atkinson, high-level executives often remove the battery of their cell phones for this very reason. Makes sense – if the FBI can get the software to spy on you, you can be sure that industry spies can too.