9.11 – Digital Security Tactics (Mobile Phones) (PART I of III)

This is Ethiopian Review Policy Research Center’s series on From Dictatorship to Democracy extracted/quoted from books and articles published by Albert Einstein Institution and similar sources.

MOBILE PHONES SECURITY TACTICS

The tactics listed below are case- and context-specific. They need to be adapted to the local situation.

  1. Buy lower-end, simple phones that do not allow third-party applications to be installed. Higher-end ones with more functionalities carry more risk. Use cash to purchase your phone and SIM card. Avoid town centers and find small or second-hand shops as these are unlikely to have security cameras. Do not give your real details if asked; many shops do not ask for proof of ID.
  2. Use multiple SIM cards and multiple phones and only use pay-as-you go options; they are more expensive but required for anonymity.
  3. Remove the batteries from your phone if you do not want to be geo-located and keep the SIM card out of the phone when not in use and store in separate places.Use your phone while in a moving vehicle to reduces probability of geo-location.
  4. Never say anything that may incriminate you in any way.Use code.
  5. Use Beeping instead of SMS whenever possible. Standard text messages are visible to the network operator, including location, phone and SIM card identifiers.
  6. Use fake names for your address book and memorize the more important numbers. Frequently delete your text messages and call history and replace them with random text messages and calls. The data on your phone is only deleted if it is written over with new data. This means that deleted SMS and contact numbers can sometimes be retrieved (with a free tool like unDeleteSMS. Check your phone’s settings to see whether it can be set to not store sent texts messages and calls.
  7. Eavesdropping in mobile phone conversations is technically complicated although entirely possible using commercially available technology. Do not take mobile phones with you to meetings as they can be turned into potential listening/tracking devices. Network operators can remotely activate a phone as a recording device regardless of whether someone is using the phone or whether the phen is even switched on. This functionality is available on US networks.
  8. Network operators can also access messages or contact information stored on the SIM card. If surveillance takes place with the co-operation of the operator, little can be done to prevent the spying.
  9. Mobile viruses tend to spread easily via Bluetooth so the latter should be turned off when not in use. Using open Bluetooth on phones in group situations, e.g., to share pictures, etc., can be dangerous. At the same time, it is difficult to incriminate any one person and a good way to share information when the cell phone network and Internet are down.
  10. Discard phones that have been tracked and burn them; it is not sufficient to simply destroy the SIM card and re-use the phone

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