Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Listen to Cel phones live on the Internet? 200

An anonymous reader sent us this link (note that it is a shoutcast feed). Essentially, it is scanning open airwaves for cell phone calls, and rebroadcasting them over the Internet. Now I'm curious- is this invasion of privacy legal or just proof that we all ought to be encrypting everything? What do you think?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Listen to Cel phones live on the Internet?

Comments Filter:
  • This is why I use GSM.
  • The Secondary domain is registered to an American company. This does not mean that is in the US. I also tried this, and found the same results, but decided that it's impossible for ARIN or the Internic to know exactly where each IP or Domain REALLY points...
    Then again, you are probably right. The server probably IS in the USA..
  • You know what? I think people are way taking life for granted. They don't take *any* precautions against snipers at all. Well, terrorists and criminals can shoot you anytime, and just because they can do (which is illegal of course), doesn't mean they should be allowed to do so, right? Going with your line of argument, they would point out that it's YOUR problem to protect yourself, get an armor suite,bodyguards, don't go out at all.

    It is your problem to protect yourself. The government doesn't protect you. They only step in after you catch the terminal end of a 7.62x54R boat tail round to the head, by trying to apprehend the schumck who pulled the trigger. If you think the government protects you sir, you need a reality check. And that people don't take any precautions against snipers, speak for your self, I work underground. :-) (of course on a day like today I would gladly trade my at-work-sniper-protection-system(tm) for a nice large window, but alas it can never be ...)

    Now, you have only the rights you were nerously allocated by the current democratic system, not what you think you have, no matter how these rights sound reasonable it sounds for your mind. By not appreciating the written law, your gnorance would end you up in jail. There are no slashdot, computers, the Internet, girls, cinema, good food and many many other useful things there. Take it easy.

    You are quite WRONG. A right is NOT granted by the government. That would imply it could be taken away by the government. A right is something you are born with. (Like life, liberty, etc. you see where this is going? You can go look it up yourself. The document is rather well known.)

    I've also seen it argued that a law that can never be enforced (pretty hard to reliably monitor who's receiving what) isn't really a law, but that gets rather messy.

    gotta go hack some 1750A, till later ...

  • Posted by Reitzel:

    Sure it's illegal. So what? Did Newt a lot of good to bitch about it being illegal.

    You want privacy? Encrypt it.

    Just think of it as a condom an the age of electronic AIDS.
  • No. My digital cell (GSM) was $30. (My company sells them, it was at cost.) It retails for $50 normally, without a service contract, free with one.
  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

    Even if you have a trauma plate that can stop it, the kinetic energy that the bullet has can still crack your ribs.

  • I feel your pain. I'm in the dallas area (carrollton) and I get many of the same problems. I have a friend who works for Sprint and he was able to explain the problem to me: as I understand it, the towers for Sprint's "digital network, built from the ground up" were actually purchased from another company. To save money and increase the network area, rather than adding more towers, Sprint turned all the transmitters all straight up as opposed to down toward the ground, resulting in HUGE footprints that all interfered with each-other. Now Sprint denies this whenever I ask them, however If you complain about dropped calls with a full signal indicator, they will generally give you a small air-time reimbursement, however I have yet to see any actual improvements in service. As soon as I get a raise, I'm switching to AT&T or SWBELL.. Those Nokia phones are the shit. Anyone have any input on the quality of those providers?
  • These are private conversations, so anyone who does not have a warrant is not supposed to listen. but...

    It is easy to listen to an analog cellphone call. The scanners that are available at Radio Shack may require a few minor adjustments, but instructions are available. Most people believe that the risk of being arrested for listening into the conversations of others is very low. If you are using a cellphone, take reasonable precautions against scanners. So, the reasonable conclusion is that you should not assume that cellphone calls are secure.

  • Sorry, You've got this backwards. Any cordless phone, (there may be an exception on 900mhz), is LEGAL to listen to, while it is illegal to intercept ANY cell or pcs calls. Most cordless phones operate on what the FCC has branded a public home freq. I don't know the proper FCC regulations on 900mhz though. Any one who says it is legal (in the united states) to listen to cell phone calls does not know what they are talking about.
  • My Sprint PCS phone has two "privacy" settings, normal and enhanced. I don't know if that means encryption... I'll have to bug customer service and find out.

  • You should be jittery. I don't use them.

    My friend and I once built a scanner to listen to the cordless phones around my apartment complex.

