|The FBI Can Listen to Everything You Say
Agents Use Spyware to Secrely
Activate Mikes in Cell Phones
Big Brother Can Eavesdrop Even When Phone is Off
|Cell Phones Can Rat You
Out and Track You Down
NSA Operative Uses Cell Phone and Agency
Software to Plot Revenge on His Wife's Lover
The use of the cell phones for surveillance, tracking and listening in on private
conversations is increasing dramatically, according to intelligence expert and author
Dan Speers who says the spying techniques is now spreading among local police,
private companies, would-be detectives and even individuals suspicious of spouses,
friends and business partners.
|Using technology originally developed to surreptiously tap into and record the potentially
criminal conversations of organized crime figures, federal agents have figured out how to turn
an ordinary cell phone into a remote listening device that can listen in on nearby conversations,
even when the phone is not being used for a call.
And it's legal, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.
|The U.S. Department of Justice authorized
this spyware technique to collect evidence
against a New York organized crime family
after some of its members began
suspecting they were under surveillance of
tails and traditional wiretaps.
According to a story from PoliTech, the
feds used this so-called "roving bug"
wiretap to turn the cellphones of alleged
mobster John Ardito and his attorney,
Peter Peluso, into remote listening devices
that allowed the FBI to monitor not only
calls made on the phones, but nearby
conversations as well.
Read the complete story at c/net News.com
Copies of legal and other documents backing up
this story can be found at:
Are you afraid your cell phone may be tapped?
There is a way you can find out if someone is
listening to your conversations. See Is My Cell
Phone Spying on Me? below.
Here's another version of the story that was
published in : NewsTarget:
NewsTarget has learned that the FBI has
developed a technique that can remotely activate a
nearby cell phone's microphone, thereby turning it
into a listening device.
The "roving bug" technique was approved by U.S.
Department of Justice officials for use on
members of an organized crime family in New
York that was getting increasingly suspicious of
tails, wiretaps or other traditional surveillance
The cell phones of alleged mobster John Ardito --
considered by the FBI to be one of the most
powerful men in the national Mafia's Genovese
family -- and his attorney Peter Peluso, also an
alleged mobster, were activated by this technique
in order for authorities to monitor nearby
conversations. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan
ruled that the technique was legal in an opinion
this week, stating that federal wiretapping law was
broad enough to cover the monitoring of
conversations occurring near a suspect's cell
phone. Nextel spokesperson Travis Sowders said
the company was not aware of the investigation
and was not asked to participate.
The new method works whether the phone is on
or off, because many phone models cannot be
truly powered down without removing the battery.
Some models, for example, will turn on from a
powered-down state when an alarm is set.
A 2005 Financial Times article noted that cell
phone providers can install a piece of software on
any phone from a remote location, allowing
microphone activation, without the owner's
knowledge. In addition to activating a mic, the
software can also stop a display from indicating a
call in progress, taking away another method by
which a cell phone user could tell his phone had
been compromised. According to
counter-surveillance consultant James Atkinson,
models from Nextel, Samsung and the popular
Motorola Razr are particularly vulnerable to these
remote software downloads.
"If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a
bug, the only way to counteract that is to either
have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which
is not practical, or to peel the battery off the
phone," Atkinson said, adding that some
security-conscious corporate executives make a
habit of removing their cell phone's battery when
the unit is not in use.
This is not the first time the FBI has
commandeered built-in microphones as listening
devices. In a 2003 lawsuit, it was discovered that
the FBI was able to activate the microphones of
automotive systems such as OnStar and listen to
passenger conversations without the speakers
knowing. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
that the practice was not legal, but only because
the technique prevents the system from being
used in an emergency.
|Speers first revealed the extent of this
technology in the summer of 2006 in his
novel Master Spies and Muzzy Spooks, in
which Howard Clare, a low-level NSA
employee uses a modified cellular
telephone to track and plan his revenge
against Tel Mackay, the man he thinks is
having an affair with his wife, Joy Dee.
Although Clare doesn’t know it, Mackay
is also an employee of the National
Security Administration, a plot device
Speers uses to subtly point out that the
NSA is by far one of the largest employers
in the Washington, D.C. area.
Mackay is on a higher level than Clare, a
level that allows him to use NSA
surveillance equipment and software to
eavesdrop on civilian telephone calls and
listen for evidence of adulterous activities
among area housewives. Mackay then uses
this information to blackmail the frightened
housewives into one-off sexual encounters.
As part of the many ironies and plot
twists in Master Spies and Muzzy
Spooks, Clare is not only unaware that
Mackay is not Joy Dee’s regular
adulterous partner, that role being enjoyed
by the leader of her church choir, the
cuckold of a husband also doesn’t know
that his surveillance of Mackay has been
detected both by American intelligence and
foreign espionage agents in America, as
well as spies eavesdropping as far away as
Australia, China and Japan.
Speers said he wrote these machinations
into the story to illustrate the extent and
power of electronic surveillance devices,
satellites and the specialized sophisticated
software currently being employed in the
intelligence community both here and
“All of this equipment, software, and
agencies actually exist and are currently in
operation, even though officials decline to
comment on the individuals being watched,
monitored or occasionally tagged for
follow-up and further scrutiny,” he said.
Speers says that he learned of several
instances of civilian monitoring operations
from private sources and that he based the
novel on this information. In addition to
the accounts of personal improprieties,
Speers points out that many of the events
and examples of “spookware” in his book
have been confirmed by recent and often
startling revelations in the press.
These news reports include the partial
disclosure of NSA wiretaps, revival and
reconstruction of carnivore-type
databases, the use of backscatter x-ray
devices that can see through clothing,
electronic snifters that sample the dander
cloud surrounding humans, the clandestine
and illegal opening of the US mail of
private citizens, and the ability to track
hidden radio frequency chips in underwear
and toiletry items.
