Can Govt activate microphone when no power?

jdylan

macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 31, 2006
137
0
Bagram, Afghanistan
I've scanned through several forums here about the government listening in on your phone "when off", but none of them really touched on my question, which is;

Can the goverment activate your microphone or camera when the iPhone is actually turned off, as in powered down?

I had a big 30 min discussion here with a co-worker who insists it is very easily done. I said that although someone may be able to hack in and install a program, I think it would be close to impossible if the phone was totally powered down. He said the program would instruct the phone to powerdown, but leave certain functions available and powered, like the mic, camera, etc.

My issue is, with the phone powered down, how could the iPhone connect to the network? I have a data plan, and wouldn't I notice the loss of minutes or data?

So, while I agree it's possible for them to hack in and listen, I think there are too many issues with doing it while the phone is totally powered down. He's a bit of a conspiracy nut like Boomhauer.

I guess I'm throwing this out there to you hardcore engineers or programmers.

Thanks!
 

Interstella5555

macrumors 603
Jun 30, 2008
5,219
4
I've scanned through several forums here about the government listening in on your phone "when off", but none of them really touched on my question, which is;

Can the goverment activate your microphone or camera when the iPhone is actually turned off, as in powered down?

I had a big 30 min discussion here with a co-worker who insists it is very easily done. I said that although someone may be able to hack in and install a program, I think it would be close to impossible if the phone was totally powered down. He said the program would instruct the phone to powerdown, but leave certain functions available and powered, like the mic, camera, etc.

My issue is, with the phone powered down, how could the iPhone connect to the network? I have a data plan, and wouldn't I notice the loss of minutes or data?

So, while I agree it's possible for them to hack in and listen, I think there are too many issues with doing it while the phone is totally powered down. He's a bit of a conspiracy nut like Boomhauer.

I guess I'm throwing this out there to you hardcore engineers or programmers.

Thanks!
Short answer - no (and Gribble is the conspiracy nut, not Boomhauer)
 

ZombiePete

macrumors 68020
Aug 6, 2008
2,240
934
San Antonio, TX
I had a big 30 min discussion here with a co-worker who insists it is very easily done.
Let's just say that after listening to both sides of that discussion I think your friend has some good points that you should seriously consider more carefully.

Signed, the Government
 

ReallyBigFeet

macrumors 68030
Apr 15, 2010
2,934
100
This isn't a conspiracy nut theory at all. In fact, its already been proven and its use was highly instrumental in at least one major racketeering case reported back in 2004.

Source: United States v. John Tomero (Genovese Crime Syndicate Case)

Telco providers must install software on your handset to enable the microphone to be turned on, but that can be done without your knowledge via remote provisioning that leaves no trail. This is in addition to manually-installed bugs (assuming Feds get access to your physical device) that can transmit with/without the phone actually being powered up at all.

Although I'm no expert on the subject, it would stand to reason the phone must have power for this to work, however. Which is one reason so many TV shows/novels of criminal activity show the culprits using throw-away cell phones and removing the batteries when not in use. This case against the Genovese family more or less popularized the FBI surveillance method of using a persons phone as a "bug in plain sight."

CNET ran an article on this subject that goes into a lot of detail back in 2006.

CNET article here.

Even earlier than 2004, the FBI was forced to reveal (and stop) turning on On-Star systems in GM vehicles to listen in on conversations. Source.
 
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takeshi74

macrumors 601
Feb 9, 2011
4,972
68
Which is one reason so many TV shows/novels of criminal activity
That's a poor supporting argument. There are countless falsehoods, inaccuracies, etc in TV shows and novels as well.

This isn't a conspiracy nut theory at all. In fact, its already been proven and its use was highly instrumental in at least one major racketeering case reported back in 2006.

Source: United States v. John Tomero (Genovese Crime Syndicate Case)
What you're citing involves "roving bugs installed in cell phones" -- completely different matter. Not to mention the OP is asking if this can be done without power.

Anything's possible. Is it likely? I'd start by considering the source and by verifying the supplied citations (seems to be none unless the OP can update).
 

CoMoMacUser

macrumors 6502a
Jun 28, 2012
671
3
It's possible not only on an iPhone, but on any wireless device with a mic and/or camera. For example, about 10 years ago, there was a court case where the feds used OnStar to could eavesdrop on a suspect in his car.

A lot more has become possible since then. Those who beat off to porn should put something over the webcam on their laptop or desktop because no doubt someone somewhere has figured out a way to turn that on for blackmail purposes.
 

ReallyBigFeet

macrumors 68030
Apr 15, 2010
2,934
100
That's a poor supporting argument. There are countless falsehoods, inaccuracies, etc in TV shows and novels as well.


What you're citing involves "roving bugs installed in cell phones" -- completely different matter. Not to mention the OP is asking if this can be done without power.

