The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Your Phone Is a Sucking Security Wound and Basic Anti-surveillance Hygiene

Might as well send anyone who cares for an itinerary:


While this is for smart-phones, old-style cell phones can also be compromised.

If you have a phone on you, even off, it can be used to track all your movements and listen to what you are saying. Even putting it in a Faraday bag will not stop it from storing tracking movements; the moment you remove it, it will broadcast again, and not all Faraday cages are strong enough to block a phone in any case.

You should not carry a phone, at all, if you are doing anything the State or other large actors dislike. So that it is not obvious when they need to be concerned, you should occasionally not take your phone with you on other trips.

If you need comms, find another way other than cell phones. Even a burner isn’t that great -— the second you contact any other phone, you can be compromised. Old fashioned walkie-talkies with pre-agreed one use codes are better. If you need to record or take pictures, use a device which has no internet connectivity without a cable. Nothing wi-fi or cellular-enabled.

There are NO secure online comms, also. None. Things like Tor and a good (non-Western based) VPN make it a bit harder, but if anyone cares enough, they can find you — plus you don’t know what services has been compromised. Tor is heavily subsidized by the security state, a smart person doesn’t assume it’s reliable for anything the US cares about.

If anything matters, use offline comms. If you must send a message, go yourself, make sure neither you nor the recipient have a phone, and leave out any place you habitually frequent, at the very least. If you’re a messenger, same rules: Write it down, then have it burned (not shredded) after receipt.

If you do not personally control the communications network, you do not know if it has been compromised. In the last Hezbollah-Israel war, Hezbollah won the e-lint war: They had built their own private fiber-optic network underground AND Israeli soldiers carried and used cellphones. Hezbollah knew where Israeli troops were, and Israel only found out where Hezbollah troops were when a bunker opened up on them.

In the early 2000s, the Pentagon ran a war game against Iran. The General running the Iranian side, among other things, used motorcycle messengers. The US expected to have e-lint, didn’t, and that lack was one reason they lost the game.

There’s a vast array of very good surveillance tech now, of course. If someone really wants to track you and listen in on your comms, they can. But they assume e-lint will work and they have less human-intelligence than they did.

Finally, if you are doing something the State REALLY doesn’t approve of (not, of course the wonderful American and Canadian states, who are always good, mind you, but only bad states), remember the first rule of getting away with it.


Set a date when you’ll stop and become an ordinary, boring citizen. When the date happens, just stop. Wipe everything and walk away.

Likewise, if you ever think something is OFF, stop immediately.

If you have comrades, once you stop, you never contact them again.

The longer you do whatever it is, the more likely some .01 percent audit or some-such will catch you, no matter how brilliant and careful you’ve been.

Also, don’t keep records, eh?

We’re moving into a very dystopian, surveillance state world. Gait recognition, infrared tracking, mics that can hear through walls, drones, and satellites mean the long game will have pretty much everyone under surveillance all the time, even if you aren’t being watched in particular.

For now, however, don’t make it easy for them, and to start, leave the damn phone at home. (Oh, and don’t assume cryptocurrency is anonymous. Even criminals who really know what they’re doing don’t always get away with that. Cash is still anonymous, given proper safeguards.)

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Way Past Time to Leave America


Open Thread


  1. Plague Species

    My wife had a phone conversation with her 95-year-old mother a few weeks prior. Her mother told her when you reach her age it’s impossible to maintain your toenails. For this reason, older folks often have hideous toenails. She explained to my wife, as if my wife doesn’t already know this, that it’s no fun getting and being old.

    Several hours after my wife’s phone conversation with her mother, she told me all this during dinner. Later that night she comes to me and tells me I’m not going to believe this. She then proceeds to tell me she just got an advertisement for toenail clippers.

    Keep in mind, she didn’t text her mother. She and her mother don’t text. They only talk on the phone. So, the algo was either programmed to include phone calls or it’s programmed to use her mic to listen to everything and not just phone calls.

    I thought this was illegal? Apparently not. Anything you do in or around your smartphone is fair game for the algos. It quite literally is Minority Report.

  2. anon

    I read last week that Walmart is giving its associates free smartphones. Sounds like a nice gift but it is just one more way for Walmart to track the whereabouts of its employees at all times. More companies will probably give out phones in the future as “incentives” to apply or work at a company, but it is a way to: 1) track employees and 2) contact them at all hours for work.

