Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Roving Bugs

The big news in the eavesdropping world is so-called "roving bugs." As a result, we've gotten calls from people who think that their cell phone is bugged. Before you call us, let me first tell you that your cell phone is very, very likely not bugged.

An article appearing in CNET News.com has generated all the buzz. Many bloggers picked up the story. Many of these bloggers subscribe to numerous conspiracies.

The article said, "The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

"The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

"The FBI is apparently using a novel surveillance technique on alleged Mafioso: activating his cell phone's microphone and then just listening."

If you Google "roving bugs," you'll find the full story.

It's my opinion that a cell phone cannot be turned on remotely if the power is off. Even if it could, the microphone isn't sensitive enough to pick up conversation more than a few feet away anyway.

I think the story is really based on a judge's decision to allow roving phone taps. In other words, say the FBI gets permission to tap a mobster's phone. Well, he's not going to be in his home all the time. He travels. So, the newest thing in taps, is tapping every phone where the mobster might be, including payphones in his neighborhood. That's a roving tap, or roving bug.

In the CNET article, one TSCM expert (bug sweeper) whom I respect, affirmed the gist of the story. I still disagree with the article.

However, if you think that a program can be downloaded to your cell phone to turn it on and eavesdrop on you, there are several things you can do.

Pull the battery out. Get a prepaid cell phone. Put your cell phone in a clam shell-type glasses case (You'll still be able to hear it ring, but it will muffle the mic enough so that an eavesdropper won't hear a word.

But ask yourself, are you really important enough for the FBI to place a roving bug on your phone?


Anonymous said...

My english not so good so please you the smaller words with me please. I would like to know if these rover bugs can be in all phones that are made or only select few that goverment chooses to put on? will the goverment mans search my computer for asking you these questions?

Skipp Porteous said...

The government can tap any phone they wish, whether landline or cell phone. But, unless you are a terrorist or criminal, the chances are good that they haven't tapped your phone.
I doubt very much that the government will search your computer.

Anonymous said...

well i am a criminal and my phone was tapped because after it was all over they said so. Luckily i always said "crazy" stuuf and led them on so many wild goose chases that they finally gave up. That is what you do say the big drop off is on wednesday and try to get them to bust you with nothing so you can sue

Anonymous said...

This is being done by more than the FBI. Hackers have the tools. They only need you cell # and the isn #

Private investigators are using this too. Friends ever tell you they called but no ring for you?... My phone was on..... Battery dies hyper fast some times but not others?

Most common is the the bluetooth hack though. Don't have to have ph# or esn#. Just have to be in range...