Anything's possible. Is it likely? I'd start by considering the source and by verifying the supplied citations (seems to be none unless the OP can update).
Read the first CNET link I posted. The court opinion I quoted makes it legal to use cell phones IN ANY MANNER as a "roving bug." The two examples cited used physical bugs. But that's not the only method required. They can do it fully via remote-injected software as well. In 2004, there weren't a lot of "smartphones" out there. Now....tons of additional options. That was 9 years ago.
 

Gamoe

macrumors regular
Sep 19, 2006
246
0
It's not inconceivable- energy could be directed at the device. RFIDs work this way. But As far as I know, there is no way to remotely power a cell phone in this manner to date. So no- I don't believe it can be done if the phone is truly off.

That said, as others have mentioned- It *is* possible for a phone to "play dead" while it's really on, or to restart at a given time. The only way to prevent this type of spying is to completely remove the battery- which is unfortunately not possible with an iPhone- or have the battery completely drain and dead.

A good thing to watch, by the way- is your battery usage. If your battery drains more quickly than normal under your normal usage, it may be suspect. There are other things that could cause this too, of course (temperature, age, etc.), but it is definitely worth investigating.

Frankly, all this spying on innocent American citizens has me sick. While its nice that they did their jobs for once and went after organized crime, lately it seems that the government is the biggest perpetrator of "organized crime" against ordinary Americans. There are some very good reasons why limitations where written into the Constitution. Government is a giant, and unrestrained it becomes a "super-criminal".

Kudos to you for asking and trying to protect yourself from illegal and wrongful spying. it seems that these days we need to protect ourselves from both common criminals and government abuse.
 

chakraj

macrumors 65816
Feb 6, 2008
1,264
1
So Cal
I've scanned through several forums here about the government listening in on your phone "when off", but none of them really touched on my question, which is;

Can the goverment activate your microphone or camera when the iPhone is actually turned off, as in powered down?

I had a big 30 min discussion here with a co-worker who insists it is very easily done. I said that although someone may be able to hack in and install a program, I think it would be close to impossible if the phone was totally powered down. He said the program would instruct the phone to powerdown, but leave certain functions available and powered, like the mic, camera, etc.

My issue is, with the phone powered down, how could the iPhone connect to the network? I have a data plan, and wouldn't I notice the loss of minutes or data?

So, while I agree it's possible for them to hack in and listen, I think there are too many issues with doing it while the phone is totally powered down. He's a bit of a conspiracy nut like Boomhauer.

I guess I'm throwing this out there to you hardcore engineers or programmers.

Thanks!
Yes is the correct answer.

That is why they seal the battery, so you can not remove it and turn off the device.

Also you will notice data transmissions at night while you are asleep, that is when your personal data is being send to apple and others for snooping.
 

Asuriyan

macrumors 6502a
Feb 4, 2013
622
16
Indiana
I think the more rational question is not whether you can be spied upon in an era of omnipresent web-connected recording and transmitting devices (of course you can), but why on earth "the government" (yes, that monolithic agency of evil with nothing but the worst in mind for its citizens and constituents) would give a damn about your life.

That's not to say I'm in any way in favor of all of this alleged snooping on the American people. I just find that the more advanced our communications systems become the safer it seems to understand that there is no such thing as true privacy and act accordingly.
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
4,057
49
Bristol, UK
I think the more rational question is not whether you can be spied upon in an era of omnipresent web-connected recording and transmitting devices (of course you can), but why on earth "the government" (yes, that monolithic agency of evil with nothing but the worst in mind for its citizens and constituents) would give a damn about your life.
Quite
 

scaredpoet

macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
6,627
342
Can the goverment activate your microphone or camera when the iPhone is actually turned off, as in powered down?
While the government may be adept at defying the laws of the Constitution, they cannot (yet) defy the laws of physics. If there is no power going to the device, then there is no way to turn on microphones, record the audio, or transmit anything.

Of course, this assumes that you know for a fact that the device is indeed, powered off. This is easy enough to do when a phone has a removable battery, or a physical power switch. But on iPhones and some other smartphones, there is no physical off switch that hard-cuts the power to an iPhone. And there's no removable battery. Power on/power functions on iOS devices are software-defined, using programable buttons that are supposed to power down the phone to a very low level (mainly to wait for a user to hit the power button again to turn back on).


So... one could speculate (for grins and giggles) that there might be a jailbreak or other rootkit-type program that a government agency has developed which could make the phone APPEAR to power off when a user holds down the sleep/wake button, and not respond to any screen or button presses (except for when the user wants to "turn on" their phone again), but still be active and gathering data.

Alternately, one could speculate FURTHER that this isn't developed as a rootkit/jailbreak hack, but may be imposed on iOS as a standard, undocumented function. But this assumes that your foil hat is on REALLY tight.
 
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Applejuiced

macrumors Westmere
Apr 16, 2008
40,672
6,404
At the iPhone hacks section.
It's possible not only on an iPhone, but on any wireless device with a mic and/or camera. For example, about 10 years ago, there was a court case where the feds used OnStar to could eavesdrop on a suspect in his car.

