Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Kevin Benedict, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

Who's Calling?

Who's Calling?

Drug dealers love digital mobile telephones. It's not just being able to stay in touch with customers and suppliers on the move, nor the advantages of instantaneous communications in a very competitive industry. Drug dealers love digital mobile telephones for the security they offer - security and anonymity.

When we use the World Wide Web, we often assume that we're relatively anonymous. We visit various Web sites, knowing that the site owners are aware that someone has visited, but we assume that they have no way of finding out who we are.

In reality, it's neither difficult nor expensive to find out. The IP address (unique number assigned to your computer) is known by every site you visit or service you use, and while that address may be allocated to someone else later, the fact that it was allocated to you at that time will certainly be recorded somewhere. Local laws differ, but in the UK, an ISP will keep records of who had what IP address for three months, and make those records available to government offices on request.

A recent attempt to expand the offices that had automatic access to this information, to include local councils and health departments, was blocked only after public outcry, but it's clear that any government agency can request this information and generally get hold of it.

Strangely enough, you may be more anonymous at work, where your Internet access is likely to be routed through a proxy server (or NAT) so the whole company will share a single IP address. Of course, the best way to be anonymous on the Internet is to walk in to a cyber café and pay cash for your access; it feels less anonymous, but it's the only way to be sure.

Mobile Insecurity
Phone calls are no better. Analog mobiles in the UK were embarrassingly insecure, a fact highlighted by both Princess Diana and Prince Charles each being caught (separately) talking to "significant others" in 1989. Listening in to calls was just a matter of tuning a radio at the right time and I remember warning a client that a group of kids outside her office were cloning mobiles from the signals (collecting the information isn't illegal, only using it).

With the coming of digital and GSM, the networks touted the new standard as being completely secure, and criminals everywhere rejoiced. The encryption around GSM turned out not to be as secure as it should have been, with networks deploying a badly implemented version of the standard. The UK police (among others) now have access to scanners that will listen in to GSM phone calls with relative ease, but when we're making phone calls we generally rely on security through obscurity.

Listening in to trans-Atlantic calls routed through satellite is very easy, just a matter of a few hundred dollars of equipment and parking in the right place, but it's not very useful either. Thousands of calls are being routed at any one time, and finding the one you're interested in is next to impossible. However, listening in on a call is often less important than knowing that the call was made.

Making a phone call will often reveal the number you're dialing from. At the least, the fact that the call was made is stored with the phone company for billing purposes. In the UK the police are now routinely data-mining telephone records. Once someone is pulled for dealing drugs, or a similar crime, the police check his or her phone records and note every number called, or that has called them.

Then every phone number called, or called to, is checked; each of those numbers is compared. If a large number of people who speak to this dealer have another number in common, then that might be a dealer too. Compare records from a few dealers and you might even pick up another level, a distributor. In these circumstances it's not the content of the calls the police are interested in, just the fact that they exist.

Of course, it's not just drug dealers who have something to hide. The ability to pick up every number called by an individual has some potential in industrial espionage, not to mention cheating spouses and a myriad of other misdemeanors that would better remain private. Once the police and various government departments have routine access to such information, it's reasonable to assume that anyone with the money could gain access if they wished. Knowing exactly who a company talks to is valuable information, perhaps as valuable as knowing what's being said.

Of course, data mining gets you only a number; then it's a matter of looking up the name and address that match. Early mobile telephones required signing up for a contract and paying a monthly bill (with a credit check on name and address), but too many potential customers failed the credit check. Then there are the under 18's who can't legally take on credit without parental backing (some parents do underwrite their children's phone bills, but all the ones I know regret it!).

Then pay-as-you-go phones came into usage, paid for in advance and displaying a ticking down of money each time a call is made. They've proved massively popular. The networks also adore them - customers paying in advance! Not to mention that a percentage of those recharge cards are never activated - a service paid for and never used. Customers pay over-the-odds for the convenience of being able to run out of credit in the middle of a call, and the explosion of SMS usage can be attributed in part to the fixed cost of each message, making it easier for kids to manage their funds.

The Price of Anonymity
Without a credit check there's no reason for mobile phone users to register their name or address with the network. Indeed, it's perfectly practical to own a phone completely anonymously in the UK. Most companies will charge you a premium, around $70, for choosing to remain anonymous, as they won't be able to sell your details to advertisers; but this gives you a number without a name.

In the U.S., Virgin has just launched their mobile system, and is allowing anonymous usage; in fact they are encouraging it! The youth market Virgin is interested in will be able just to pick up the phone and use it, not fill in forms and get junk mail. No doubt American drug dealers will also be quick to become Virgin customers.

Proper anonymous Internet access also becomes possible, with a free ISP connected via an anonymous mobile phone. It becomes virtually impossible to find out who is sharing those MP3 files, or who posted that rumor that so affected your share price.

With only a phone number to go on, there is little the police can do, except phone it. Even the next generation of location-based systems is unlikely to be much use in this respect. Knowing that there's a drug dealer in Trafalgar Square just isn't useful, though probably true.

This leaves the police looking for John (as all drugs are bought from a man named John in a pub in East London), and hoping he's carrying his mobile phone when they find him.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Robert Cohen, an economist and senior fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute, presented the findings of a series of six detailed case studies of how large corporations are implementing IoT. The session explored how IoT has improved their economic performance, had major impacts on business models and resulted in impressive ROIs. The companies covered span manufacturing and services firms. He also explored servicification, how manufacturing firms shift from se...
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...