    Fascinating stuff, and frighteningly easy.
  • The server is actually,
    theoretically owned by a company that rents out
    accounts on a collection of linux servers to people
    for the purpose of MU* hosting. Someone probably
    decided to rebroadcast this shoutcast stream on
    their account, along with running a mud or
    whatever. Doubtless they will be surprised when
    mudservices pulls their account, not having
    realized that there would be anything wrong with
    running a shoutcast server (I think that accounts
    on providers like that generally share computers,
    depending on how much they pay, so the person is
    probably violating some sort of rule in the
    agreement they signed)
  • Granted I don't want people listening in to my phone conversations (although 99.99% of the time I don't say anything that I would really care if someone else heard), and thus my cordless phone uses spread spectrum stuff. However, how can you make it illegal to listen to a broadcast that is *everywhere*? What if I developed an organ that allowed me to sense radio transmissions? Would *I* be illegal? The radio transmissions are going right through me and you and everyone else! Banning the sale of recievers that can pick up these frequencies is pointless. I am in favor of the laws that prohibit disclosure, but not the ones that ban listening. I don't want people to listen to me, but I am also aware of how ridiculous it is to say that you can't listen to the signals that are passing through the air all around you. In summary, listen, but don't tell, although that sounds about as ridiculous as don't sense the radiation passing through your body...
  • In europe, and probably other parts of the world, we already use digital cellphones, on the GSM net. I'm not an expert on this, but as far as I know, you cannot intercept a GSM call, unless you intercept it at the time the call is first made. After that, the encrypted signal key is changed at such a rapid rate, that only the two end-points of the phone-call is able to decrypt the signal again, having the keys. This is all done with a digital SIM card, that each phone has, and which is unique. You can also store phone# and such in the SIM-card, and thus transfer the data from phone to phone. Each SIM also has 4 sets of codes, one pair of regular, and one pair of Unlocking keys (4 and 11 numbers), and a SIM will not work anymore if you enter the wrong number 3 times in a row etc. (You need to use the unlock key to make it work again).
    It might not be 100% perfect, but it is a secure and good way to do phonecalls throughout europe.
    Analouge cellphones ? Thing of the past here :)
  • I believe that intercepting cell phone calls is illegal in the US. RF scanners aren't allowed to be sold that are tunable to cell phone frequencies and haven't been salable for some time. Scanners sold prior to this prohibition aren't supposed to be used for monitoring cell phones either. However there are lots of people that are quite willing to break the law. Hence encrypting your cell phone traffic is a good idea if you value your privacy.
  • I liked AT&T... a emphasize liked though... Here in College Station/Bryan AT&T is being "bought out" by Houston Cellular. While I used to have Long Distance for free anywhere in Texas, Houston doesn't offer that, and they charge the same amount. I'm pretty ticked about it, and I am not switching to Houston Cell. Prior to that, I've had excellent service.
    Time flies like an arrow;
  • AFAIK this constitutes an illegal wire-tap. Remember during the last presidential campaign, a Florida couple got into legal trouble for shopping around a recording of one of the candidates cell phone calls.
  • On the other hand, the transmissions are essentially in the public domain because of the broadcast nature of the communication.

    Short version: assume everything is in the open, therefore encrypt everything.
  • What about *International* calls? Is it illegal to intercept a cell phone call from Canada from within the US? What about vice versa? Can canadians intercept US phone calls legally? And what about calls from airplanes in neutral zones? And of course, what about intercepting calls from outer space (satellite spying)? It seems like we're in for a lot of international legal problems as countries get closer in terms of travel and more and more connected in terms of communications. Maybe some day there will have to be a system of international law...
  • My scanner seems to be able to scan the 806mhz - 956 mhz range, but I can't listen to the 175 - 406 mhz range or the 513 - 805 mhz range... Anyone know why? Is this because of the Govt/FCC regulations, or is this a cheap scanner (Radio Shack 50 Channel)?
  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    People need to realize that nothing is totally private. Anything which has a distance greater than zero between point A and point B has the possibility of being intercepted somehow. Thus, the focus must shift to making it as difficult as possible to decode the intercepted transmissions.
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Wednesday June 23, 1999 @09:45AM (#1836567) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, I can't read that page. But I can tell you its easy to take an old Motorola bag phone, read the "Motorola Bible" about the test mode, and you have a scanner. Look it up on the search engine of your choice and start listening. You can also transmit and adjust power levels too. How do cellular technicians track this kind of abuse?

    Needless to say, this is why I got a digital phone. It might not be secure, but its not as easy to eavesdrop! The only complaint I have is the audio quality is barely audible, especially when talking to another digital cell phone. Is the poor audio quality just my location or does it plague certain types of phones?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 1999 @09:47AM (#1836569)
    According to the whois [] server at ARIN, the nameless IP address on the web link reverse maps to:

    Internet Unlimited (NETBLK-IUINC4-FASTNET)
    3894 Courtney St, Suite 150
    Bethlehem, PA 18017
    Netblock: -

    Since this is within US borders, the Communications Act of 1935, prohibits the divulging of private radio transmissions without consent of the parties involved. Even the sweeping anti-freedom amendments to the Act in 1986 and 1994 aren't needed to point this web site out as being illegal.
  • Free speech does not allow one to break the law.

    If he's doing it as an act of civil disobedience, it's still illegal, even if he's morally right. The law and the right thing to do are not always equal.
  • My son told me about listening
    to phone calls on the upper
    channels of UHF. He probably
    read about it on the Pesky Internet.

    We have tried it several times. It does

  • They do it all the time whenever they access an https site. Sometimes, they even know it's secure because the browser pops up an information box telling them.

    I do wonder if it isn't possible to have digital phones at least automatically encrypt when connected to a (compatible) digital phone.

    Of course, then one has to consider encryption technologies that can survive the phone-D/A-slight analog noise-A/D-phone sequence that many cell phone calls go through. Not a trivial matter.
  • Like I said, encryption is a good idea. I don't expect cellular conversations to be safe, at all, from anyone with dishonorable intentions. But, what is the use to anyone of publicly broadcasting my messages? Forget stolen information, that could just be downright embarrassing, plus it opens up my private information to people who might not have found a way to get it before. This broadcasting site is just ludicrous.
  • How exactly would one go about encrypting a cell phone conversation?

