Mobile Privacy

Mobile privacy, especially on a smart phone like an Android, iPhone or Blackberry is a nightmare. The mobile has a camera so that it can take pictures, it has a microphone so that it can tape all your conversations, it has a GPS so it knows where you are and it also has a data connection so that it can relay all this information back to a central location. This is an absolute nightmare if your are seeking privacy!

In the line of work we often have to visit sensitive locations. Quite sensibly most of these locations have a strict policy of no mobiles and especially no mobiles with cameras allowed inside.

Choice of smart phones for mobile privacy

Quite paradoxically the dumbest phones are the best while going for mobile privacy. These phones have specialized chips and little spare processing power or memory so it is hard to write malware for them.

If you have to carry a smart phone a smart choice right now seems to be to use an iPhone and not jail break it. Also keep the apps that you install on the iPhone to a minimum. The more apps that you install the greater you increase the attack surface for malware to latch on to you. Also many legitimate apps can compromise your privacy. For example, a location tracker app on the phone will give away your location data to any person who has access to its data.

At this point in time, September 2011, Android smartphones are facing a tsunami of malware. Until a reliable solution is found, we do not recommend using an Android smartphone if you are concerned about your privacy

Steps to increase your mobile privacy

Possible partial solutions

  • Do not carry a mobile.

  • Carry a dumb mobile. Remember even if the mobile is dumb, your position can be triangulated using a cell tower. Also remember ever RF device has a unique id, like a finger print which can be id ed using appropriate equipment.

  • Do not accept a phone from any person or entity who may have reason to spy on you. Buy a phone from a retail store.

  • Keep the phone physically secure. Remember a person in physical possession of your smart phone can install spyware on it it within minutes.

  • Switch your mobile off and take out the battery. Why take out the battery? So that the thing does not wake up on its own :-)

  • Do not install any applications on the phone that you don't need.

  • Encrypt all data on the phone as far as possible. Do not rely on phone's inbuilt encryption to keep your data safe. Almost all built in phone encryption schemes have been broken.

  • Use non obvious locking passwords on the phone

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