Common-sense emergency preparedness from a combat veteran

Is Big Brother spying on your computer – with your own cell phone?

Everyone knows that you can be monitored through your cell phone, but did you know they can use it to monitor your computer activity too? - Graywolf Survival - you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’ve written several articles on OPSEC. This one hits a lot closer to home.

In order to live in a technological society, you have to give up certain expectation of privacy from those who have the technology to tap into certain systems. If you email someone, you have to expect that someone could read those emails. If you talk on your cell phone, you have to expect that someone could overhear your conversation if they had the tech and chose to use it.

I’m not saying that you should stop using tech, because tech is very useful, but you need to know what you’re opening yourself up to if you don’t take certain precautions.

By now, you probably know that your phone can be tracked when you’re using it and that someone can listen in to your conversation if they have the right equipment.

I’ll start with the basics first.

But what about when you’re not using your phone?

It’s been widely reported that the government – or someone with that level of access – could listen to you talking by accessing the microphone through apps that you’ve installed. Those apps may not have been designed to do that, but they could be used that way if someone knew how to tap into the app and have that information sent to them.

They can even listen to your microphone if your phone is turned off, unless your phone is in DFU mode so they can’t access the device. Here’s how to do that:

Just think of all the Angry Bird games, facebook apps, and others that people download all the time. Do you know what’s in the code? Neither do most people. Even some apps that have innocent code have been known to be used by governments to spy on people.

Facebook is currently under fire for forcing people to install their messenger app to continue being able to chat with other facebook friends. If you install it on an Android, you’re giving it access to your phone’s calendar, contact list, GPS location, camera, and microphone. For iPhone, you manually give it access to all that – at your own risk.

If you give apps access to parts of your phone, that access may be abused.

Gyroscopes can turn your phone into a microphone

But, did you know that they don’t need to access the microphone to listen to your conversations?

Smart phones these days have something called gyroscopes in them. What these things do is measure movement and orientation. This is extremely useful for letting the phone know when it’s being held horizontally or vertically or assisting with navigation apps.

Recently, it was shown that someone could tap into those gyroscopes and actually convert the phone’s vibrations into sound. Researchers from Stanford University with Israeli defense firm Rafael have developed an Android app called Gyrophone that picks up vibrations of sound by using vibrating pressure plates in the phone’s gyroscope.  What they’ve essentially done is convert the phone itself into a microphone.

Watch this quick video:

Pretty scary, right?

Well it gets worse.

Using your cell phone to spy on your computer activity

These are used to remotely record what you do on your computer

Have you ever heard of a keylogger? With a keylogger such as the Keyllama 4MB USB Value Keylogger, whatever you type into your keyboard on your computer is stored and can then be retrieved by someone else. Spies, private investigators, and suspicious spouses have been using them for years. You just have to get access to the computer to plug it in somehow and then retrieve the keylogger later to read the data. Even worse, there are some that you can just plug in and they send out the data by wifi!

So you may think then that your computer activities are safe as long as you don’t let anyone near your computer. You’d be wrong about that.

You may have missed this news but Georgia Tech and MIT came up with a way that they can actually spy on your computer activity through your cell phone in pretty much the same way as a keylogger does.

In case this gets deleted from the web, and so you can see the actual data from their study, I’ve uploaded the pdf so that you can read the whole thing here. It’s called (sp)iPhone Decoding Vibrations From Nearby Keyboards.

Just to cut to the chase, this is from the study’s conclusion:

Mobile phones contain an array of powerful sensors. While access to many of the most obvious sources of information is generally restricted, the use of a number of a number of other seemingly innocuous sensors is not. In this paper, we demonstrate that unfettered access to accelerometer data allows a malicious application to recover and decode the vibrations caused by keypresses on a nearby keyboard.

Technically, it uses a similar method that researchers have been able to reconstruct human voices by video recording the vibrations of a potato chip bag and then running the video through a computer program.

What can you do to protect yourself?

So what can you do about this? Other than continually buying drop phones and having your number forwarded to them, there’s a pretty simple solution that will allow you to use your phone whenever you want and not worry about people being able to access it while it’s sitting in your pocket or near your computer.

Currently, your keystrokes can only be deciphered if your phone is set next to your keyboard (where mine usually is was). At the moment, that seems to mitigate the threat. As technology improves – or their algorithms do, they’ll be able to listen in with more accuracy from farther away.

This can help protect you from spying

A better solution would be to get a good RF-shielding cell phone case, but make sure you get a quality one that has effective shielding. Obviously you can’t receive calls while it’s being shielded but most systems will update your phone on missed calls once you pull the phone out.

An added protection this gives you is your movements can’t be tracked by cell towers while your phone is in the case (which can happen even if you don’t have a smart phone) – and it can protect you from thieves and others reading the RFID off your credit cards and ID.

Oh, you didn’t know they could do that? Log into the same google account that’s on your phone and check out this link. If you’ve not set your settings correctly, you’ll see a map of your movements while you’ve had your phone. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that some app-writer couldn’t also access this information without your knowledge.

If you’d like to learn more about how to hide your digital footprint and your privacy, check out How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace, which was written by Frank Ahearn, the number one skip-tracer who now works to teach people how to protect their privacy.