    Rainbow Technologies [] is one of many possible places to start for real encryption.

    IIRC, digital cellphones use spread spectrum technology which is an effective pseudoencryption method for protecting against casual dial spinners.

  • Crap. The current laws are like saying a guy can walk into a room and yell at a certain volume, and anyone who listens to him is breaking the law. We have a half-assed communications system... we need to FIX it, not make silly laws about it.
  • It is true that most PCS transmissions are encrypted using 56 bit DES (Which cracked in less than a day). But this encryption sucks. Not only is it 56 bit but the last 32 bits are all ASCII "0". The government pressured the PCS makers into this for easier monitoring of suspicous individuals.

  • It used to be that as long as it traveled through the air, and onto (and into) your property, you had the right to monitor any and all radio communications, and that includes phone conversations. You were prohibited from divulging what you heard to anyone, but you could listen to your heart's content. That all changed a few years ago when the old-guard cellular industry successfully lobbied Congress to pass a law criminalizing monitoring radio waves that carried cellular phone calls.

    This was a major blow to freedom! For the first time ever, the "land of the free and the home of the brave," "with liberty and justice for all" had gone and done what only the Godless Communists were supposed to do. Thank God the Internet came along!!!

    Regardless of the correctness of this new law, rebroadcasting transmissions heard third-party is a definite no-no. And it really has nothing to do with invasion of privacy. It's more about protecting big business than protecting personal conversations.
  • I know about that... But AFAIK, the 800 - 900 mhz frequencies were the cell phone ones. For some reason, they work (without modification). I was interested in what frequencies the scanner couldn't get and why... Thanks anyway.
  • Remington .17's...

    nuthin' but chunks!
  • 'cuz those are TV freqs... Most scanner manufactures assume you already have a TV, I guess...
  • Yeah, what he said! Radio waves know no boundaries (excepting maybe RFI shielding...) They propagate according to the laws of physics, not Congress, or any other legal body.

    That means when you talk on your cell or cordless phone, you are BROADCASTING. Making it illegal to listen to signals that are all around us violates basic common sense, is technically inept and a horrible legal precedent.

    Can anyone present a good reason why the responsibility and legal burden of radio privacy should fall on the *listener*? Especially in this day and age when encryption is relatively cheap.

    Bottom line is, it wasn't cheap *enough* for the cell phone companies, so they have permanently scarred our legal landscape with stupid laws that try to ensure their customers' privacy by mandating that you and I plug our ears. This of course allows those same companies to now tell their customers that their conversations are safe and private. The Internet equivalent to this silliness would be decreeing it illegal to read a special hierarchy of Usenet newsgroups containing private messages in cleartext, and then mandating that all newsreaders be rendered incapable of reading those sacred groups.

    Meanwhile... Last time I checked, it was illegal to curse on a cell phone, by order of the FCC. Would that perhaps be because they understood that radio is inherently a broadcast medium and that anyone might just tune in? How does that fit with a law that prohibits one from listening to an unscrambled analog broadcast?

    It used to be quite easy too. Anyone with an old TV that goes up to UHF channel 84 can tune cell bands. Many older scanners receive cell or can be readily modified to do so. Now it's getting difficult to buy even high-end RF test equipment that doesn't have the cell band blocked out. stupidstupidstupid! Although, "unblocked" radios are readily available from distributors in Canada, where apparently the cell phone companies have been unsuccessful in purveying such collossal legal stupidies.

    What really frosts my shorts is that at some point, analog cellular will be long gone, but this #$@#! law will live on, leaving a f$#$ing crater in radio reception capabilites for years to come.

    Why do I care? Well, it's certainly not because I get my jollies listening to people talk on the phone. Most of what you would hear on a scanner is about as exciting as watch paint peel and it's been a few years since I bothered with it in any meaningful way. As an occasional scanner listener and ham (N3HAZ), it's a matter of principle and "technical purity" for me to expect that laws covering technical matters have at least some tenuous basis in rational thought.


  • Well, yes actually. That _is_ the way it (radio) works and the "public domain" approach makes sense for a broadcast medium. The problem is that the law in question is not in accordance with the way it works, or what makes sense.

    The law *says* it's illegal to listen. However it's technically a piece of cake for anyone with half a radio clue (and too much free time) to do so.

    (Gee, I hope nobody notices I feel strongly about this! ;)

  • " Analouge cellphones ? Thing of the past here "

    You are probably wrong. There is a certain gentleman who is a genius when it comes to radio, who started a company. Ericsson bought that company for approximately $40 million under the circumstances he worked for them for a few years. Now that time is over, and he has started *another* company. This was a few years ago, and by then he had an analogue telephone smaller than the smallest GSM-phone. More interesting than that was that it broadcasted using like 0.1 watts, when GSM-phones (at least back then) used 1-3 watts. As you can understand, it consumed almost no batteries at all. Another interesting thing about it is that the BS (base station, I've gotta remember you don't work where I do (-: ) could be tens of kilometres away, because they were so advanced.

    Furthermore the NMT system might get SMS-services, possbily encryption and other features that up to now have been reserved for GSM. So don't think that NMT is over!

    Just a comment. The European digital standard (i.e. GSM) has had SMS-services for the past 20 years, in USA you are just getting it. And of course, you can't stick to standards either. It's 160 letters, get that! :-)
  • ...remind me to say hi to all the people listening on #DWC.

