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Hardware switch for microphone and cameras to improve privacy

I don’t own a Fairphone and reason I am on this forum is the very question being raised on thread discussion.
For sometime I have been wishing to own a Smartphone which can turn on/off certain features via physical switch. I do believe that demand for such a product is growing everyday[1].

Today I decided to check what is available on the market and I ended up at FairPhone forum. I think addressing this need very much aligns with the vision of Fairphone and also increases the potential customer base, financial and community support for achieving her vision and primary goal.

At the moment I don’t have a FairPhone however, If there was a phone with such privacy features running Android operating system, I would directly order it and I know several privacy concious people who would do the same.

[1] http://www.zdnet.com/article/hundreds-of-apps-are-using-ultrasonic-sounds-to-track-your-ad-habits/

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Globally, Fairphone aim to improve your privacy, but its not their “selling point” …and I doubt it will !
If you want a privacy oriented phone, take a blackphone ! Those guys knows what they are doing ! https://www.silentcircle.com
Adding switchs like that is not that easy :
-ingress point for water
-PCB connectors &rerouting
-physical space needed (and the fairphone is already waaaay too big for its screen)

Hardware switch for wifi/bluetooth/2g/3g/4g is a must!
Micro and cameras as well! Even the accelerometer.

There is: it’s called battery, just remove it and all those peripherals will be instantly deactivated! :slight_smile:
Joking apart: if you disable everything for what else you’ll use the phone?

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Reading manuals on the phone for how to make a good aluminium-hat :smiley:

Joking aside: All these attack vectors can be used to track people. Even the accelerometer (which EVERY app can access withou permission) can be used to track you using a predictible vehicle (train, tram, etc.).

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Tracking is done via BT, WiFi, and Uncle Sam & Ma Bell (or equiv) can track via cell tower triangulation. A fake 2G station only costs a few hundred bucks on the black market.

The following defenses:

  • Remove battery (yay, possible with Fairphone)
  • Aluminium foil around radios (ie. entire phone)
  • Leave phone at home (leaving it vulnerable for theft etc)

Bruce Schneier discusses the third option on both his blog as well as his book Data and Goliath. He describes it as one of the choices we make every day against tracking. We have the choice to not take our phone with us.

Some other vulnerabilities:

Remotely Eavesdropping on Cell Phone Microphones

Tracking People from Smartphone Accelerometers

Tracking People From their Cell Phones with an SS7 Vulnerability

[Cell Phones Leak Location Information through Power Usage]
(https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/02/cell_phones_lea.html)

This products from soomz.io are working perfect with Fairphone 2:

What I really need is a microphone kill switch or a bottom-module without microphone!

Edit: Is there a way to disconnect the microphone on the bottom-module?

If you search this forum, you will see that the microphones of quite a few users deactivated themselves after a certain time. :wink: Maybe someone still has his/her defective module and would give it to you for free.

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@Irina_Spitznagel Not really (Link)? :grin: A faulty microphone in a bottom-module is still a microphone that can work at worst. I hope for a sustainable solution. :wink:

Hi
My point earlier was to be able to inactivate camera and microphone, but
still be able to see incoming calls, SMS and use the internet. I agree, if
you wanted to “go dark” you can always take out the battery;-)

This topic was automatically closed 182 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

Hello,

There is a trend to use dumb phones when traveling in countries subject to industrial espionage.
It would be very interesting having a phone permitting to ensure privacy.

Example of expected features welcome in this context:

  1. microphone and camera HW switch (you can disable the microphone from a HW switch)
  2. possibility to store a configuration and perform a software reset: whatever the changes carried on (through carrier update, and other installation, like done at the Chinese border), you rollback to the known and approved configuration

You could interest another category of customers, including the CEO of each multinational, companies with strong R&D, innovative and disruptive startups/SMB, etc.

What’s your point of view?

Hi @johny.doe, welcome to the Fairphone Community Forum :+1: I moved your post here because this has been brought up before. Maybe some of the former contributors here might want to get involved in this discussion anew.

Please note that the forum is run almost exclusively by Fairphone users, not Fairphone staff. So if you want to address the latter directly, you would need to get in touch with the company.

P.S.: While it might be too much hassle for many users, you can boot and use the FP3 with all four smaller modules (top, camera, bottom and speaker modules) removed.

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So I think it is time to reply to the mystery a hardware switch could improve privacy.
It is not possible to disconnect peripherals like microphones or cameras simply with a switch we all are familiar from our home for switching the light on and off.
An electrical disconnection of these hardware while the phone is running would probably cause a crash or at least a malfunction of the software running on the phone.
So a switch could only be a digital input to the phone environment that is programmed by software to do something. Accordingly it is possible to work around this and switch, in this case, the camera and microphone on again.

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Ahem …

“removing power from your WiFi hardware”
“completely removes power from the cellular modem”

“physically sever the circuit to the microphone and camera”

"The HKS is a real physical switch that either:

1. Cuts the signal or power line to the device, as in the case of the Webcam and Microphone HKS, or,
2. Disable the chip running them, as is the case of the WiFi and Bluetooth radios HKS."

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Just had only a short look. Are they all on Notebooks , not on SOC based systems, right?
The system is different as many hardeware is removable like an usb device using software drivers for this.
As I understand, this is different on a SOC based system.

The Librem 5 is a smartphone, and the kill switches are one of the most anticipated features of it.

"Like with our Librem laptops, our Librem 5 smartphone will also feature kill switches; but unlike the laptops it will have three kill switches, not just two:

1. cameras and microphone
2. WiFi and Bluetooth
3. cellular baseband"

(https://puri.sm/posts/lockdown-mode-on-the-librem-5-beyond-hardware-kill-switches/)

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oh thats interesting, I need to have a deeper look into that.

https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-smartphone-final-specs-announced/

"3 Hardware Kill Switches:

- WiFi / Bluetooth
- Cellular Baseband
- Cameras & microphone
- All 3 off = additionally disable IMU+compass & GNSS, ambient light and proximity sensors"

For discussion about the Librem 5 there’s a topic here …

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