So stay informed and stay protected ~Graywolf

Why you need to rethink your SHTF water plan

Why you should rethink your shtf water plan 1024

I was speaking with a coworker the other day. We both share a love of firearms, and we got on the topic of ammunition. Or rather, how much ammo you should have. He stated he had several hundred rounds “in case it all goes to hell.” I had never … [Continue reading]

The threat you face from Ebola and what you can do about it

The world news is on fire with reports of infections and death from the Ebola virus, and victims are being brought to the US. What do you need to know? -

So we've been hearing a LOT about this Ebola thing for a while now, and every day, it seems like the problem escalates. How worried should you really be? What can you do about it? What should you be doing now? James wrote an article several days … [Continue reading]

9 ultralight backpacking tents for hiking or your bug out bag

9 ultralight backpacking tent for hiking or bug out bags

If you had to leave home quickly, as a prepper you'd probably have at least a cheap EDC kit on you and a small go bag that you could grab. There is certainly some utility in going ultra-light like that but unfortunately that system doesn't allow you … [Continue reading]

Ebola fear grips the world – here’s why you don’t need to freak out

The world news is on fire with reports of infections and death from the Ebola virus, and victims are being brought to the US. What do you need to know? -

Unless you live under a rock, you have surely seen the media headlines about the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that has hit West Africa. Almost 1400 cases have been reported so far, with about a 55% mortality rate (Over 700 deaths so … [Continue reading]

Are you really prepared?

If most people prepare to ensure their survival, then wouldn’t it make sense that you take precautions with things which can immediately impact you first? Then prepare for other possibilities? Are you really prepared?

So I was perusing the internet the other day, and saw an article on what sort of firearms preppers should be stockpiling for the end of the world. It was a slow day, so I read the story. I was hoping for a gun video, but no such luck. Long story … [Continue reading]

The best games to learn survival or emergency preparedness skills

best survival and prepper games

So I got in a discussion on facebook the other day about paintball being a training aid for preppers. Someone was saying that it wasn't worth the time. I disagreed, which is usually what I do when people don't know what they're talking about. So … [Continue reading]

How to start a niche website – the right way

How to start a prepper website - the right way

By the end of this post, you will know enough to be able to come up with a great idea for what your website will be about and register a good domain name with a web host. You'll even install a WordPress website (that's actually the easy part - I even … [Continue reading]

Prepper gear review: The eartheasy SunBell lamp and phone charger

sunbell lamp and charger review featured image

So eartheasy sent me this solar charger/lamp thing to do a review. I don't do a lot of reviews because a lot of stuff out there is crap. This one piqued my interest. You shouldn't have to read the instructions to use something simple like this so … [Continue reading]

The top 10 prepper skills and abilities FNG needs to survive

Top 10 Prepper Skills for FNG to Survive

So I was perusing the survival and prepper websites the other day (as I do every day) and came across a couple articles on prepper skills. Then I saw on facebook that a couple people were asking pretty much the same thing: what are the most important … [Continue reading]

Send secure messages even without cell service with goTenna

Send secure messages even without cell service with goTenna

I got an email from the goTenna marketing/consulting/whatever folks today about some new communications thing that's coming out. At first I thought it was just some radio thing (I constantly get emails from Chinese suppliers that think I want to … [Continue reading]

Victorinox Swisschamp XAVT Swiss Army knife review

Victorinox Swisschamp XAVT swiss army knife review

When I was young, I was in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in Colorado and was dating a curly-haired girl a little older than me named Carla. I think her name was Carla. It was a very interesting time in my life.This was the early me back then. God, I was … [Continue reading]

Beware False Knowledge

beware of false prophets

Beware False Knowledge With summer in full swing, my teenage son has found a lot of free time on his hands. (Even after the chores given to him by an “over-demanding” father.  LOL)  So some of his free time has been spent watching TV. Now I’m not … [Continue reading]

Why you need to have a SHTF/emergency food supply plan

planning for a food shortage

Food is one of the most important considerations in a long-term survival situation. It’s also an important consideration for those in short-term emergencies who want to maintain some semblance of normalcy - especially those who have family. If … [Continue reading]

Neighborhood Watch – Not just for nosey old ladies

neighborhood watch sign

As both Graywolf and I have spoken of here many times, OPSEC is of course of tantamount importance. I’m a firm believer that if everyone knows you stockpile beans and bullets, then during a catastrophe you are no longer a neighbor or a friend. … [Continue reading]

60 bug out bag gear items you may not have considered

60 bug out bag gear items you probably don't have

There are a lot of good articles with lists and other information out there to help you figure out what you should put in your bugout bag or in your other gear. I've written a couple myself, they don't always get you to think outside the box. This … [Continue reading]

DIY portable camping PVC pipe evap air conditioner

PVC swamp cooler

Ok, so I saw the 5 gallon bucket air conditioner swamp cooler that figjam did a couple years ago and thought it was a fantastic idea. I wanted to see if I could improve on that. I finally got it. This is it, in my RV right now running off a car … [Continue reading]

University research to confront prepper stereotypes

They said I was a crazy prepper

Michael Mills is a Ph.D. candidate and Assistant Lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at University of Kent (England). He is conducting 3 years of research on the preparedness community in America and Britain, which … [Continue reading]

You DON’T know what will happen if SHTF so stop acting like it

What will happen after SHTF 2000

I see this crap all the time and it really bugs me. Too many people think they have the answer to what will happen after SHTF and that thinking makes their plans suck. Does your plan really make sense? I write an article like 60 bug out bag gear … [Continue reading]

Top 7 prepper/survival/camping gifts for preppers

Best prepper camping survival gifts

Ever sat down and wondered, "What the heck am I going to get him or her this year"? Obviously, you want to get them something they like. Why not get them something they need? Ok, it doesn't have to be for this upcoming holiday in particular. It … [Continue reading]

If you have any questions, would like to send me something to review, or for any other reason, please contact me at or on my google+, facebook, or twitter links above.
Disclosure: This is a professional review site that sometimes receives compensation from the companies whose products we review and recommend. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.