    I don't know about you, but I find this all very interesting, from a legal, social and a technical point of view. There are so many questions opened by stuff like this that I just can't help but be awed by them all.

    Personally, (IMO) in the end I think that DWC is doing us all a favor by raising the issues brought up by this. Cell phones are not a new thing, and it just goes to show how naive most people are towards technology.

    It's amazing how gullable we all are.

  • Right. Part of the reason for this is that a wide variety of household devices use the same portion of the spectrum. Cordless phones and cordless baby monitors, for example. Since I don't want my telephone conversations rebroadcasted on the neighbor's baby monitor, I use a 900Mhz cordless phone. It's digital and encrypted.

    I'm not plotting a coup or conducting drug deals, but I still value my privacy.
  • on sony japanese radios (the ones sold in japan -- not in the US) you can listen to the police, cordless phones etc. directly. they have a broader FM range than do the radios sold in the US (these are the normal AM/FM/SW band radios..not a special scanner radio)..
  • Okay, I'll concede that point. I guess we can't legislate this away, nor would that be right given the nature of cellular broadcasting. Not that the yelling analogy is great -- I *can't* ignore someone yelling, while it's pretty easy not to scan for cell phones. Still, someone ought to give the people making these public broadcasts the message that that sort of thing isn't acceptable (not to me, anyway). It's not like they're provinding a "public service", or anything. If they can't be shut down forcibly, they ought to do it voluntarily. In my opinion, at least. I just can't see a good reason for listening to other people's phone calls...
  • No listening to cordless 46/49mhz phones is legal. But you have to understand that it is the public airwaves. It doesn't belong to a company. You should be able to listen to any radio frequency. This cell phone law is a big change from the old days when HAMs and the Government agreed that the airwaves belong to the public.
    This changed probably due to the encryption problem and the government. The obvious solution is to encrypt but that scared them to death. So they made it illegal.
  • RF scanners aren't allowed to be sold that are tunable to cell phone frequencies and haven't been salable for some time.

    Does that mean that a UHF TV is illegal too? (Tune in to channels 60-83 to hear what I'm talking about) ;-)
    - - -

  • I've often wondered about this, as well; I bought a digital phone with the hopes I'd get privacy, but all my outgoing calls come with a text message and a beep, denying me the possibility of privacy.

    That said, I disapprove of such transmissions, but I think that

    • we should be encrypting everything possble;
    • we shouldn't be saying anything significant on open channels that can be monitored like this;
    • and we shouldn't be gabbing on cell phones,'s rude, dangerous, and expensive
  • More likely is that the servers got Slashdotted.
  • [ I seem to remember that PCS is GSM based ]

    PCS == GSM, only PCS uses 1800 MHz instead of 900MHz.

    Disclaimer: I could be wrong here. :-)
  • If you yell to someone across a field, you are broadcasting, even if your intention is that it should be a private conversation.

    I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. :o)

    I accept your arguement, but do not agree with it.
    When I shout to someone, I am forcing all those within ear shot to listen. When you transmit something on a narrow frequency band, the excuse of "I couldn't help but overhear" looks a little shaky.

    The bottom line, as I see it, is that if you have to take any action, make any effort to overhear me, then you are purposefully eavesdroping, and so are invading my privacy.

    I should probably add that, on reflection, I realise that outlawing it probably wouldn't be enforceable. However, just because something isn't illegal, doesn't make it right.

    (Conversely, there are pretty strong arguments for certain illegal acts to be legalised. The US crypto export rules strike me as moronic, as do the ones concerning the export of supercomputers. Large sections of the Criminal Justice Act here in Britain should also be ripped out and burned...:o) )

  • I can't believe no one noticed this:

    "Wouldn't you be outraged to find your conversation broadcast?"

    All cell phones broadcast conversations - how else could it work. I think a better question would be

    "Wouldn't the general public be outraged to learn that cell phones broadcase conversations into public airwaves?"

    Cell phones are the equivelent of shouting across a room full of people. The problem is that most people *assume* that they are safe (the salesperson would probably tell you it was secure but most don't even think of this). How many people assume that email is private? should it be illegal for SA to read "private" email that is spooled on their machines?

    Sooo many people refuse to give their credit card over shttp but they will on a cell phone. The public needs to understand just how insecure cell phones are and cell companies need to take responsibility to inform customes and take action where needed (ie offer real encryption for those making sesitive phone calls)

    sorry bout the rant
  • This actually brings up another interesting subject: cordless phone monitoring. I was about 50 feet out of the range of my dinky cordless phone's receiver, standing in front of a friend's house with the phone, and all of a sudden I heard a hispanic woman talking to a saleswoman on the other side.

    Cordless phones are extremely easy to eavesdrop on. Digital ones like DECT are more difficult.

    Eavesdropping on analog cordless phones can happen by accident, using another cordless phone. A friend of mine once wanted to call someone, used a cordless phone, and when he switched it on, he could hear someone else's conversation, crystal clear.
  • If you're having a discussion about anything even remotly sensitive on a cell phone - you're insane.

    I don't consider my Orange PCN phone secure.

    I live in Cheltenham UK, about 3 minutes walk from GCHQ btw ;)
  • 1) Some wealthy teenager gets caught listening to cell calls.