    Parents should teach younger generations who have never experienced life without smartphones and the internet survival techniques on how to manage without technology if they end up in a situation where they either are forced or have chosen to abandon their smartphones and laptops. Children and teens also need to understand the privacy they are giving up from an early age by posting every second of their lives on social media. Privacy and security are more valuable than feeling cool after sharing video of themselves and their friends at a protest or other event that could land them in hot water with their future college, employer, or the government.

  3. different clue

    I don’t have a cell phone. Not even a dumm one. My reason has been that cell phones cause cancer. But this post points up another good reason too.

    I will give up my real phone when they peel the cold copper land line from out of my wall.

  4. Emil Mielke


    Please do not take this personally, but it is clear that you have strayed outside your area of expertise. And that, my friend, is bad news when discussing sensitive topics where mistakes result in death or imprisonment.

    Two way radios, or as you called them walkie-talkies, are probably the worst things you could possibly use.

    The technology to track and intercept these has existed since WWII and it has become increasingly accurate over the years. In Vietnam the NVA could pinpoint American troops if they did so much as key up their communication gear.

    Anyone with a Software Defined Radio (SDR) setup and an array of antennas can sweep up frequencies across the spectrum and reconstruct all of the conversations at their leisure.

    Let me put it to you and your readers this way. Intelligence services have spent decades perfecting COVCOM and related logistics for high risk environments. To think that you could simply slap down a few paragraphs and obtain similar results is not wise.

    Bad things will happen. And you will shoulder some of that blame.

  5. Mark Pontin

    different clue: ‘I will give up my real phone when they peel the cold copper land line from out of my wall.’

    You are aware that your cold copper land line is just the last mile before it’s connected to the grid?

    Because that grid is composed of a global network of fiberoptic cables on which *everything* — your voice telephony, other people’s cell calls once they’re picked up by towers, video, all the stuff that we do on the internet, the big banks’ transactions, whatever — gets digitized and carried internet packet mode as photons, then gets turned back at the other end into whatever it’s supposed to be.

    Which means one-to-one phone calling and one-on-one “wiretapping” are a historical artifact from the era of the Church Commission and J. Edgar Hoover, and vanished some thirty years ago. *Everything* today travels packet mode through digital switching stations, which is where NSA and the Five Eyes’ vacuum it up.

    So, yes: your copper wire gives you privacy from corporations listening. No: you have no privacy from the US state if they want to bother to dig into your phone communications.

  6. Mark Pontin

    Also, what Emil Mielke says.

  7. Mark Pontin

    If you want to pay — though of course the fact that you’re using these encryption technologies is going to make you stand out — there are these ….

  8. different clue

    @Mark Pontin,

    I do the best I can.

    In general, spying-at-leisure on anyone using any land line phone was always possible, even in the good old days of Ma Bell.

    The modern digi-phones are just another other layer of yet more spying on top of that.

  9. someofparts

    Interesting how quiet comments are. Glimpsing the beast slouching toward Bethlehem does that to people.

  10. Been coming a long time. Some quotes to help fill the eerie silence.

    Representative democracy has been replaced by the surveillance camera and the private police force.
    J.G. Ballard (Super-Cannes, 2000)

    The totalitarian systems of the future would be subservient and ingratiating, but the locks would be just as strong.
    J.G. Ballard (Super-Cannes, 2000)

    There’s nothing to believe in now. All ideology is gone. The great churches are empty; political ideology is finished; there’s just a scramble for power. There’s a nagging sense of emptiness. So people look for anything; they believe in any extreme—any extremist nonsense is better than nothing.
    J.G. Ballard (KGB, 1995)

    The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.
    J.G. Ballard

  11. Mark Pontin

    Ballard! A great man.

    I found an interview with him in a German magazine from 2008, right after Hurricane Katrina — and you can fill books with interviews of Ballard (and people have) and it’s great stuff, much smarter off the cuff than most people straining to find something to say on paper. Simultaneously, Ballard got to the point where he could hold forth like that nearly in his sleep and would usually have the same general concerns, but also a few new angles to hold your attention.

    As when this German interviewer asked him about Kanye West …

    Interviewer: In your 1962 novel The Drowned World you described the world after climate change: flooded, mired, a subtropical hell. What symbolism do you see in the scenes from New Orleans? Are the harsh words of rapper Kanye West justified?

    Ballard: What happened in Mississippi was a kind of ethnic cleansing, in which the hurricane played something of the role played by the civil war in former Yugoslavia. Katrina offered a pretext for attacking the underprivileged blacks. Katrina ensured that a particular section of the population were uprooted and driven from their homes. Now armed whites are flying in, wearing police and army uniforms, and they’re carrying their guns ready to shoot. They’ll take care that the displaced blacks are dispersed in every direction, so that they won’t come back for a long time. They’ll most certainly make it out of bounds for them.

