Tuesday, October 13, 2020

How many of us realize this?

by Rick Blechta

For several reasons I’ve been thinking about the state of our (digital) world for the past several weeks.

When creating crime fiction, we writers need to always be aware of how technology can affect our plots. It really doesn’t make any difference if one is writing in current times, the near future, or far in the past. It matters — unless one is setting a plot far in the future, in which case the sky’s the limit for anything technological.

For the purpose of this post, though, let’s talk about today, right now, what’s going on around us about which we may not be as aware as we should be.

How many of us own “smart” phones? I’ll bet nearly every hand has gone up.

Some things I’ve found out about our phones are pretty jaw-dropping:

As long as your phone is turned on, police can track wherever you are, most times within a couple of feet. They only need a court order to obtain that data from your phone service provider.

Your phone calls and text messages can also be easily monitored. Ever hear of a  StingRay? It’s a device law enforcement can use that mimics cell phone towers. Set one up nearby a person they want to surveil and voila! Every single active cell phone in that area will go through the StingRay.

Think about that one for a moment. Say you live in an building where a bad guy the cops are after also lives. You make an innocent phone call. It will be swept through the StingRay and can be listened to, if the person(s) monitoring all those calls wants to listen. That’s sort of frightening, isn’t it?

And I’ll bet some of the bad guys also have access to this technology.

Cellphone spying software is also readily available — to everyone who wants to pay for it (and it's surprisingly affordable too).

According to Wikipedia, “Cellphone spying software can be downloaded onto cellphones. Cellphone spying software enables the monitoring or stalking of a target cellphone from a remote location with some of the following techniques:

  • Allowing remote observation of the target cellphone position in real-time on a map
  • Remotely enabling microphones to capture and forward conversations. Microphones can be activated during a call or when the phone is on standby for capturing conversations near the cellphone.
  • Receiving remote alerts and/or text messages each time somebody dials a number on the cellphone
  • Remotely reading text messages and call logs
  • Cellphone spying software can enable microphones on mobile phones when phones are not being used, and can be installed by mobile providers.” Or the cops or nearly anyone who has access to your phone.

So you’re busily working on your latest thriller or police procedural, you’ve got to know this stuff or risk losing credibility with your readers.

Makes life a lot more complicated, doesn’t it? 

Not only that, you now have something else to worry about in your day-to-day life.

Let’s all go back to landlines and rotary-dial phones. No, wait… Those can be bugged too.


Sybil Johnson said...

Pretty scary! And very interesting.

Douglas Skelton said...

That's it - I'm stocking up on canned goods and heading into the wilderness. Fascinating post, Rick.

Donis Casey said...

I think about this all the time. People willingly buy devices and plaster their personal information all over cyberspace, and yet people are so afraid of the government spying on them!