Since November 2014 there are officially more mobile users than desktop or laptop users. With the growing trend to spend your time online via your mobile device we raise the question whether the location services on mobile devices are a greater concern than on desktop computers.
Malte Spitz, a german ‘Green Party’ Politician, managed to gain the data his mobile provider was keeping about him, reports the ‘Zeit Online’ German magazine. He published it to demonstrate to the public just how much your provider knows about you. When you look over this data you can tell exactly when he wakes and when he sleeps, when he boards a plane, a train and what time of day he prefers to text or call.
This information is of course kept very secure by your provider and even Malte Spitz had to sue the Deutsche Telekom to gain access to his records. This is just a strong nudge for you to increase your privacy awareness and encourage you to take control of your human right to privacy and freedom.
This brings us to our No 1. fact. Your provider can tell where you are through the mobile signal you receive from mobile signaling towers that are closest to you. Say if you are between two towers, one can calculate your position by the strength of the signal of each tower. The accuracy is of a radius of about a city block. The only time this information is used to actively track you is if a government security body filed a reason for you to be searched for.
No.2 Malware could turn your phone into a bug. Simply turning it off may not be the answer as the malware could make your phone appear off. Therefore if you are holding 007 like sensitive conversations it may be better to take the battery out as well. If there is a large group of you turning your phone off this indicates to your provider that something is occurring, for example a plane taking off, but if you are no where near an airport this may lead to further questions.
No 3. When you have your location services enabled, your mobile is sending out a constant signal of your position. The latitude longitude coordinates of your phone are so exact that one could pinpoint your location by a meter. This becomes a serious problem when we consider the apps that display your location publicly. Say you are organizing your friends’ party on Facebook and connecting with all her friends via a Facebook group or you belong to a public group. Every time you send a message Facebook displays your location with it by default. This inexperience is what lead Aran Khanna to create the app ‘Marauders Map’, a chrome extension on “how to stalk your friends on Facebook”. With the Facebook API he was able to mark a user’s location latitude longitude by 5 figures after the decimal point and create routes on a map accordingly.
You can be tracked by a meter precision. That means when you send a public message someone could track the location of your house based on the time of day you posted the message on the group. In conclusion it may be better to turn Facebook location services off if you are commenting publicly.
No 4. Your phone is constantly searching for a nearby wifi location when you have wifi enabled. This creates a signal even when no wifi is present. The signal is very easy to pick up by anyone searching for this data. In fact it has already been used by stores to track customers and analyze the frequency of visits and how much time you spend in the store.
No 5. Do you often use public wifi networks? Well these do not encrypt your data therefore any user on the network without any hacking experience can see your device listed and access your files. It is best in this instance to turn off your location services so you are not automatically detected.
No 6. Technical security measures such as firewalls and antivirus are not as common on mobile devices such as on PCs. They are not updated as frequently which is a major concern as we now have more mobile users than PC users and the numbers are just continuing to grow. Until the consumer concern is truly at the forefront, mobile security will not be a major issue for tech companies.
No.7 On June 17th this year, the CNN reported 600 million Galaxy mobile devices, have a major vulnerability that could leave them easily exposed to hackers. NowSecure reported this find to Samsung last November with no change in security measures as of late. Yet a new S6 was released in April 2015. “NowSecure advised Samsung Galaxy users to avoid insecure Wi-Fi, ditch their phones, and call their cell phone carriers to pressure them into a quick fix.”
How do you manage your location services on your mobile device? Do you use any particular privacy tools or privacy software? Who carries the responsibility that our mobile devices are not secure, considering all the sensitive tasks we complete nowadays on our mobile phones. Please share your ideas and leave comments below.
About Amy Rudolph
Amy is a well traveled web developer. With a love for technology and appreciation for freedom she is very keen to carry out Privacy Shell’s mission, to encourage the use of technology with a heightened privacy awareness.