    2) His parents can afford a really great lawer that playes the censorship card to convince the jury that her/his client was just listening to a public broadcast (which he/she was)

    3) Cell companies, in a effort to keep public trust, implement encryption. However, because all the noise the US gov. has made about strong encryption - the cell companies just use trivial encryption that is easily broken (ie xor with some constant value, etc).

    4) Someone on the net develops and releases code that can decrypt this trivial encryption.

    5) Cell companies, again in an effort to keep conversations secret, lobby and get a law passed in Congress prohibiting the unauthorized decryption of "private" data. However, since it is *possible* (but not very usefull) to decrypt a message in your head or on paper - this will have set the precidence for making laws agains certian types of thought.


  • Dumb Americans.....
  • It does seem to be illegal at this moment.

    However, it shouldn't be. If the radio waves are in my house then I should be able to do whatever I want with them, including demodulating them and listening.

    Why *don't* manufacturers encrypt? Is is so the
    gov'mt can listen? I'm all for catching mobsters too, but it is a big loss for a small return, IMHO
  • It should only be able to decrypt it if it has the right key.

    GSM has got this right for a long time. (Of course the GSM crypto is apparently pretty poor, they won't even publish the alorythms).

    [ I seem to remember that PCS is GSM based ]

    Does anyone still use analog phones? :-)
  • Shoutcast [] list of Cell scanners

    - - -

  • Of course digital phones can encrypt. It's part of the IS-136, IS-95 and GSM standards. I think virtually all digital phones support it. Whether it's supported and enabled on the base station side is the question. Encryption is definitely available in Manhattan, elsewhere it may not be.
  • by otis wildflower ( 4889 ) on Wednesday June 23, 1999 @10:47AM (#1836614) Homepage

    while test 1
  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Wednesday June 23, 1999 @10:49AM (#1836615)
    There is (IIRC) language in the communications act as amended that says something about the intent of the communicating parties. It is unlawful to intercept communications intended as point to point. Communication intended as a broadcast is not protected (obviously it is legal to listen to your local FM station!). It is also legal for non-licensed persons (all of this is in the US, beyond basic ITU rules regarding amateur radio, I know nothing of these things in other countries) to listen to, for example, two CB'ers or two radio amateurs talking because these are known and intended as broadcast media.

    Also IIRC it used to be legal for licensed amateurs to monitor the entire spectrum, including the then RT bands (pre-cellular radio telephone), and, by extension, cellular and cordless phone traffic, but these privledges were specifically revoked in one of the sets of amendments somtime in the last 10 years. (Don't remember when).

    Personally, I have always felt that if you want to keep something secret, keep your mouth shut. I do not think that anyone communicating by radio using some simple form of modulation (AM, FM, PCM, USB/SSB, etc.) should have any reasonable expectation of privacy. You can pass all the laws you like, but you can't prevent the interception of signals.

    I'm an amateur radio operator. I drive around with a dual-band transceiver in my car (145MHz and 440MHz). Hams on these bands use FM modulation, just like a bunch of analog devices including (non-digital) cell phones. In urban areas there are so many transmitters all over the place that I often experience a phenomenon called "intermod" (intermodulation) which occurs when two radio carriers with wide separation in frequency happen to "beat" at the frequency I am monitoring (the difference between the two transmitter's carrier frequencies is equal to the frequency I am monitorning). If the conditions are right, my radio will then rectify the carrier and the demodulator will try to make audio out of the mixed signal. Often the result is gibberish, but often I hear two crystal clear conversations. This is an accident of physics. I doubt I could be prosecuted, since design of my radio tries to avoid this (lots of band pass filtering and such) and I had no intent to monitor anything I ought not to monitor. Nevertheless, I often hear ten and fifteen seconds of "private" conversation.

    BTW, every time someone else buys a minivan and a cell phone, the problem gets worse. More transmitters on more frequencies equals more combinations that yield intermod. RF pollution is a semi-serious problem! (Cell phones are better for this than many systems, because the transmitter power levels are so small compared to more traditional methods of area-wide radio).

    So, while the laws are pretty tight, you still shouldn't expect privacy. Even so, rebroadcasting cell phone conversations are something I think they would try to send you jail for...
  • That's odd... I've had Sprint PCS and have had both the Qualcomm phone and now the new Nokia 6185 and have had few if any problems, and I've used it in Boston, KC, Chicago, Houston, and a few other places....

    Maybe you just have a defective phone.
  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

    >>Going with your line of argument, they would point out that it's YOUR problem to protect yourself, get an armor suite, bodyguards, don't go out at all.

    Speaking as a man who has body armor... No, his arguement is akin to this... Let's say that it becomes illegal to view a nude body that doesn't belong to your child or spouse. If you walk around naked, must it be my obligation to look away or should you put clothes on?

    I say it's the latter.

    While we're at it, let's make it illegal to be rude. Let's make it illegal to have blue eyes.

    The security of your communications is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Just as safe driving, and good nutrition are your responsibility.

    Back to the body armor thing for just a moment. Most types of ballistic armor are rendered useless by a broadhead hunting arrow. A steel .308 or 30-06 rifle bullet will also punch right through most types of body armor. Even if it doesn't make it through it would probably shatter your ribs and puncture a lung anyway.

  • "So this person is clearly breaking the law."

