Did you know that the NSA can track the location of your phone even when it is turned off and the batteries have been removed? This admission went largely unnoticed in a Washington Post report entitled NSA growth fueled by need to target terrorists. In the article, writer Dana Priest details how teams of NSA employees stationed around the globe are dedicated to tracking phones in real time. By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this “The Find,” and it gave them thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq, according to members of the unit.
At the same time, the NSA developed a new computer linkup called the Real Time Regional Gateway into which the military and intelligence officers could feed every bit of data or seized documents and get back a phone number or list of potential targets. It also allowed commanders to see, on a screen, every type of surveillance available in a given territory.
The technique by which the NSA can wiretap cellphones even when they are turned off and powered down is most likely being performed with the complicity of telecommunications companies who have proven friendly to NSA snooping. Trojan horse programs disguised behind routine system updates are the likely method through which the NSA gains direct access to millions of Americans’ cellphones and other devices.
“You may recall the fact that Verizon and AT&T notably did not sign the collective letter asking the government to allow affected companies to release information on government requests for data,” writes Tim Cushing. “Given this background, it’s not unimaginable that Verizon and AT&T would accommodate the NSA (and FBI) if it wished to use their update systems to push these trojans.”
As we have also previously highlighted, terms of agreement for many of the apps you download to your smartphone now use your microphone to listen to you and your camera to take pictures of you without your knowledge.
The notion of the federal government tracking your location via your cellphone is particularly prescient given yesterday’s report concerning the DHS-funded mesh network system that Seattle Police eventually intend to roll out across the city, but have temporarily been forced to deactivate due to a privacy outcry.
Aruba Networks, the company behind the system of wi-fi hubs which can record the last 1,000 locations of cellphones belonging to anyone in the coverage area, bragged in their promotional material that the grid could track “rogue” or “unassociated” devices.
In other words, even if you do not allow your phone to connect to such wi-fi networks, they can still access your device, record its current and historical location, as well as download private information from your apps and other settings.
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