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They can see us, read our emails, watch our IM conversations, and now even hear us whether we want them to or not

It seems as though George Orwell hit it the bullseye again when he wrote about Big Brother and the government's way of keeping track of the general public. It has been recently revealed that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has a way of tapping a cell phone and using the microphone to listen in on nearby conversations.

The method used for listening in on conversations held by alleged members of Cosa Nostra is called a "roving bug" and was ruled to be a legal method of wiretapping by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. The bug was alledgedly used on two Nextel phones. It looks like all cellular phones are vulnerable to this sort of wiretapping according to CNet's findings:

The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

Kaplan further added that the functionality of the roving bug was in place even when the phone was powered off -- or at least when the phone looked to be powered off.  One possible method that the FBI used to tap into the two Nextel phones is by getting the network to install a rogue firmware update which gave the agency access to such features.

Such capability has long been rumored to exist in Motorola phones after it was discovered how the 9/11 terrorists used cellular phones to coordinate most of their activities.

Still there are some skeptics who believe that this method does not exist and that the FBI had to have physically planted a bug into the cellular phone to monitor conversations. But with the recent boom of PDA phones and devices that support custom software it was only a matter of time before hackers, or the government found a way to exploit similar features.

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RE: So?
By InsaneScientist on 12/2/2006 8:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
Admittedly, I don't really care if they listen to my phone calls, as long as they're actually confining that power to actually looking for people like terrorists. (Whether they are or not is an entirely different discussion.)
I, too, have nothing to hide....

This, however, irritates the heck out of me. So they can turn on my phone at any time they like and activate the microphone?
Presumably that means that it's sending the audio stream to the cell network, just like it does when I'm talking on the phone normally.

Well, I don't know what kind of phones or batteries they're using, but phone (with a full battery) goes from 6 days of uptime when it's on standby to a measly 3 hours when it's active.

So if they excercize their "rights" to listen in to someone on my phone for a couple hours, and my phone has already been on for, oh, say, a day... all of a sudden my phone has no power.

What happens then if I need to use my phone? Not 'need' as in jabber with a friend (though I like to do that), no I'm talking about the sort of need that occurrs when you're having an emergency. (i.e. Car died in the middle of nowhere, you broke your leg on a hike, if you're a woman... you're going into labor, etc...)

There are reasons that people have cell phones. Many will talk to friends on them, but most at least view it as a fallback if something happens: then can call someone, be it a friend, an ambulance, or the police... whatever.

Now you're telling me that they've effectively taken that security blanket and thrown it out the window?!?!?

I'm not saying that this will be common, but all it takes is for this to happen at the wrong time, with the wrong person, once, and they've just indirectly killed someone.

Forgive my little rant, but does this thought scare anyone else as much as it does me?

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