    Clearly, that is, if the Internet has been held
    by the court to be a broadcast medium. Has it?
    Cite please.
  • The authorities are not required to have a warrant to "wiretap" cell phone calls. The decision (which I know applies in California) was that because cell phones are radios, they are not afforded the same wiretap protection that phones are.

    Yes, that is ridiculous. It is also true.

    I am not sure whether this applies to anything except government. It wouldn't surprise me if it were illegal for private citizens to do this, but not police/gov't. In other words, they get to have their cake and eat it too; it's private, but only as long as Big Brother is uninterested.
  • If I make a fone call, I don't expect to be monitored, but then again, I don't expect not to. Whenever you speak into a phone, it's not just the person on the other end that hears you, it's also the phones on both ends and all the conductive media in between. If your conversation is soooooooo important, don't go using a technology that broadcasts what you say in all directions.

    Personally, I find it pretty amusing...
  • Yes, most PCS phones broadcast encrypted digital signals.

    However, how good the encryption is, is another matter altogather.

    If it's not a criminal offense to listen in on the airwaves, is it one to actually then decrypt the transmissions?
  • This has been my experience exactly -- once my wife gets a job, we're switching companies. Never had the VM light go on with no messages, but several times there's been an hours-long (once 10-12 hours) gap between VM being left and the VM light/indicator lighting up.

    Also use in the Bay Area, FWIW.
  • This particular site is just using common or garden analogue scanners. American/Canadian mobiles are still analogue (can you imagine that! No international roaming, loads of static- it must be like still living in the 80's).

    If US/CA citizens are stupid enough to broadcast their private conversations on an open channel, that's their look out. They can have all the laws they like but it doesn't change the fact that analogue transmissions are no more private than standing on top of a hill and shouting (and what kind of idiot would draft a law that makes it illegal to own a pair of ears?).

    I too live near Cheltenham [] and I take your point about GCHQ []. However if GCHQ have a need to listen in to anything, no matter how it is transmitted or encrypted, they will. GSM [] or GPO [], PCN [] or PGP [] it makes no difference. The most obvious way of doing this is by being present at the time of encryption or decryption, or by stealing the key physically, NOT by doing the maths. That's why we still pay our spies- to break in to places, plant bugs, and steal things.

    The question is... do they WANT to be listening in to your or my lives? The answer I'm afraid is that they have loads more important things to do.

    I know enough people there to know that, on the whole, they're an okay bunch of people. Sure there must be more than a few maneovolent bad apples but on the whole, they're good guys.

    If you are going to worry about people hacking GSM or PCN then you are going to go very, very mad [].


  • Thought I'd pop in a few facts on GSM.

    First of all GSM is not encrypted, the codes mentioned above are just for accessing the SIM card and GSM-network. GSM is, however, hard to intercept, because it uses severely compressed data, and because GSM-network cells are quite small, so a lot of hand-off's and frequency changes take place.
    (a hand-off is when you move from cell to cell, essentially from one network antenna to another network antenna)

    NMT is a thing of the past in Holland. The phone companies have stopped offering NMT services, moving all their clients to GSM. Losing NMT isn't a big loss tho, the better sound quality and the ability to travel thru numerous countries without losing your network connection make GSM a far superior system.

    Actually there is a GSM network in the U.S. covering some of the major cities. (NYC comes to mind). Unfortunately the U.S. network operates on different frequencies from the rest of the world so you still need a different phone there.

    Message on our company Intranet:
    "You have a sticker in your private area"
  • Hi evilandi - love the name! :D

    It's not living in GCHQ's back garden (I can see the top three floors from my back bedroom) that make me scared, I know they've got better things to listen to than me discussing how many tins of cat food I've got to get on my way home, it's people who get an Orange, or the like, and belive that the conversation is secure. Belive it or not, I've overheard people quoting their credit card numbers over both analogue (I'm also a ham - M1AXR) and whilst overhearing in cafes.

    I make it a point not to discuss anything that I wouldn't be prepared to shout across a crowded room over any form of telephone. I'm not paranoid, and I've got nothing to hide but that won't stop me taking every reasonable step to ensure my privacy.
  • You are so stupid, so stupid this can't even be a troll. Think about it like this

    You are one person with one gun, bad guys are legion with many guns, what are you chances in a country with guns?

  • Think about it -- if you're making a phone call, cellular or not, do you *expect* to be monitored?

    Gee, here I am speaking into an unencrypted radio transmitter. Uh, yeah, I guess I do expect to be monitored. Kinda like if I stick my hand under a running lawnmower I expect to get it whacked off.

    Wouldn't you be outraged to find your conversation broadcast?

    That's what the phone was designed to do. Broadcast my conversation. Hopefully to a cell site, but just as the lawnmower doesn't know fingers from grass, the transmitter doesn't know a scanner from a cell site.

    Humanity has a long history of taking advantage of people who don't understand the basic underpinnings of a technology (there are still folks trying to push "free energy" machines). Ignorance gets you burned - evolution in action.
  • one can listen to cordless phones on AM radios, if one is close enough
  • It looks like this might have been a grey area, at least under Federal Law.

    That was the purpose of the Wireless Privacy
    Enhancement Act. It was supposed to make this illegal.

    I can't find if this past or not though. Any body know?

