Is it possible to track a mobile phone

First, merely swapping SIM cards or moving a SIM card from one device to another offers minimal protection, because the mobile network observes both the SIM card and device together. In other words, the network operator knows the history of which SIM cards have been used in which devices, and can track either individually or both together.

Second, governments have been developing mobile location analysis techniques where location tracking can be used to generate leads or hypotheses about whether multiple devices actually belong to the same person. There are many ways this can be done. For example, an analyst could check whether two devices tended to move together, or whether, even if they were in use at different times, they tended to be carried in the same physical locations. A further problem for the successful anonymous use of telephone services is that people's calling patterns tend to be extremely distinctive.

For example, you might habitually call your family members and your work colleagues. Even though each of these people receive calls from a wide range of people, you're likely the only person in the world who commonly calls both of them from the same number. So even if you suddenly changed your number, if you then resumed the same patterns in the calls you made or received, it would be straightforward to determine which new number was yours.

Remember that this inference isn't made based only on the fact that you called one particular number, but rather on the uniqueness of the combination of all the numbers that you called. Indeed, The Intercept reported that a secret U.

How to Track Someone Using Their Smartphone - By Varun Choudhary

The document describes the Hemisphere database a massive database of historical call records and how the people who run it have a feature that can link burner phones by following the similarity of their call patterns. The document refers to burner phones as "dropped phones" because their user will "drop" one and start using another one—but the database analytics algorithms can draw the connection between one phone and another when this happens, so long as both were used to make or receive calls to similar sets of phone numbers.

Together, these facts mean that effective use of burner phones to hide from government surveillance requires, at a minimum: not reusing either SIM cards or devices; not carrying different devices together; not creating a physical association between the places where different devices are used; and not calling or being called by the same people when using different devices. This isn't necessarily a complete list; for example, we haven't considered the risk of physical surveillance of the place where the phone was sold, or the places where it's used, or the possibility of software to recognize a particular person's voice as an automated method for determining who is speaking through a particular phone.

The Global Positioning System GPS lets devices anywhere in the world figure out their own locations quickly and accurately. GPS works based on analyzing signals from satellites that are operated by the U. In fact, the GPS satellites only transmit signals; the satellites don't receive or observe anything from your phone, and the satellites and GPS system operators do not know where any particular user or device is located, or even how many people are using the system.

This is possible because the individual GPS receivers like those inside smartphones calculate their own positions by determining how long it took the radio signals from different satellites to arrive. Usually, this tracking is done by apps running on a smartphone. They ask the phone's operating system for its location determined via GPS. Then the apps are able to transmit this information to someone else over the Internet. There are also tiny GPS-receiving devices that can be surreptitiously hidden in someone's possessions or attached to a vehicle; those receivers determine their own location and then actively retransmit it over a network, usually the mobile phone network.

Mobile phone networks were not originally designed to use technical means to protect subscribers' calls against eavesdropping. That meant that anybody with the right kind of radio receiver could listen in on the calls. The situation is somewhat better today, but sometimes only slightly. Encryption technologies have been added to mobile communications standards to try to prevent eavesdropping. But many of these technologies have been poorly designed sometimes deliberately, due to government pressure not to use strong encryption!

They have been unevenly deployed, so they might be available on one carrier but not another, or in one country but not another, and have sometimes been implemented incorrectly. For example, in some countries carriers do not enable encryption at all, or they use obsolete technical standards. This means it is often still possible for someone with the right kind of radio receiver to intercept calls and text messages as they're transmitted over the air. Even when the best industry standards are being used—as they are in some countries and on some mobile carriers—there are still people who can listen in.

At a minimum, the mobile operators themselves have the ability to intercept and record all of the data about who called or texted whom, when, and what they said.


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This information might be available to local or foreign governments through official or informal arrangements. In some cases, foreign governments have also hacked mobile operators' systems in order to get secret access to users' data. Also, IMSI catchers described above can be used by someone physically nearby you. The safest practice is to assume that traditional calls and SMS text messages have not been secured against eavesdropping or recording.

Even though the technical details vary significantly from place to place and system to system, the technical protections are often weak and can be bypassed in many situations. See Communicating with Others to learn how to text and talk more securely. The situation can be different when you are using secure communications apps to communicate whether by voice or text , because these apps can apply encryption to protect your communications.

Michael Rosman

This encryption can be stronger and can provide more meaningful protections. The level of protection that you get from using secure communications apps to communicate depends significantly on which apps you use and how they work. One important question is whether a communications app uses end-to-end encryption to protect your communications and whether there's any way for the app developer to undo or bypass the encryption. Phones can get viruses and other kinds of malware malicious software , either because the user was tricked into installing malicious software, or because someone was able to hack into the device using a security flaw in the existing device software.

As with other kinds of computing device, the malicious software can then spy on the device's user. For example, malicious software on a mobile phone could read private data on the device like stored text messages or photos. It could also activate the device's sensors such as microphone, camera, GPS to find where the phone is or to monitor the environment, even turning the phone into a bug.

This technique has been used by some governments to spy on people through their own phones, and has created anxiety about having sensitive conversations when mobile phones are present in the room. Some people respond to this possibility by moving mobile phones into another room when having a sensitive conversation, or by powering them off. Your phone is capable of determining its location and sharing it in the background, even if the screen is off.

Find My Friends can be used to share your precise real-time locations with family members or friends.

How to Find a Lost or Stolen Android Phone

Android phones have something similar in a Google app called Trusted Contacts, and of course, there are many third-party apps that help you share your real-time locations with people. Of course, this is only with your permission, but it just shows how pervasive this technology is. Comments 0. The Best Tech Newsletter Anywhere.

How to Track A Samsung Phone Remotely

Join , subscribers and get a daily digest of news, comics, trivia, reviews, and more. Windows Mac iPhone Android. Smarthome Office Security Linux. The Best Tech Newsletter Anywhere Join , subscribers and get a daily digest of news, geek trivia, and our feature articles. Skip to content. How-To Geek is where you turn when you want experts to explain technology. And with the rise of cell phone technology, we can achieve exactly that. If you would like to keep a tab on someone with the help of their cell phone, there are several options currently available.

The exact one used will depend on the exact necessity that you have, based on which you can take you decision.


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The phones that can be tracked are generally smartphones, which run on operating systems such as Android, Windows, Apples, etc. It works just like any other software that one may install on the phone.

The Monitoring software , usually through the internet, transmits a signal to a server or another device about its current position. This can be accessed by another authorized user, to know about the exact location of the individual. It is one of the most effective ways to know about the location of an individual. At the same time however, there are some limitations to this software. Also to note here is that the software used tend to be both free as well as paid.

This is one of the more difficult tricks to pull off, and something which can only be done by professionals. It is a bit difficult to explain the entire process, and it is therefore simplified for the sake of understanding. The position of any phone is revealed to a cell phone tower, whenever any signal is transmitted or received. This can however be made more accurate, if the signal is received or transmitted by multiple cell phone towers, so as to get a rough idea of the distance between each tower and the cell phone.