Monday, November 28, 2016

Untraceable, Anonymous Communication

Is there such thing as cell phone that is secure? Untraceable?
I tried to determine this and this is what I found.
Any phone that is on and in use is traceable. It can be triangulated and its location found. I think everyone knows that. Being secure, as in “We have this conversation, we don’t know who they are or where they’ve gone.” This is obtainable even though some will say otherwise.
Prepaid cell phones have no connection to the user except by the information asked by a store clerk. If you pay cash, wear a disguise, give fake information that Walmart doesn’t really care about, leave alone put in a database, then, you probably can get a phone without exposing who you are or any other private information.
Most prepaid cell service providers are what’s known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs. (Traditional carriers like Verizon also offer prepaid plans of their own.) That essentially means they buy space in bulk on existing wireless networks and resell it to consumers at a low price. If your burner operates on Verizon’s network, Verizon is probably turning that data over to the NSA. But, that data may not be connected to a person.
I thought to myself, “How easy is it for a criminal to gain access to a untraceable cell phone?
What if they paid in cash? Would there really be no record of who made the purchase?”
All these thoughts started running through my head and causing tons of ”what if” scenarios to play out.
With all the bad things that happen on a daily basis in our country, I was confident that prepaid cell phones weren’t something that could be used for the wrong reasons.
Surely there would be some kind of identification check, right? That depends on the phone, the store where you are buying the phone, and what kind of phone it is. But generally the answer to the above question is “No!”
I bought a phone at a Radio Shack in a small town. I bought it with cash, and did not purchase any minutes with it. I bought those somewhere else. I also noticed that that particular Radio Shack had no obvious security cameras. I found this a little odd for and electronics store but the clerk told me they were transitioning to a new system. So I robbed him. I’m just kidding or course. But it was strange that he would even have told me that. Small towns…
The problem with all this is buying a phone for an emergency. Like an eminent disaster.
With the particular prepaid phone I purchased, I had to buy my minutes separate from the phone, and those minutes were only good for 30 days once activated.
The phone also had to be activated from another phone (land-line or cell phone) or their Web site, before it was able to accept the minutes and allow calls to be placed.
Calling the activation number put me in touch with an operator working in a call center in India.
After I read the IMEI number from the phone I’d purchased and let the operator know my name and address, a phone number and area code was created based on the address I provided.
Essentially that was it, no other personal information was required, and I now had a working phone and 30 days to use my minutes.
If the phone account is not refilled within 30 days after the service end date, the phone number will be lost and a new one will be generated when the phone is reactivated.
I realized that to use my new prepaid phone for emergency purposes, I’d need to purchase an optional minute plan where the minutes never expired.
Having a card ready to load in an emergency wouldn’t be a good option, because I’d have to wait through the process of activating the minutes and potentially having my phone number changed.
How hard is it for the government to trace your call? Easier than you think.
In 2006 the DEA arrested a man named Melvin Skinner, who was caught transporting 1,100 pounds of marijuana across the Southwest. The government was able to catch up with Skinner by tracking the signals being emitted by his two prepaid cellphones and subsequently triangulating his location. They had previously traced the burners back to Skinner. Skinner appealed his conviction on the grounds that the tracking of his cellphone signal constituted a breach of privacy. In 2012, however, a federal appeals court ruled that people using prepaid cellphones had no “reasonable expectation” of privacy, and that the government was free to track away. So if you’re going to use a burner and don’t want it to get connected back to you, you probably shouldn’t use it at your house, or your place of business, or any other location with which you have an identifiable connection.
When you use a burner, you have to remember to leave your real cellphone at home. In 2009 a medical student named Philip Markoff was arrested and charged with murdering a woman in a Boston hotel. Markoff had allegedly used a prepaid disposable cellphone to contact the victim beforehand; he had allegedly used similar tactics in another incident where he robbed a different woman at a different hotel. Both times, Markoff had had his real cellphone in his pocket, and, even though the phone was off, it was still communicating with cell towers. Police were able to determine Markoff’s identity in part by gathering information based on the signals emitted from his real cellphone. So keep that in mind.
In conclusion, burners can give you a measure of anonymity, but they’re by no means untraceable. If you’re looking for total assurance that your phone calls won’t be tapped, I recommend developing a “Book” cipher code, that would tell the person you want to communicate with to meet you on a predetermined Telegram channel which is so heavily encrypted that ISIS used it. Or you could try using two tin cans and a length of string.
Semper Paratus
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