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cell phone security

Cell Phone Security: Mobile Phone Taps

by The Drifter on January 3, 2010

Reading time: 6 – 10 minutes

Cell phone security is important to James Bond, Jason Bourne and every other Hollywood spy with the initials J.B. use some pretty impressive technology to get around cell phone security and get the information they want out of their targets.  Mobile phone taps are some of the tools now available to those who are not action heroes.  There has been considerable discussion lately about the ease of eavesdropping on cell phone conversations through mobile phone taps and the lack of cell phone security or tools like Spy Bubble.  There are many products and hacks available which allow for monitoring of cell phone activity. Is your phone bugged and what can you do to keep your private information from being intercepted?

Cell Phone Security Issues

How Are Mobile Phones Tapped?

The most common way for someone to breach your cell phone security and surreptitiously listen to your phone calls, other than by the US government, is to install cell phone monitoring software directly onto your cell phone.  This requires the person to have physical access to your phone for about 5 minutes.  Often this will happen when you leave your phone on a desk, on a charger or somewhere else out of your sight.  Once installed, the monitoring software cannot be detected without an expert scan of the phone. The snooper has access to everything in your phone and can listen in to your calls, read your text messages, know your GPS location and even use the speaker phone as a microphone of the room your phone is in, all without you even having your phone turned on.  If you are concerned about the legality of any tool, you should speak to an attorney.

Whose Mobile Phone Might Be Tapped?

There are increasing cases of cell phones being used to intercept valuable information, or simply to harass unsuspecting victims.

Many people would lead you to believe that you are only at risk of a mobile phone tap if you are a mobster or a fugitive from justice.  This is not at all true.  Mobile phone taps are most likely to occur if you have valuable private information.  A likely scenario is a person with access to valuable inside information about a business or transaction.  The more monetary incentive there is to know what you know, the more likely it will be that  someone will take the time to monitor your cell phone.  Monitoring your cell phone for the purpose of harassment is probably less likely to occur than to get valuable information, but because the cost is so low to actually engage in it, it is probably about as likely as other kinds of phone or internet harassment.

How To Know If Your Mobile Phone Is Tapped

The first thing that you might do to determine if your cell phone security has been breached by a mobile phone tap is to evaluate your value as a target.  The more valuable you are as a target, the more consideration should be given to the following symptoms of cell phone buggery.  The most common symptom is that your battery life lasts much shorter than normal.  This happens when your mobile phone is tapped because many tapping systems will cause your phone to send information constantly, whether you are using your cell phone or not, and sometimes even if your phone is switched off.

You may also notice that your phone will light up or flash on for a moment even when the phone is “off.”  This is another indication that someone is accessing the information on your phone remotely.  All of this activity on your phone when not in use causes your cell phone to heat up, much in the same way that it does when you use it for a long time, so a warm cell phone when it otherwise shouldn’t be is another indication of cell phone monitoring.

Another symptom is that you may get some buzzing interference with a call.  A combination of these symptoms, or any one of them individually, are signs that your phone might be monitored.

Here’s What You Can Do To Increase Cell Phone Security

Most phones need to allow physical access to the phone in order to install an illegal bug without your consent.  To avoid bugging, keep your phone in your control as much as possible.  If you are forgetful, try duct taping it to your hand.  You should also password protect your phone. If someone does gain access to your phone they will have to crack the code before they can install any malicious software.

In order to be certain that your cell phone is not being used as a bug, remove the battery.  This prevents all use of your cell phone device as any kind of bug or GPS locator.  Removing the battery is an extreme measure that is not really practical for regular use.  It is an important thing to keep in mind, however for someone like an executive who has access to very valuable inside information in meetings that might be monitored.  Taking out the battery during the meeting, or just leaving it at home that day, will prevent the meeting from being monitored by a mobile phone tap.  You may also take your phone in to have it reset to remove malicious  software.


Cell phone security is becoming more complicated with the ease and low cost of mobile phone taps.  You need to evaluate the risk of a breach of your cell phone security and take the proper steps to avoid disclosure of private data through mobile phone taps.  You might also want to think about avoiding pretexting, keeping your information out of private and public databases, ensuring tools like Spy Bubble are not on your cell phone(s) and avoiding surveillance cameras and avoiding private investigators.  Also, share this and copies of the book How To Vanish with your friends so that they won’t unwittingly help you fall victim to this invasion of your privacy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Drifter is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 131 by .
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