    Interviewer: Why should white Americans take an interest in the misfortune of the blacks?

    Ballard: From fear. If one travels across the United States, one meets countless intelligent middle-class Americans who are afraid of their fellow black citizens. They’re nervous when faced with their former slaves: they don’t want to share schools with them, they don’t want to be bumping into them in their own neighbourhood. At the same time, however, they deny their fear. They maintain that everyone is equal in law. But it’s not true. If there’s something good about this hurricane, it’s the fact that it’s brought racial discrimination to light. The black refugees are completely aware of that, by the way. One can sense it in every TV interview.

    And then this at the end ….

    Interviewer: In High-Rise the solid middle-class tenants regress into barbarity for no reason, they live in their luxury apartments like primates. With hurricane Katrina, the disaster had a concrete cause.

    Ballard: The catastrophe in New Orleans was an affliction There seem to be more natural catastrophes today than 50 years ago, and we’ve become accustomed to thinking that it’s to do with global warming. But maybe it’s not so much the globe that’s heated up, as our minds that are boiling. It’s like the chimps in the zoo. If one sets a table for them, for a time they’ll sit calmly and drink a cup of tea. But all of a sudden they’ll start to smash everything up, because they can’t stand the boredom, the absence of incident. They’d rather resort to violence. I’m afraid that we’re still much more closely related to the chimpanzees.

  12. Stirling Newberry

    Do things the way State Actors do them.

  13. someofparts

    PS – I’m running an experiment with a friend to see if we get the same results your wife got. We had a chat yesterday and talked about things we wanted to purchase. Now we are going to watch to see if either of us get advertising for those things while we are online.

  14. Lex

    Someofparts, I saw a thread the other day explaining the phenomenon: it’s that they link your phone and internet presence to someone else’s internet presence because the phone’s interacted. That metadata is valuable.

    I can’t speak to the communication technicalities (though I’d argue that using radio is bad if they know you’re using radio and listening for it, if not at least there’s no record of it), but i spent a good many years doing things the state frowned upon and Ian’s rules are solid in the general sense. The authorities are not terribly smart. They thrive on mistakes. Mistakes are made when people get greedy or sloppy. There’s a reason it’s called tradecraft. It must be treated like a craft, which is always a continual process of development and improvement. A great sculptor may have beautiful visions of what the marble could be but is only a great sculptor with the craft to realize their vision in stone.

  15. Plague Species

    Lex, my wife’s 95-year-old mother has no internet presence whatsoever. She lives with my wife’s older sister and her husband and most assuredly her phone can be linked to their phones via metadata and by virtue of that my wife’s phone to there phones via her mother and via my wife directly with her sister. However, she doesn’t receive any other ads related to them and their phones and internet presence that are targeted at her because of these phone number linked networks. Just the toenail ad and in proximity to her conversation with her mother. I cannot explain it as coincidence. There are just too many coincidences as of late to say all these coincidences are coincidences. Are cell providers converting phone conversations to text data and selling that data to advertisers? If so, is that now legal? Was it ever illegal? Is Apple using her smartphone to eavesdrop via the microphone and selling that data to advertisers? Is that legal?

  16. different clue

    “Katrina” goes even further than Ballard says. Others have referred to the flooding of New Orleans as Operation Drown NOLA”. ( NOLA stands for New Orleans LA). It wasn’t even the hurricane itself which drowned NOLA. The core of the storm, with its highest speed eye-wall buzz saw, went screaming up into Mississippi well to the East of NOLA. But a big barge was left very carefully “tied up” loosely enough to swing around hard in wind and waves, into the side of a deeply disrepaired canal sidewall. Perhaps in hopes that it could break the sidewall and let the water flow?

    Canadian journalist and blogger Jeff Wells wrote a series of blogposts about the Katrina affair findable on his blog Rigorous Intuition 2.0 under the category title Katrina. Here is an example of just one of those “Katrina” posts, in case it leads anyone to want to read others.

  17. different clue

    This post is warning us about all the dangers posed by Big Brother in all its government and corporate guises.

    But Big Brother isn’t the only one watching and stealing identifacts and data. There are also ten thousand mean little kids out there.

    Here is a little video by a guy who found one of the mean little kids’ spytools at an ATM machine.

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