Remote Snooping 169

It is nine years since I published in Murder in Samarkand that the security services can listen to you through your mobile telephone, even when it is apparently switched off. You could only prevent this by removing the battery. Shortly thereafter many mobile phone manufacturers started producing sealed phones from which you could not easily remove the battery. That was not especially a result of my publication. But I know for certain that the western security services had cooperated with the mobile phone companies in securing the software backdoor which enabled them to switch on the microphone when the phone appeared to be off. I am therefore inclined to believe the development of phones where it was hard to take the battery out was also encouraged by the security services.

Knowledge of the remote switch on was disseminated more widely after I met Richard Stallman, a hero of mine, and was able to tell him about it. He publicised it to the tech-savvy community. Eventually Edward Snowden released precisely the same information, and the mainstream media finally started reporting it, seven years after I first published it. Now, the security services themselves have admitted to having this capability, rather to the horror of extreme right wing commentators.

I learnt that the security services can bug you through your mobile phone, even if it appears to you switched off, in the course of my official duties. I was among those allowed to know, and could tell it with 100% certainty.

I have now been told something new for which I cannot give a 100% guarantee of truth, though I have no reason to doubt the good faith of the person who gave me the information, and I can say for sure they would have the access to know this officially. I am told by a good source that the security services can now activate the microphone, even if the battery has been removed and there is no power source in the phone.

To a non-technological person like me, that sounds impossible. How do you remotely power something? If it is true, will I not need a cable for my television one day? I find the notion fascinating. I have taken on board that removing the battery may not be enough, but would welcome thoughts on the plausibility of this information.

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169 thoughts on “Remote Snooping

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  • Roderick Russell

    I have more than enough evidence to prove that my telephones (land line and mobile), and my email are taped amd my data base spied on from time to time. I have documented some of this evidence for anybody to review. Indeed there is also some evidence that my mail is intercepted and read, and occasionally destroyed or returned to sender. This has nothing to do with legitimate security/intelligence work.

    The primary purpose of this excessive snooping is intimidation of the population: To make you understand that Big Brother is always watching and listening, so be careful what you say even to your closest friends; to condition you into knowing what is allowed and what is not allowed; to put you on edge and make you distrustful.

    As was shown in the former GDR (and other states), excessive surveillance changes the way a population things and operates.

    It is a secret police method of control and has very little to do with legitimate intelligence work. It is not possible to have a surveillance state that is also a functioning democracy.

  • Bert.

    It is quite impossible without a power source.

    It is possible to power something from outside the device itself; this happens with RFID devices such as Oyster cards and contact-less credit cards etc. But the power requirement for these devices is extremely low and the RFID chip must be fairly close to the reader.

    A mobile ‘phone uses far more power and presently it is impossible to power it remotely from far away. There is a fundamental law involved here. Even a non-techie type like yourself may remember from your days at school: ENERGY IS THE ABILITY TO DO WORK.

    Any kind of work including the operation of a mobile ‘phone; even just the microphone and a small amplifier.

    Of course, there could be a small battery inside that we are not being told about; but it will require charging occasionally. The ‘phone might operate on such a battery while the main battery is removed and could be recharged at any time the charger is connected to the ‘phone or even just from the main battery when it is re-inserted.

    If this can be done there is an electronics engineer (of more than 60 years) here gagging to find out how.


  • Edward

    Maybe cell phones now have a second battery for the microphone. A similar story which also has not produced a big outcry is that new cars are now equipped with tracking devices.

  • deepgreenpuddock

    it s a horrible feeling that one might be under constant surveillance. the problem i suspect is not the capacity to do it , but the capacity to follow it or analyse it. Presumably some selectivity is necessary.Sticks in the throat that we all have to pay for something of questionable value by people with questionable motives.
    Can i place it in a tin box with Slade records playing on an ipod, or something. That would learn them.

  • Paul Barbara

    Ludwig 4 Mar, 2016 – 12:34 pm
    ‘…The above technology was considered quite advanced in 1945 but please also note that the Services habitually strive to overstate and exaggerate their reach – including through deliberate rumour mongering – as this is somewhat less expensive than provisioning actual capabilities and wider coverage….’

    Good point, Ludwig. Somehow, ‘Moon Landings’ springs to mind!

  • MJ

    “new cars are now equipped with tracking devices”

    Not so new. Anything with a computer basically. Does your car clock automatically update when switching from BST to GMT and back?

  • Paul Barbara

    Alan 4 Mar, 2016 – 3:06 pm
    ‘You should be safe if you turn your entire home into a Faraday Cage…’
    Exactly! That way you can use your mobile as much as you like, and leave the ‘Security Services’ (and the people you are trying to call) scratching their heads.
    But don’t leave the house!

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Roderick Russell

    To be able to evaluate the reality of what you say: why do you think you are under such surveillance? Do you engage in any activities which you think could have led the security services to put you under surveillance and if so, what are they?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    For a so-called “independent thinker” our Transatlantic friend appears to spend a lot of his time regurgitating theories (often conspiracy theories) he has picked up in the course of his wide reading.

  • Leakie

    Long past time to ditch the mobile in any case. This commenter would never use a mobile telephone for any communication of consequence. This commenter will never own one. Reasonable prospects for private correspondence require open-source software on a general-purpose computer you’ve configured yourself.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “ps, Thanks jives, I will now totally ignore your utter nonsense, forever.

    I really don’t like cowards, but I suspect your not even that. Just a way to hide that your full of it.”

    You took your time figuring out our friend Jivesy, didn’t you…..

  • Van

    [mods: caught in spam filter – timestamp updated]

    Allegedly, the number of active mobile devices and human beings crossed over somewhere around the 7.19 billion mark and now the devices are in the majority.

