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Saturday, November 26, 2011

How mobile phones can be used for spying

There's no question that mobile phones are truly useful gadgets, but did you know that they can be used for spying with relative ease? Since most modern cameras feature microphones and cameras, they already contain the electronics for pretty sophisticated surveillance, without the need to get any special gadgets or computers involved.

1) Spy phone bugs

Spy phones started appearing in early 2003, which were originally hardware-modified, and then software-modified Nokia 3310 mobile phones (the Nokia 3310 is shown here - looks primitive now doesn't it!?). When I started creating spy phones in 2003, I was doing both hardware and software changes. The changes were designed so that the phone appeared to be switched off, when in fact it was already switched on.
Mobile Phone Spy Camera

When you dialed the phone, it answered itself automatically without lighting up or vibrating, allowing you to hear what was going on around the phone! So basically they were listening devices, but you could call them up from anywhere in the world. Perfect for spying when you were away from the office or home.

2) Spy Cameras with a covert camera

Now we move on a few years to about 2008-2009, and now we have mobile phones that have embedded spy cameras inside them. The phone looks like a normal phone, but it has a pinhole spy camera concealed within the phone that points out from the top. So if the phone was laying naturally on the table, it could record what was going on opposite you. Since most cameras are on the face of the phone, they are not ideally designed for covert recording, as laying flat, they'd only see the table or ceiling.

Initially cameras were just transmitting (like the one pictured), but now you can get cameras that record to an internal memory card. These digital video recorders are much easier to use, and don't require a wireless camera receiver unlike the earlier models.

3) Spy cameras you can access by video call

Now we're on to technology that's been common from about 2010, and got really sophisticated in 2011. We're now seeing spy cameras that work on the 3G mobile phone networks, which you can access by doing a video call with the camera. So these work just like the original spy phones, but now with video.
Air Freshener Spy Camera

The actual camera is usually concealed within a clock, smoke alarm, PIR detector, air freshener, or similar. It features the electronics from a 3G mobile phone, but only activates when you call it from a pre-determined number. So a 3G-based spy camera gives you unlimited distance for spying with video. Very cool, but very scary!

So there you go, perhaps something you didn't know already, but some seriously impressive and powerful spying technology, all using a mobile phone!

This is a Guest Post by Dan Harrison.
Dan Harrison is an expert in spy gadgets, and designed one of the very first spy phones. These days, Dan collects spy equipment, particularly interesting covert spy cameras that have been hidden in everyday objects.

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