The smartphone in your pocket can easily be turned into a high-tech activist tool and counter-surveillance device to rival anything that Ian Fleming’s Q might have dreamed up.
You can film covertly, post untraceable images and communicate secretly, and you can even take over and control many public and private security cameras.
Modern surveillance cameras use the same technology as any Web-enabled device to stream video directly onto a network and, if you know the IP address, you can access the camera on a smartphone.
Curiously, many cameras are not password-protected; this is especially true of those on private property which often provide street views. Some even have Pan Tilt Zoom functionality which allows anyone to zoom in and out and move the camera around.
To access a specific camera you need to know its IP address, which will look something like this:http://220.127.116.11/. Here you can control several cameras at Boundary County Airport, Idaho.
A quick Google search will provide live views of cities globally, or visit earthcam.com and control the cameras on Times Square and thousands of other locations.
Tracking down cameras is not necessarily easy but can be done with time and patience. Google has a list of search strings to help you pinpoint cameras.
The opportunities are endless, as any event can now be monitored in detail. An activist armed with a smartphone and Webcam app like eSymetric SpyWebCam Pro for Android or iWebcamera for iOS can stream a live feed which can then be monitored by other apps like mLiveCams for Android orIPCamSoft for iOS.
Other options are available for the Blackberry and Google Phone.
The viewer can switch between cameras operated by fellow activists, watch multiple views, control public cameras, and record video segments and stills and then upload or email them onwards. They can also speak directly with each Webcam operator using the traditional telephone feature and control the action like a live TV director or police crowd-control officer.
For a good demonstration of how these apps can be applied, have a look at this YouTube video.
Should you be unlucky enough to be detained, there are several useful apps that allow you to carry on filming, but not necessarily continue broadcasting. The Secret Video Recorder Pro for Android andiOS allows you to seemingly switch off the smartphone but continue filming.
A quick examination of the phone will not show any activity. You can even make and receive calls while the camera is secretly running.
Conversely, if you want to upload images that cannot be traced back, you need to remove or alter the EXIF data which most modern cameras implant in the image to give GPS location and other details which might expose you. Options for Android include the ExifEraser and ExifRemover for iOS.
To cover your back, there is Hotspot Shield for most operating systems which encrypts all traffic through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to mask your identity and prevent tracking. It also allows you to view banned content and access Twitter and Facebook if their services are ever blocked locally.
To maintain your smartphone’s security, for Android users the best free option of many is AVG Mobilation which protects against viruses, malware and spyware. It also identifies unsecure device settings and advises on how to fix them; ensures contacts, bookmarks and text messages are secure; checks media files for malicious software and security threats; guards against phishing attacks; and offers anti-theft protection.
Lost or stolen smartphones can be found via Google Maps, plus you can turn your phone’s GPS on remotely and have the device send its location to you. You can also lock your phone remotely.
For iOS, the Anti-Virus & Malware Scanner does much the same but additionally lets you scan files on remote locations such as Dropbox and Web servers.
There are also options to take your smartphone Deep Web and keep everything off-radar with Tor apps for Android and iOS and instant access to both the Deep and Surface Webs, plus PM and email without being monitored or blocked.
Perhaps the ultimate weapon in Q’s arsenal is the self-destruct feature. For this the iOS has the edge with the rather nifty and free Wickr app which allows you to encrypt any data – text, pictures or videos – and then have them self-destruct once unscrambled and viewed, leaving no trace for the forensic investigator. An Android version is coming soon.
And, hopefully, an ejector seat app.
This article first appeared in Occupy.com on December 4, 2012