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Thread: Mobile Phones as Microphones

  1. #1 Mobile Phones as Microphones 
    Forum Freshman Quantumologist's Avatar
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    How easy - or otherwise - is it to turn a mobile phone into a remote listening device (bug) so that someone can listen in to you even when you're not actually using your phone? This happens in TV scripts and I've heard it said (from an ex-NASA engineer) that this is a technological capability that's been around for decades. I'm wondering how true it is, and if true, how easy is it for someone to set up such a system? (Not asking how it's done - no intention of doing it myself!)


    Last edited by Quantumologist; October 11th, 2017 at 05:33 PM. Reason: Wasn't long enough!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantumologist View Post
    How easy - or otherwise - is it to turn a mobile phone into a remote listening device (bug) so that someone can listen in to you even when you're not actually using your phone? This happens in TV scripts and I've heard it said (from an ex-NASA engineer) that this is a technological capability that's been around for decades. I'm wondering how true it is, and if true, how easy is it for someone to set up such a system? (Not asking how it's done - no intention of doing it myself!)
    There are several methods, the easiest of which relies on carelessness. A standard technique is to send a malformed email attachment to trigger a buffer overflow. Bits are then written in areas normally reserved for the OS, and the new code then executes the eavesdropping.

    Recently, alternative methods have been described that don't require these elaborate means. The gyros and accelerometers in phones don't require explicit permissions from a user in order to make their data accessible to other apps. These sensors can be used as low-quality microphones.


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    Forum Freshman Quantumologist's Avatar
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    Is there any way of telling if this is being done? My friend showed me a pop-up appearing on her phone which says, "Content share - missing permission" and she was worried what this might mean.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantumologist View Post
    Is there any way of telling if this is being done? My friend showed me a pop-up appearing on her phone which says, "Content share - missing permission" and she was worried what this might mean.
    If the malware is written at all well, the average consumer will not be able to detect it.
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    Forum Freshman Quantumologist's Avatar
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    So does this mean it's fairly easy to do, all you need is the right kind of technical know-how?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantumologist View Post
    So does this mean it's fairly easy to do, all you need is the right kind of technical know-how?
    In general, things are fairly easy for those with the right know-how, so the answer is trivially yes.

    Acquiring that know-how isn't casually achieved, but neither does one need the resources of a state. Compared to Stuxnet, this is easy.
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    Thank you.
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