Edward Snowden shows how to keep your phone from spying on you

Your phone's ability to put you in touch with people all over the world is a huge part of its appeal; with just a couple taps, you can be video-chatting with an old friend from the other side of the country. But those features that make modern smartphones such powerful communications tools can also be a liability, especially if you've got reason to believe that your phone's security is compromised. How can you prevent your own smartphone from being used against you? In a new preview from an upcoming episode of Vice, Edward Snowden shows just what it takes to “go black” with a handset and take away its ability to spy on you.

Would you know it if there were software on your phone surreptitiously recording your conversations, or watching you through its cameras? Whether it's coming from some rogue malware threat, or a state-sponsored agency with access to some serious hacking resources, it's no big reach for software to start using your phone's own hardware to covertly monitor you.

Snowden takes a pretty extreme approach here, basing it on the assumption that it's really difficult to trust your phone's software. If software can't guarantee privacy, the obvious solution is to turn to hardware enforcement; here, Snowden does just that as he physically removes a phone's cameras and microphone components.

Taking away a phone's camera is pretty much a deal-breaker when it comes to any video-call action, but as Snowden points out, even a phone that's had its microphone disabled can still make calls – you've just got to pop in a headset with its own mic when you want to talk.

This goes way, waaay further than most of us would ever need to take smartphone security, but most of us don't find ourselves in the NSA's crosshairs like Snowden does, either.

source: Vice (YouTube) via Boing Boing



1. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

I got a better plan than Snowden - Just don't use telecommunications at all. How about that.


Posts: 654; Member since: Jun 28, 2014

I think he should've just used a hammer on the phone and then switch to using a walkie talkie/calling cards/pager...

9. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Once you go black...


Posts: 654; Member since: Jun 28, 2014

As Robert Downey Jr. said - "You never go full retard"...

13. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 970; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Want to lose weight? Don't eat garbage. Want to be a safe driver? Don't drink before driving. Don't want your information available for the government to see? Don't use a smartphone or computer. Simple as that.

18. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

True s**t.

22. Xelief

Posts: 62; Member since: Aug 17, 2015

Oh gee, god forbid anyone wants their privacy without giving up computers all together. Do I really need to explain how that's not practical? Some people's livelihood depends on access to their computers and/or Smartphone. There's nothing wrong with wanting to know how you can protect yourself while using them. Losing weight and drunken driving are not accurate comparisons by any stretch of the imagination.

19. HR_19

Posts: 103; Member since: Aug 09, 2014

He said, on the internet...

2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Security is very much important right now. That's why many executives are turning to the BlackBerry of old. If security was that important, you could just go with a blackberry. There's no shortage of them available assuming your carrier has them.

17. PenTiltoKet

Posts: 552; Member since: May 18, 2016

Blackberry is NOT secure at all. It's only secure if you're the friend of NATO (USA, Canada, UK, and friend). Blackberry will turn in your info to NATO ally.

3. Unordinary unregistered

El oh el

4. CellieCell

Posts: 154; Member since: Apr 14, 2010

I thought this guy was in jail!??

7. joevsyou

Posts: 1093; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

he went public and fled the country to avoid going jail. i lso believe he recent just came back not to long ago but under considerations. If you whistle blow something and it doesn't go viral then your SOL and you will be getting looked at and not what you uncovered.

6. joevsyou

Posts: 1093; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

then why even get a phone... LOL


Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Instead of ruining or dismantling your expensive phone, just use a disposable type of phones or cheap phones for one time use there are plenty out there. The fact of the matter everything is hackable especially if a human has an access to it.

10. TerryTerius unregistered

I wonder how humans will stack up once we start creating machines that are many orders of magnitude more intelligent than we are.


Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

Machines can never reach human potential. No matter how good they get after all they are programmed by humans. Sure task wise they can reach perfection but never in terms of creativity after all we have something they don't which is a soul and all the mystery and power behind it .

14. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

"Sure task wise they can reach perfection but never in terms of creativity after all we have something they don't which is a soul and all the mystery and power behind it ." I don't understand the thought proces that makes

15. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Sorry, comment glitched. As I was saying, you made that statement assuming that machine intelligence isn't capable of critical thinking and creative thought processes, which are indeed possible. A "Soul" as you put it, is nothing more than a mechanism for our brains to distinguish ourselves from the collective. Nothing more than an evolutionary tool biologically created for the purpose of creating a "self". Machines are capable of that, as well as approaching problems with creative solutions. At least that's my opinion ^_^.


Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

You are entitled to your opinion but a Soul isn't just a "mechanism", you can't define it, nor do you know what it's made of nor can you replicate it or create it. When you sleep where do you go?, some of the great ideas came through dreaming, when you are dreaming you see things that you never have come across nor can you explain them and some times those things you see happen in the future it's all within the realm of the soul and the after life which a machine can't have. My point is that realm adds to our creative thinking and inventions. Any way it's a big topic i can't go through it nor give it justice by these comment's. What you are stating is as you mentioned is possible but haven't materialized yet nor have it stood the test of time so until it does then we can discuss it further and move from there.

26. TerryTerius unregistered

I'm extremely hesitant to assume that something isn't possible just because I want to believe it isn't. And frankly, I don't believe in assuming that humans are just extra special sunflowers. For so many reasons, that is absolutely not an assumption we can afford to make. To put it simply, I fundamentally completely disagree with you. But, you are as you said entitled to an opinion.

21. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

yeah right, just buy some old phone.. and put your smartphone on permanent airplane mode, so you can still use that phone for photo/vids recording, or play some game on it

20. Chuck007

Posts: 1415; Member since: Mar 02, 2014

It's scary to think how many of our so called "trusted" companies actually supports the government's spying efforts/propaganda/self profit behind our backs. What's more, with smart devices, all of us are essentially pieces of meat large corporations exploit our privacy (email, contacts, call records, data collected from movements from smart watches+VR, and web surfing records, etc..) for a piece of that big data pie. Where nearly all smart devices have back doors placed intentionally... don't trust your smartphone and store sensitive information in it folks. Not to mention the cloud of course.

23. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014


24. Shocky unregistered

Could he not just buy a old dumbphone? surely that would be easier and cheaper. No sane person would ruin a perfectly good phone doing this.

25. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

Most people I see do not even use a pin or turn on their fingerprint scanner unless the OS forces them to do so. This tells me security is not important to them. On top of that they put personal and financial information into this device which is probably the least safe computer anyone can have. If we want secure phones we should start holding phone manufacturers responsible for damages if somebody is hurt due to poor hardware/OS design. And we should do the same for software developers.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.