    An interesting fact is that it’s much more likely to be struck by lightning in Europe, than is is to be killed by alleged international terrorism, which makes you wonder why the various huge budgets are squandered on ‘international terrorism’ and not on preventing lightning strikes or other far more serious threats to humanity.

    So if (non-staged) terrorism is largely a myth for the masses, then what’s this really all about, and what are the atrophied, useless, oppressive, self-serving megalomaniacs spending all the money on?

    Assuming that there are currently 7.5 billion devices in use and that 1% of users are regarded as suspect/dissenting/dissident/risky/non-conformist/’threatening to national security’, then 1800,000,000 hours of surveillance data would be generated per day, be it audio, video, gps, smtp, http, https, or other such feeds requiring somewhere extremely large to hide indefinitely e.g. — makes you wonder just how many cures for cancer or heart disease could be developed and distributed worldwide for the price of such hubris, which makes you wonder whether all of this profligacy is really in the interests of protecting humanity at all.

  • Roderick Russell

    In response to HABBABKUK @ 4 March 2016 5:42 PM to Roderick Russell
    Habakkuk’s question – “To be able to evaluate the reality of what you say: why do you think you are under such surveillance? Do you engage in any activities which you think could have led the security services to put you under surveillance and if so, what are they?”



    Click on my name in the margin and it will take you to one of my sites. View the short documentary film on that Site and will find an answer to your questions. You will also find leaked GCHQ training slides that prove that they train their staff in the use of “Zersetzen” techniques. I am not going to reiterate details of my experience here since I have already documented them elsewhere.

    If you want more detail go to my other site ( and open the document “Russell Zersetzen” where various threating incidents are itemized. Over 120 of these incidents are corroborated by independent 3rd party witnesses.

    I should just mention that Canada’s security/intelligence agency (CSIS) in turning down my request for information did so on the grounds that the requested information could “reasonably be expected to be exempted” as it relates to “detecting, preventing or supressing subversive or hostile activities”. This is completely absurd as I have never done anything illegal and I have requested that the Information Commissioner of Canada look into this matter.

    I have never done anything illegal, nor have family members and some independent witnesses, all of whom have also been threatened at one time or another.

  • Paul Barbara

    If all this is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), how on earth am I going to order Semtex and crack in the future?

  • lysias

    Yes, I do read widely. Our resident troll seems to regard this as a shortcoming.

    Maybe that’s why he so seldom mentions anything that he has read.

  • K Crosby

    I have a mobie but I don’t carry it around, because I never needed to carry a landline phone around. Every now and then the battery goes flat and I remember about it when it beeps.

  • fred

    “To a non-technological person like me, that sounds impossible. How do you remotely power something? If it is true, will I not need a cable for my television one day? I find the notion fascinating. I have taken on board that removing the battery may not be enough, but would welcome thoughts on the plausibility of this information.”

    There is still some power in a phone, stored in capacitors, even when the battery is removed. You have to hold the power button down for around a minute with the battery removed to be certain of a completely dead phone. It isn’t much, not enough to transmit, maybe enough to record for a while to be transmitted after the battery was replaced. Enough to take a GPS fix every so often, again to be transmitted when the battery was replaced.

  • dummie

    Remotely power a comm device:

    Read original ed of Peter wright’s autobio Spycatcher. Reference “reradiation” as one source of remote powering and action of remotely injected carrierwave being influenced by local oscillations.

    Tech marches onward as money,tailored rewards and subterfuge can manipulate the very best minds to do R&D of other very best minds’ choosing; for most techs and scientists, any R&D is better than no R&D.

    Was not it Napoleon’s (?) observation that his troops will do anything for the promise of medals (and other tokens of recognition}.

    I sense increasing numbers of oldsters who suddenly discover, after 65, they have been utterly bamboozled.

  • Roderick Russell

    Republicofscotland, above

    Thanks for the URL on Gaslighting. Gaslighting is certainly a part of Zersetzen, but Zersetzen also includes much more – character assassination, death threats to oneself and one’s children, telephone taping, cyber bullying/threats, stalking, etc. As the GCHQ slides show Zersetzen is designed to cause “cognitive, physiological and affective stress” in their target victims. It certainly falls well within the UN’s definition of torture. As I see it, Zersetzen is really built upon the old Cointelpro program which the FBI used several decades ago to persecute dissidents. The Church Committee of the US Senate described Cointelpro back then as “covert activity designed to disrupt and discredit the activities of groups and individuals” stating that “vicious tactics have been employed”. They finally put a stop to Cointelpro concluding that Cointelpro comprised “dangerous and degrading tactics which are abhorrent in a free and decent society.”

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Roderick Russell

    I read (some of) your links with interest…and at last know what is meant by “zersetzen”.

    But what is still not clear – at least, it does not emerge – is WHY you should have been a victim, if that is really what you were.

    As far as I can see, it started (you allege) after you left the employ of a Canadian company you were working for. Can you share you thoughts as to why?

  • Je

    This could be a classic case of misdirection. Everyone gets all stressed out ’bout folk listening in t’ the voice. Worrying about that – when what’s really going on is at the other end of the phone. Not the mic. Two tiny electrodes where the ear piece is. They read the electric signals from your brain so MI5 get to know what you’re THINKING. ****REAL sinister SCARY*** [!] Research here:

  • John Spencer-Davis

    “There are therefore two great problems which the Party is concerned to solve. One is how to discover, against his will, what another human being is thinking, and the other is how to kill several hundred million people in a few seconds without giving warning beforehand. In so far as scientific research still continues, this is its subject matter.”

    George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

    Still relevant all these years later.

    Kind regards,


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