If you think your mobile phone calls are so secure that nobody else can listen in to your private conversations, well you'd better think again. Even private SMS messages and emails sent from your phone may not be safe from prying eyes.
New generation mobile phones are so sophisticated and powerful that they can make their owners vulnerable, says Stephen Clarke, a lawyer and digital privacy expert at the University of South Australia. “The mobile phone is now a computer that has a radio built into it and you use the radio to transmit information to another radio over a network”, Stephen said.
Like computers, mobile phones now can be hacked, tapped and tracked without the owner even knowing about it. “Anything you can do over the internet you can do on a mobile phone”, Stephen said.
We're going to show you how chillingly simple it is to spy and eavesdrop on someone using powerful software -- easily bought for a few hundred dollars on the internet -- then downloaded onto one of our 3g enabled phones. Once in there it's undetectable -- so we're told.
We gave the bugged phone to South Australian Greens MP Mark Parnell. It's illegal to record phone calls without getting permission or a court order, so he gave us his consent to listen in. “I didn't know it could be done. I mean I have read spy novels and you hear about the Russians and the Americans in the 50s and 60s spying on each other, so I guess I knew the technology was available. But its one thing for it to be available to multi millions dollar spy agencies, it's another thing for it to be available to anyone who ahs internet access”, Mr. Parnell said.
Here's how it works. When Mark Parnell makes a call, I immediately get a text message on my phone telling me. Then all I do is dial his number. I am listening to a conversation between Mr. Parnell and his daughter -- I can hear every word they say. I am outside Parliament House and they wouldn't have a clue that I am eavesdropping on their private conversation.
More alarming still, he doesn't have to be on that phone at all, just lying there on the table is enough.
Some spyware knows no bounds. I could be listening in anywhere in the world and nobody would know. Dialling in at any time activates the target phone's built-in microphone, without it ringing or registering a call.
According to the sales pitch for the spy software, there are other applications
it can be used for with the same startling results -- like trying to catch out a
cheating partner or parents wanting to keep tabs on their kids.
We tracked a student carrying our phone, using another feature which comes with it -- Global positioning satellite or GPS is accurate to within 100 metres and you get a list of all numbers called, all messages sent and received, instantly delivered to your email address.
“With this technology anyone who can afford to download the software has the right to do what even our police can't do without getting special permission. I think it is dangerous technology and I think we should make sure we have all the laws in place that we possibly can to make sure it is not misused”, Mr. Parnell said.
In the meantime there is a high tech way to protect your phone -- security software is available that scans your phone for viruses and spy software -- then removes the threat.
THE PHONE SPYWARE USED IN THE STORY WAS CALLED FLEXISPY.
TO FIND SOFTWARE THAT DETECTS THIS SPYWARE AND REMOVES IT, GO TO: