• Adam Adler

Adam Adler: Are mobile phone carriers spying on us?

Adam Adler (Miami, FL): many mobile carriers are using IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) and IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) codes to determine each movement of the users. The IMEI and IMSI are identification numbers of smartphones and SIM cards.

Remember when a phone is turned on – the carrier continuously records every movement of the user by assessing their distance with the two signal towers.

Digital technology has made it possible for mobile manufacturers and carriers to access bulk information and even store it as a valued possession.

No individual with a smartphone is exempted from this surveillance. Unfortunately, the users are not aware of this issue and continue to ‘hand over’ their privacy rights to their respective phone carriers, mobile manufacturers, and even app developers.

Currently, government agencies and tech giants have taken proactive action to secure the privacy of mobile users – specifically after the Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal. However, Adam says that the actions taken are not enough. And more should be done to minimize the recurrent privacy scandals.

Smartphone users can do 'very little' to stop security services from getting control of devices. Surveillance program that gathered Americans’ phone data was illegal, the court finds. A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a controversial government surveillance program that had collected millions of Americans’ phone records violated the law — and that claims made by FBI and other national security officials in defense of the program were not accurate.

The ruling by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will not have much immediate effect on the program it criticizes, because that record-gathering effort ended in 2015, replaced by a different method for searching phone records that were also eventually shut down.

The judges also ruled that government prosecutors must tell criminal defendants when it plans to use evidence gathered or derived from surveillance done overseas, a large, secret effort generally referred to by the executive order that authorizes such collection, 12333. It was not immediately clear how significant an impact that part of the ruling might have on the Justice Department, because the use of such material in criminal investigations has always been closely guarded within the government.



Currently, government agencies and tech giants have taken proactive action to secure the privacy of mobile users, specifically after the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, Edward says that the actions taken are not enough. US researchers have discovered a large number of vulnerabilities in smartphones. Malware and backdoors are often pre-installed at the root level, and there is nothing a regular user can do about it.

Most people are aware that their cellphone may have certain vulnerabilities and that they should be careful about the settings they choose, cautious when using the device to send and receive sensitive data, and wary about what kind of apps to install.

But most users are not aware that a brand-new mobile phone straight from the factory comes with pre-installed spyware.

The phone may have an invisible app that manages to obtain elevated admin privileges and do things that you as a user can hardly detect and cannot disable. That app may even send out data packages to some remote server at night when you as the owner are sleeping and your cellphone is turned off.

The problem of pre-installed vulnerabilities is most likely not limited to Android. Similar bugs may also exist in other operating systems. But the sheer number of Android devices makes them a more attractive target to attackers and the way the system software is developed and distributed makes it easier for them to get a foothold in the supply chain of the software.

Of the estimated 5 billion people who are using mobile devices, 85% are using models based on a version of the Android operating system. Besides smartphones, Android also runs on a variety of other connected devices like TVs or car entertainment systems and the vulnerabilities extend to those, too.

As new software components arrive in the market at a breathtaking pace, the bugs and vulnerabilities in pre-installed software are more likely to increase in number than come to an end anytime soon.