A lot more has become possible since then. Those who beat off to porn should put something over the webcam on their laptop or desktop because no doubt someone somewhere has figured out a way to turn that on for blackmail purposes.
Exactly.
They can listen in even if the cell phone is powered off.
Only way to avoid it is to turn it off and remove the battery.
And obviously with an iphone that's not gonna happen.
There is no privacy in this day and age, surveillance and spying on the public gets bigger and bigger every year while our rights get taken away and the constitution doesn't mean much no more.
 

scaredpoet

macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
6,627
342
I think the more rational question is not whether you can be spied upon in an era of omnipresent web-connected recording and transmitting devices (of course you can), but why on earth "the government" (yes, that monolithic agency of evil with nothing but the worst in mind for its citizens and constituents) would give a damn about your life.
There are many reasons why. It has already been demonstrated that the current administration, unfortunately, has no compunctions about aggressively investigating groups of people who disagree politically. Being part of a different political party in and of itself isn't a crime. Ironically, this used to be something that far-left-wing organizations had to worry about, but it's become clear recently that the pendulum can swing both ways.

"I'm not doing anything wrong" or "my life isn't interesting enough" is no longer an excuse for not caring about this sort of thing. You may be more "interesting" than you realize.
 

Applejuiced

macrumors Westmere
Apr 16, 2008
40,672
6,404
At the iPhone hacks section.
There are many reasons why. It has already been demonstrated that the current administration, unfortunately, has no compunctions about aggressively investigating groups of people who disagree politically. Being part of a different political party in and of itself isn't a crime. Ironically, this used to be something that far-left-wing organizations had to worry about, but it's become clear recently that the pendulum can swing both ways.

"I'm not doing anything wrong" or "my life isn't interesting enough" is no longer an excuse for not caring about this sort of thing. You may be more "interesting" than you realize.
Very well said.
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people. Its an instrument for the people to restrain the government. And the current administration has gone too far and if we let them its only going to get worst. Its a shame...
 

lordofthereef

macrumors G5
Nov 29, 2011
12,888
3,415
Boston, MA
"I'm not doing anything wrong" or "my life isn't interesting enough" is no longer an excuse for not caring about this sort of thing. You may be more "interesting" than you realize.
I can agree with this. That said, if I am REALLY that worried, I can make it a point to only use a phone that has a removable battery. Or, better yet, just not use one at all.

Not saying that is what we should have to be doing. But it seems to me it is an option, should I need it.
 

mlmwalt

macrumors 6502a
Jun 8, 2010
548
1
Philadelphia, Pa, USA
Exactly.
They can listen in even if the cell phone is powered off.
Only way to avoid it is to turn it off and remove the battery.
And obviously with an iphone that's not gonna happen.
There is no privacy in this day and age, surveillance and spying on the public gets bigger and bigger every year while our rights get taken away and the constitution doesn't mean much no more.
Yep. It's a matter of the "greater good" arguement. "Saving lives" at the expense of privacy and individual rights.

Just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get me.
 

Applejuiced

macrumors Westmere
Apr 16, 2008
40,672
6,404
At the iPhone hacks section.
Yep. It's a matter of the "greater good" arguement. "Saving lives" at the expense of privacy and individual rights.

Just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get me.
Yep, they use that excuse and then they target their political opponents and whoever they feel like so its getting out of control.
Who monitors them when they monitor everyone else? Nobody. They got too much power and as we can see they abuse it.
 

ZombiePete

macrumors 68020
Aug 6, 2008
2,240
934
San Antonio, TX
Very well said.
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people. Its an instrument for the people to restrain the government. And the current administration has gone too far and if we let them its only going to get worst. Its a shame...
It's not just the current administration; we're suffering the consequences of decades of apathy that allowed the government to grow out of control. There's no stopping it now, Constitution notwithstanding, because in the end even most of the people who allegedly are concerned about it won't lift a finger to do anything to change it.
 

Applejuiced

macrumors Westmere
Apr 16, 2008
40,672
6,404
At the iPhone hacks section.
It's not just the current administration; we're suffering the consequences of decades of apathy that allowed the government to grow out of control. There's no stopping it now, Constitution notwithstanding, because in the end even most of the people who allegedly are concerned about it won't lift a finger to do anything to change it.
I hear you on that.
 

jdylan

macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 31, 2006
137
0
Bagram, Afghanistan
"I'm not doing anything wrong" or "my life isn't interesting enough" is no longer an excuse for not caring about this sort of thing. You may be more "interesting" than you realize.
Well, in MY case, they would "give a **** about my life". I work for the DoD, have a security clearance, work overseas, have access to classified info, have a girlfriend from (and in) another country, etc etc. Not that I have anything to be worried about, as I'm a good boy, work wise. The original post was really only about the technical possibilities of it, not the reasons why.