    It's mentioned a few place including here: 34.html
  • If that radio signal passes through my body I have a right to receive it (bcause I'm already receiving it.), I don't give a crap WHAT the law says. If you want to keep your conversation private, that's YOUR problem. Go digital, go analog scramble, I don't care. It's your problem.

  • There is (IIRC) language in the communications act as amended that says something about the intent of the communicating parties. It is unlawful to intercept communications intended as point to point


    I honestly don't care what the law says in this matter. Mind you, I DO NOT monitor such messages. I still think this is full of crap. Seriously! In my opinion talking over a cell phone (OVER OPEN AIR-WAVES) is just as 'private' as talking with your friend in a public building. You ARE NOT guaranteed a secure channel.

    I feel this way about almost ALL forms of communication these days. If you are honestly not smart enough to understand that "Big Brother" is always watching...well tough-tuna!

    If you expect PRIVACY these days, unfortunately, you are limited to anything you say directly into someones ear-drum, or if you have a SECURE method of encryption.

    But seriously over radio...un-encryped. I should have the RIGHT to listen to it if I see fit. It's MY AIR too is it not?

    Grappling from an RF antaena...


  • You say that digital cell phones are still really expensive... I beg to differ. You can get a digital cell phone for free from some providers (i.e. Sprint, Ameritech, GTE, etc.)
  • I've got a PCS phone, so if someone is listening to my transmission, doesn't it just sound like modem noise to them? Or am I missing a step?

  • From Pulp Fiction:

    "Are you talking on a cellular phone? Who is this. I don't know you. I'm hanging up the phone now. Prank caller prank caller!"

    My old TV picks up cellular phone calls all the time. It's hard to see how it could be illegal for me to tune into channel 4, sit back, and listen to a cell phone call from johny jockstrap asking mom for more tution money cause he blew his on crack. If that's illegal then tapeing somebody's conversation with a hand held recorder is illegal too. Hell, evesdropping on somebody else's conversation would be 'invasion' of privacy.

    The data is in the air, regardless of wether it's RF (cell phone) or audio (vocal conversation). When you broadcast your thoughts to everybody, your rights to privacy end.

  • >the last 32 bits are all ASCII "0".

    Nice compression! Do you get 7 bits in one bit? I think you mean boolean 0 :-)
  • "I have a Qualcomm QCP-1920 PCS phone. While the sound quality is good it feels
    like I'm talking on a half-duplex system. If I talk I essentially stop hearing what the
    other person is saying."

    I find that this varies depending on where
    I am connected. It's usually thus on an Analog
    circuit, but near my house, which is downtown, in a very big metro area, the phone is duplex.
  • The poor audio quality has to do with lossy compression. Your phone compresses the signal and sends it to the tower. Your carrier then takes uncompresses it and runs mu-Law encoding on it and sends it over a phone network. Then it gets to the person your calling's carrier and they take get the analog signal out of the mu-Law transmissions and compress them to their compression system and send them to the destination. Everyone of these steps is lossy and the loss accumulates faster than linear.
  • Well it looks like the servers just went down a couple minutes ago. I bet someone called the wrong (or right depending on your point of view) person and the government caught up with whoever was doing it.
  • I work at a _very_ large cellular component company, and we squeeze 6 digital call's into 1 frequecy. This is why phone companies like cellular to much more
  • I don't wish to belabor the point, but I said the exact same thing you did. I'm not sure how the bull's equipment enters into it, but I thought I clearly distinguished between the idea embodied in law and the reality embodied in radios...
  • This seems to be a no-brainer to me. It doesn't surprise me that listening to cell calls is illegal, but real criminals with something to gain from this sort of eavesdropping aren't putting up a web site advertizing what they're doing. If someone really wants to listen to unencrypted broadcast traffic (whether it was intended as point-to-point or not) they will. The solution is not another unenforceable law; instead people need to take reasonable precautions when they're using part of a public spectrum. I agree that it is ethically wrong to intentionally listen in on a cell call, but the bottom line is that the real bad guys are not going to stop, and there isn't a good way to catch them right now.

  • Linda Tripp to the contrary, normally recording someone's conversation on a tape recorder is illegal unless you let them know you are doing it. This is why customer service 800 numbers say something like "This call may be monitored for quality purposes".

  • "Roadrunner and Tweety are eating cake. The eagle is on board."

    Hey. It works for the Army.
  • I agree, How can it be illigal to listen to something that someone else is BROADCASTING. I think that is ludicrist. If I broadcast something, unencrypted, I expect that someone will be able to hear me. I can't believe our hippocritical government pulled that one past us
  • it is illegal to intercept the frequencies, but dealing with those listening on the internet is kind of foggy.. are people who stream the shoutcast broadcast in any way responsible for their actions? I'd assume so, but anything similar hasn't been defined in laws anywhere (to my knowledge)

    this has been going on for a few days now, actually.. a lot of people were catching onto it last night, and its interesting to see the story on ./ this morning..

    - K
  • I'm fairly sure this was made illegal by a law passed recently (after some congressman's cell calls were taped? I can't remember).

    But it does make a good point about the need for encryption, doesn't it?

    This feels closer to "art" or "civil disobedience" than an illegal act... Actually, if the "artist" billed it as an art form commenting on the silliness of the crypto restrictions, would that make this protected speech?

