If a friend suddenly turned up: who is sitting in your smartphone and watching you

MOSCOW, 25 Sep — PRIME, Dmitry Mudrik. The more in our lives connected with the phone, the more we fear for the safety of this device. If 15 years ago, before the era of ubiquitous mobile Internet and WI-FI, the most frightening thing was that the phone would be stolen, now the security of personal data is more concerned. How they can monitor the owners of the phone, what you can find out without their consent and how to protect yourself – in the material of the Prime agency.

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What can you learn about a modern person through his mobile phone? If the device has a password, then almost everything: secrets of personal correspondence, photos, access to documents in personal accounts of banks or government agencies. In some cases, you can find out the location of the owner or listen to the conversation. Not to mention these fitness apps or personal finance programs.


But tracking you down by phone number, contrary to misconception, is not so easy. The widespread belief that this is very possible and practiced everywhere is a myth. Yes, telecom operators have information about the movement of subscribers: they receive this data from the location of their towers. However, it is impossible to provide them to just anyone: you can find out the whereabouts of even close relatives through mobile operators only after submitting an application for the wanted list.

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Another common myth is the ability to track a subscriber by the phone’s IMEI number. IMEI is the number assigned to the smartphone by the manufacturer when it is assembled. This number is unique and contains information about when this device was assembled, where and by whom, you can find it on the packing box, in the phone itself under the battery or in the settings.

When they start calling on the smartphone, the telecom operator receives the IMEI numbers along with the signal from the SIM card. However, to track the device, it is not enough for the operator to know only the IMEI: only government agencies can track the movement of the owner of the device using the serial number alone. It is impossible for ordinary citizens to find out the location of a person by IMEI on their own.


But is phone surveillance always an absolute evil? There are cases when the ability to find out the location of a subscriber is a 100% benefit. For example, if a “beacon” is installed on the child’s gadget and parents do not need to constantly call with the question “where are you”. The same applies to elderly relatives, who sometimes get through on the phone – like a quest to pass. Finally, using the installed program, you can find out the location of the lost handset.

In order to track the location of the device, the consent of its owner is required: he must allow the application to be installed on his device. Such programs can show the coordinates of the phone on the map. This will allow you to easily and quickly find the missing gadget or the location of an elderly relative who went to the forest to pick mushrooms.

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If such an application is installed on the phone, then in case of theft, it will be possible to track the device even when the attacker pulls out the SIM card and inserts another one. The phone can also be found using GPS data, Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile towers.

Cellular operators have services for tracking the geolocation of subscribers: you can connect children, spouses to it. Most of these are paid apps. Some of them work only with phones within the network, some work with numbers connected to other mobile operators.


Another question is when the application appeared without your knowledge and without any payment. This is possible in the case of downloading dubious programs when clicking on equally dubious links, when infected with a virus, or if someone installs a “bug” on your phone without your knowledge. For example, a jealous friend.

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As for the messengers that are now widespread, which have in some form the ability to find out the geolocation of the interlocutor, then it will not be possible to follow secretly here: certain joint actions are required from him to make it work.

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As for the popular horror story “it is now possible to track a cell phone without installing programs,” this is just a horror story. No, this is possible. But before starting surveillance, any spy must obtain at least some information; without it, it is impossible to find out anything about the owner of the phone. Therefore, in order to start monitoring through the phone, you first need to gain access to it: without activating the program, this cannot be done.

It is worth remembering that if you are being forced to provide protection from the most inconspicuous phone surveillance, this is most likely a scammer. If you have not installed programs and have not connected the services of cellular operators with access to geolocation, then it is impossible to organize tracking of your phone via the Internet. Therefore, it is not necessary to pay for his “protection”.

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