According to Speers, all of the systems
and devices were described in his book
long before they were reported in the
general news. He even provided an
example of an impending shocking
disclosure in his book, cautioning that the
public would soon learn the full extent of a
plan to surreptitiously activate secret
RFID chips embedded in the soles of
shoes worn by ordinary people.
“Manufacturers are embedding these chips
between the layers of the sole in one of
every pair of shoes sold in America,”
Speers said. “It was originally intended for
inventory tracking and prevention of theft,
as well as the creation of marketing
databases that tie shoe styles and
purchases to individual bank and credit
cards, but it turns out that FBI and NSA
software and devices can reactive these
chips for surveillance and tracking.”
Even more startling is the fact that many
of these spying techniques can be
implemented by ordinary people, even
without any real knowledge of espionage
or electronic surveillance. “Practically
anybody can spy on anybody else,”
Speers said (see Do-It-Yourself Spy Kit
“A lot of readers have asked if Howard
Clare’s use of a cell phone is actually
possible. Absolutely. In an early draft of
the book, I had Howard plant a cell phone
in his bedroom, but listening in on the sex
between his wife, Joy Dee, and Mackay
grossed me out, so I cut that part of the
story and accomplished the same end by
using the cell for tracking.
Has any federal officer or agent working
for the NSA, DHS, FBI or CIA actually
used their agency spookware to check up
on their spouses or to track civilians?
Speers says there is a little doubt about it.
“With all of these tools at their disposal
and given the fallibilities of logic and
fragility of human emotions, insecurity
alone if not actual stress would be enough
to justify their use by individuals with a
need to control and manipulate others,” he
said, adding, “or so I have been told by
those in position to have direct knowledge
of what is really going on.”
|Do-It-Yourself Spy Kit
|Readers ask if Howard Clare’s use of
a cell phone is actually possible. The
answer is: Absolutely.
In an early draft of the book, I had
Howard plant a cell phone in his
bedroom, but listening in on the sex
between his wife, Joy Dee, and Mackay
grossed me out without adding to the
plot, so I cut that part and had Howard
use the cell for tracking.
It’s relatively easy to use a cellular
telephone to spy on anyone, and in
many states, eavesdropping on private
conversations is not even illegal,
especially if it’s on your own property
and you’re using the phone as a baby
monitor or to see if your kids are
stretching the limits of parental
However, in some states, such as
Massachusetts, it is illegal to record
any of these conversations.
You will need two prepaid cell phones,
the type that have the Auto-Answer
feature and allow you to turn off the
ringer. In the novel, Howard knew how
to clip and unsolder one of the internal
speaker contacts, but for simplicity’s
sake, get the ringer turn-off feature.
Your other consideration in choosing a
cell phone is how long you intend to
maintain surveillance. If this is a one-
shot deal or there is no electrical wiring
where you intend to install your
eavesdropping device such as
beneath or inside a car seat and there
is no way to keep the phone charged,
then use batteries.
On the other hand, if you are planting
the cell phone in an office or your home
and you have a way to conceal the
charger, such as behind a sofa or
bookcase, then include a cell phone
charge in your purchase as well. A
charger will allow you to listen in for
weeks, months or even years.
You can buy these cell phones in most
chain drugstores or X-Marts. Be sure to
buy a bunch of extra minutes and pay
for the phones in cash. You don’t want
to leave a credit card or bank trail,
especially if future alimony may be
Charge up and turn on the cell phones.
Turn off or disable the ringer on the
bug phone and enable the Auto-
Answer feature. Test call the bug
phone to make sure it doesn’t ring and
Test the eavesdropping capacity of the
bug phone by placing it close to a
sound source such as radio or
television. Retreat to a location where
you cannot hear the sound source and
call the bug phone. It should answer
and you should hear the sound source.
Plant the bug phone in your target
location, plugging in the charger if you
are using one and it can be safely
concealed. Now, anytime you want to
check on what’s going on or being said
nearby, all you have to do is use your
second anonymous cell phone to call
the "bug phone" you've hidden.
|Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me?
|Could someone take control of your cell and eavesdrop on your conversations? While it is
technically feasible, the real question might be, why would anyone want to do this to your
particular cell phone? Aside from espionage, and of course, criminal or terrorist activity, and
only you (and whatever agency is involved) would know the answer to that, it is unlikely that any
court would authorize such an action in a civil case such as divorce or a business dispute.
Of course, there are electronics and software specialists who could hack into your phone
given the time and money, and motivation, but this in and of itself, is illegal. The only other
possibility is a case of mistaken identity.Or fluke. I once called a friend's cell and apparently
they had deactivated the ringer and left the auto-answer feature on, and I discovered I was
listening in on every word she was saying to her husband.
Had they been talking about me, I suppose I might have been tempted to listen further, but as
they weren't, I quickly hung up and now we'll never know whether or not I would have continued
my surreptitous eavesdropping. This incident made me wonder if there wasn't a way to tell if
my own phone was bugging me, and it was by accident that I found a relatively simple answer,
at least as far as my cell was concerned.
I was listening to music one day when a call came in on my cell. Naturally, I went over to the
stereo to turn down the volume, passing close by one of the speakers when I heard a faint
buzz. I backed away from the speaker until the noise vanished and then extened the cell back
towards the speaker. Again, I heard the buzz and it was instantly apparent to me that it was
transmissions from my phone that was causing the static.
After the call, I turned the phone completely off and held it close to the speaker. No buzz. No
static. The cell was not transmitting and I realized that if anyone were tapping into my phone
and listening at that particular moment, static from speakers would have revealved this fact.
Now, I keep and charge my cell in a location that is close to these speakers and I listen.
There's no buzz unless I am actually using the phone myself. So far, anyway.