    I'm glad I'm not a lawyer!
  • Um....let's have strong ciphers too please. 2048-bit keys (or 128Kbit for that matter) doesn't do you much good if your algorithm is ECB XOR.

    And, for the nonce, the current China dustup is basically the result of crappy policy and implementation at the human level, which--like key management problems--can affect any organisation no matter how great your crypto technology is.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this not the broadcast done from the Holland, MI area (yes, where /. is from) done by some of the people who hang out on EFnet's #linuxwarex? I heard some scanning like this done by someone there about a year ago, except that was streamed with RealMedia stuff...
  • You are one person with one gun, bad guys are legion with many guns, what are you chances in a country with guns?

    Much better than they would be if I didn't have a gun.

    Ask the albanians how they felt about not having guns.

  • by Qarl ( 60245 )
    Legal or not, this sort of thing should not be happening. There should be some idea of reasonable expectations out there. Think about it -- if you're making a phone call, cellular or not, do you *expect* to be monitored? Wouldn't you be outraged to find your conversation broadcast? Well, to those who would broadcast others' conversations, think about the other guy for once. Besides, if someone on a cell phone calls someone on a normal phone, the other guy's privacy is threatened and he doesn't even know it.
    I hope whoever is doing this gets shut down, pronto...

    I think broadcasts like this are a great argument for encryption, though, even if it should be unnecessary. I know it'll be a long time before I talk about my world-domination conspiracies over cellular telephone.
  • My prof at UW in my new media communications class (CMU 300) stated that listening in to a "wireless" (PCS or cell) conversation is legal--supposedly because it traverses public airwaves. (Fortunately, most PCS services are encrypted.) On the other hand, listening in to a home "cordless" phone conversation is illegal, because it constitutes a tap on a wire line connection.
  • CDMA samples, blocks, and interleaves your audio in a tricky way. This gets the best quality and reliability, but the trade-off is processing delay. Your audio packet only goes out after ~50 msec, I think. Same thing on audio coming back to you, so it's like a short satellite delay.

    Normally, it's not a problem, but when the destination phone does not have good echo cancellation, you notice a muted, highly distorted echo coming back to you. If there was no propagation delay, you probably wouldn't notice the echo. That's my interpretation, anyway.

    Good tech info on CDMA at
  • If you go to #dwc on effnet, you'll see that the scanner is in Vancouver, Canada. Cell phone scanners are not illegal there.
  • I don't know about manufacture for sale, but licensed radio amateurs are allowed to build and/or modify radio transmitters and recivers. If I rmember Part 97 of the FCC rules right, such licensed amateurs can build anything they like. Even so, operation of such equipment must be within current band allocations and use. This is set not so much by the FCC, but by international treaty, governed by the International Telecommunications Union (to which the US and almost every other nation are signatories). In other words, while I can build a transmitter that emits signals at 900MHz, if I key the transmitter, I'm in violation of the law. Weird, huh?

    Cell phones operate in several bands, and 800-900MHx is a HUGE amount of bandwidth (100 MHz, obviously). Analog cell phones use less than 6kHz (I'm not sure exactly how much) and PCS phones use less (due to digital compression techniques). All cellular equipment is to greater or lesser extent "spread spectrum." In analog phones this means you are transmitting voice on one or more freqs, while digital control data is transmitted and recieved on another freq (even analog cell phones have a digital component), and you recieve voice on a different freq althogether. Under the control of data carried on the digital protocol between your handset and the cell, the freqs you use for all of these are moved around during the call, certainly when you move from cell to cell, but sometimes also when not moving if signal conditions warrant. The digital protocol also carries instructions to your handset to increase and decrease transmitter power as conditions warrant. Its actually a pretty amazing system. As someone who has built radio equipment, having multiple simultaneous transceivers shifting around, increasing and decreasing power, and all on one bloody antenna is quite simply miraculous. Of course, the electronics in a cell phone are rather more sophisticated than those in the old Heathkit 2 meter rig I built, but even so, an analog cell phone should be regarded with considerably more awe than I think most folks give it.
  • IANAL either, but I'm pretty sure that you have to inform someone you are recording them - otherwise why would customer service tell me that I am being recorded? Probably there is a loophole for law-enforcement wearing a wire undercover and so forth. However, I can't point to the specific law on this, so I can't prove my point at all.

    Perhaps your coworker was OK as long as he didn't record what he heard. After all, he was just doing his job on the phone lines, it's not like he was wiretapping those people. Wouldn't he be in contempt of court if he refused to testify, though? I know that priests, doctors, and lawyers can't be forced to divulge what they hear on the job but I didn't know that it extended to telco line workers.

  • Haveing been listening to this feed for hours on end lastnight (6/22/99) and part of this morning, I can assure you that the party running this scanner is based in canada, the nature of the program ShoutCast allows for multiple repeaters to be connected to the centray shoutcast server. As for legality, the listening to of private cell phone commincations _IS_ illegal in the US, but it is NOT strictly regulated here, and it's deffinatly not regulated in canada. For the legality issues of listening to it, it's immoral, maybe illegal, but some of these calls are hilarious (whisper guy, phillipino phonesex, the 977-xxxx lady...) anyways, since this is a broadcast from a remote server, and because we just take it on good faith that it's for real, as far as we techniclly know,m this could all be fake, I dont think there's anyway to stop this. anyways, thats all I have to say check out #dwc on EfNet or [] -GreySoul

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"