Nanny Knows Best

Nanny Knows Best
Dedicated to exposing, and resisting, the all pervasive nanny state that is corroding the way of life and the freedom of the people of Britain.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Be Evil

Don't Be EvilNaughty Google, the company whose motto is "Don't be evil", seems to have committed something of a security "faux pas".

You may recall back in 2008 that it started sending vehicles around the world, collecting data for its worldwide street view product?

Well, some of the data it collected included household computer passwords and emails.


All a terrible mistake of course, the VP of Engineering and Research (Alan Eustace) is mortified and promises that the data will be deleted asap.

This provides a pertinent reminder to all of us that our electronic communications are subject, and open, to monitoring.

I would also like to remind you all that your mobile phone, when switched on, provides those who are interested with a physical fix on your location and can also be used to eavesdrop on your conversations.

By the way, did you also know that mobile phones that are switched off can be turned on remotely by third parties (if they have the right equipment)? The only way to prevent this happening is for the battery to be removed.

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  1. "By the way, did you also know that mobile phones that are switched off can be turned on remotely by third parties (if they have the right equipment)? The only way to prevent this happening is for the battery to be removed."

    Really? Where is the evidence for this? If a device is off then it's off, it would need power to receive a signal and switch on into a fully operational mode.

    Perhaps some of the newer smart phones can't be properly switched off without battery removal, but that is not the same as switching on a device remotely when it is well and truly off! :)

  2. Mmmm, it is getting more difficult to live under the radar every day.

    I did know your factoid Ken, I heard it on the Bill. I believe I read that, the technology became mandatory in the wake of a couple of major terror attacks, where unregistered mobiles were used by the terrorists to communicate with each other, but I could be wrong.

    I know that many "worried parents" use the same type of technology to keep an eye on their kids by monitoring the GPS installed on their mobile phones....For the kids own protection of

  3. Andy C12:24 PM

    Sorry Ken , but NO , you cannot remotely switch on a mobile. You can however turn it into a bug to transmit when it not makig a call but you would have to install software to do that.
    In the case of non-smart phones thats a major code change.
    If its a smart phone then the user has to accept the change first. In the case of IPhones you have to disable all the security features first.

  4. microdave1:09 PM

    No modern phones have a mechanical on/off switch - they all rely on "soft" switching where a key commands the software to shut down, or power up. This means that some of the circuitry has to be running all the time.

    Unless you put it inside a Faraday cage, or have a scanner sitting beside it to monitor any handshake signals, how can you be 100% sure that it's not doing something?

    It turned out that the level of encryption used in GSM phones is less than the networks originally wanted, as government security services wanted to be able to eavesdrop easily.

    Call me a tinfoil hatter if you wish, but with governments obsessive desire to micromanage every aspect of our lives I will err on the side of caution.

    By the way, how many of you are aware of the default settings for Adobe Flash Player? Right click on a YouTube video when it's playing and check the "Settings". You will find one that says:
    "Allow to access your camera and microphone?" These are all software enabled controls, and as such could be modified without your knowledge by rogue programmes.

    The only certain way to stop such activities is to physically disconnect or remove them...

  5. Anonymous5:51 PM

    In a programme of Channel 4 last night, they used an old spark transmitter, from the days of the Titanic and had to erect a Faraday shield to contain the signal, which was passed through to modern equipment for relaying to a remote station.

    The shield didn't seem to be a very complicated piece of kit, and I imagine that putting your mobile phone in an old 2 oz tobacco tin when it wasn't in use would have much the same effect.

    Perhaps worth a try, if nothing else.

  6. microdave6:59 PM

    My old NEC G9 "brick" wouldn't fit in tobacco tin!! Wrapping it with kitchen foil should do the trick...

  7. Anonymous10:01 PM

    One night, a few weeks ago, I was sitting by the banks of the Misty River watching the sun going down, when suddenly a man wearing a long black cloak and hood stepped out from behind the trees and started telling me the following amazing story:

    “A year or two ago, I bought a new mobile phone. The first day I tested it by loading lots of my favourite audio, and found that the audio all played wonderfully. However, three days later, the phone responded that it had no audio. I thought: “What the %#&@!* are you on about, it's got gigabytes of audio?”.
    It turned out that the phone did not approve of the source of the audio (DAB radio) - copyright laws etc. And so it refused to play.
    [I think it was at that point he then said: “That's something I've never heard anyone mention – the massive increase of nannying functionality bundled with electronic devices these days. The iPad makes another major leap in that direction …”]
    Anyway, I was of the opinion that 0s and 1s are 0s and 1s, so I wrote an app for the phone to provide all my audio needs but without any nannying functionality. [He also reckoned it's one of the best little apps he's ever come across]
    Anyway, one of the things I wanted to do was press the 'Off' button on the phone to save energy but still play the audio, which I achieved. Now it depends on what's meant by 'power down', but the phone is never really fully powered down, even after the 'Off' button is pressed.
    I didn't look into phone calls but I did notice that GPS signals (ie an external trigger) arrive on a particular port which can easily be accessed by an app.
    So I would be of the opinion that, with a bit more investigation, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that malware could be developed to switch a phone on remotely.”.

    And with that, the man just turned around and disappeared back into the woods again!