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Surveillance Nation

Sprint has 50 million customers. In 2009, Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times.

8 Responses to “Surveillance Nation”

  1. _Jon Says:

    They should hire The Dark Knight.
    He had no problem using that data either….

  2. straightarrow Says:

    OT, but related, have you noticed the OnStar commercial on TV where OnStar shuts down the automobile of a man fleeing the police? Does anyone really want to give control of your vehicle to someone hundreds of miles away? Remember, if it can be abused, it will be.

  3. wizardpc Says:

    I’m still soaking it in that sprint has a freaking WEBAPP for this.

    Yeah, no potential for hacking/abuse there.

  4. Dave R. Says:

    Supposedly, the GPS location still works even if the phone is turned off, but turning off and taking out the battery is said to defeat it. (Or maybe that’s just what they want us to believe…)

  5. Bruiser Says:

    Be afraid. Be VERY afraid!

  6. Ian Argent Says:

    @Dave R – fearmongering on someone’s part. Turning off the phone starts by deregistering the device from the network, then powering off the phone. The first part is the important one. The phone company doesn’t want to waste network resources looking for a phone that’s off to try and deliver calls, so the phone company’s make sure the device cleanly deregisters in a poweroff. If the phone’s off, the network has no idea that it exists.

  7. Will Says:

    Hmmm, it was reported a few years ago that if the cops showed up at a cell phone company with a warrant, the company could remotely turn on the phone to use it as a bug, or remote microphone. Also, that it would not be lit up like normal, but appear to still be off. Battery had to be removed to defeat this. Don’t recall if all providers/phones had this capability. This story died pretty quickly, as I recall.

  8. Ian Argent Says:

    According to this story the suspicion was that software was loaded remotely; but it could also have been hardware/software added physically. I find that the remote-load option to be pretty unlikely from my own experiences in the cell-phone industry – there’s an enormous liability issue if software is remotely loaded and interferes with the ability to dial 911; or bricks the phone, etc. Replacing handset firmware also restores the device to a factory state – wiping out contacts and personal settings. Certain very modern cellphones have the option to be sent firmware updates over the air, but these require opt-in from the customer. FBI doesn’t write cell-phone specs – and any option to allow this to go through without opt-in would be enormously more trouble than it’s worth.

    Also, the phones in question were Nextel units, and therefore likely push-to-talk devices. This makes it easier to eavesdrop, as they have more robust microphones and an always-on connection to the network in a way that garden-variety cellphones aren’t. Occam’s Razor still says physical interference though. And it’s to the FBI’s advantage to overstate their capabilities in this way.

    That having been said:

    With some PDAs there is third-party software that you can install to do this yourself; I’ve installed Microsoft’s My Phone on my PDA/phone and it has the capability to supply the location of my phone when it last hit the server (once a day) if I’ve opted in. Likewise google latitude, etc. This could not be loaded remotely, however; and it certainly couldn’t be done covertly – software install

    And currently, if you have an iPhone and jailbreak it, your phone CAN be remotely pwned if you haven’t changed your root password.

    Cell phones ARE miniature computers, and the rules of computer security apply. The biggest rule is that security can ALWAYS be compromised by physical access.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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