After Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents in 2013, a majority of the public suddenly became aware of how far governments were willing to go in a bid to spy on their citizens in the name of national security.
Seven years down the line, nothing much has changed. If anything, modes and methods of spying have only become more sophisticated and easier to access. Governments are still spying on their citizens, hackers are spying on innocent people trying to access sensitive information, and apps are spying on users with the aim of collecting information.
With that in mind, it becomes clear that it is up to an individual to take the necessary precautions. For motorists, in particular, here are three reasons they should care.
GPS tracking is risky in the wrong hands
GPS tracking is the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) to track or determine the exact location of an object or entity from a distance or remotely. Remember that the Global Positioning System is a suite of satellites that orbit the earth, and they allow anyone with a GPS receiver to pinpoint the geographical location.
GPS tracking is highly beneficial in a myriad of industries from business to transport, agriculture and even military. In agriculture, for example, GPS made precision agriculture possible. In the military, UAVs or drones depend on GPS to determine location and spot targets.
In the transport industry, vehicles are equipped with GPS vehicle tracking systems and the benefits include a quick recovery in case of theft and also determining direction. Note that even services like Uber and Lyft wouldn’t be possible without GPS tracking.
However, GPS tracking also raises privacy concerns. In the wrong hands, GPS tracking can
- Make it possible for third parties to extract essential details about the location of a car and target it for theft or destruction.
- Allow malicious people to hack into a car and take control of it in a bid to harm the driver.
- Enable a hacker to combine the GPS tracking information with geological IP data to get into the system and cause massive damage.
- Make it possible for companies to track employee vehicles hence infringing on privacy.
Unauthorized mobile tracking through spyware is widespread
If you happen to drive a company car or are a driver for a given company, then this applies to you. In the name of keeping tabs on their employees, employers can sometimes install unauthorized spyware on the employees’ mobile phones.
Spyware is software that allows someone to spy on someone else through their device to obtain covert information. Examples include keyloggers, rootkits, and Digital Rights Management capabilities.
Considering how much personal information people store in their phones, the spyware is a gross invasion of privacy. The spy might end up learning a lot of personal information about you and use it to target you.
Technology facilitates government and mobile service carriers’ mass tracking
Governments and mobile service carriers’ already have a lot of information about you. However, they are using your mobile phone to find out more. Remember, a phone usually has two operating systems—one OS interfaces with you and another connects to cellular networks.
Even on airplane mode, thanks to the OS between the phone and the carrier network, your phone is continually giving a ping.
Moreover, governments, especially the military, law enforcement or specialized intelligence agencies use Stingrays or cell-site simulators to trick your phone into replying with your location and data with the aim of tracking you.
Another good example to consider is the fake 2G towers NSA put up. Note that if someone forces your phone to 2G via fake towers, then your phone no longer has encryption which means it is easily tracked and detected.
With that in mind, what can you and what should you do about it?
Your phone’s Assisted GPS (A-GPS) utilizes cellular tower data to locate your position, which depends mostly on the connection to your ISP. As long as you are routed through the internet, your communications are not 100% safe. There is always a chance that your web traffic is intercepted, tapped or outright monitored by your ISP.
Consider using a VPN. With regards to surveillance or spying by the government, the VPN hides your IP and encrypts your traffic, masking your physical location and internet traffic from monitoring, given that your mobile phone’s geolocation feature is off.
Finally, remember that you also need to very careful when giving permissions to apps. Read through to find out what the app can do with the permission you allow. Apps and social media platforms are known to track you even when your phone is on idle.
Some say that personal data has taken the place of oil as the most lucrative industry on the planet. Whether or not that is true does not take away from the fact that tech and telecommunication companies are feeding off your user data at the expense of your privacy and security. It’s down to you to gear up against cyber threats with heightened awareness and the right tools.
Jack Warner is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on topics such as whistleblowing and cybersecurity tools.