For the average person, a phone number will only give them a way to call or text you from unblocked numbers. The harassment can range from pesky to criminal, so it can still be worthwhile to change your number if someone is repeatedly finding ways to bypass a block.
That said, a phone number can be tracked by the company providing the service and anyone who has access to that information, such as an enforcement agency with a warrant.
How is my cell phone tracked?
Traditional cellular service transmits signals to nearby towers, and those towers relay the signal through satellites and other towers to reach the intended destination. To keep the service running, the companies have to keep track of that information. Knowing which towers a phone is near gives a solid indication of the device’s location, and multiple towers within range can be used to get an exact location.
Modern smartphones also track location data more accurately through Global Positioning System (GPS) services. A radio signal from your phone is sent to satellites in orbit. With that information, it’s possible to track the phone to within a few feet.
Can I stop my phone from being tracked?
The most reliable way to stop a smartphone from transmitting any signals is removing the battery. Turning your phone off without removing the battery still leaves you vulnerable to sophisticated attacks developed by the NSA or similar groups. The malware makes your phone appear to turn off, but it keeps working under the hood. Still, even that level of care might not be enough.
For a less disruptive way to limit tracking, you can try putting the smartphone into airplane mode, which turns off cellular service, WiFi, and Bluetooth. You can still use apps that don’t require connectivity, like the camera or calculator. As with turning the phone off, airplane mode can be faked to give you a false sense of security.
Privacy researchers and programmers are always looking for more defense tools, which can be difficult when we’re motivated to share so much. Apps like the Lumen Privacy Monitor give you more control over the location information your phone transmits.
Is my phone trackable while off?
When you do turn your phone off or remove the battery, the last connected location will still be available. You may have used this feature yourself to find a phone that you misplaced. If you turn off the phone when you reach your destination, that location is just as visible as if your phone was still on.
In the most advanced spying attempts, physical components of the smartphone are switched out for ones that give more control to the hackers. The bugged hardware might record data and intermittently transmit it to avoid detection. If the chip is self-powered, removing the battery might not stop it, either. Finding and removing the replaced component might be possible, but it’s simpler to get an entirely new phone.
Is my smartphone traceable by the Internet?
The Internet is not the best method of tracing the actual location of a device, but WiFi and Bluetooth signals can be used to track it down. While connected, a formula using the signal strength relative to at least three access points will locate the source. Airplane mode is once again a solid defense against this form of tracking, if not a 100% guarantee.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides a degree of protection from those outside the local WiFi network from determining where a smartphone is located. That does not stop the WiFi network’s administrators from knowing a device is connected and using the above method to locate it. If your device transmits location data over the Internet, there is also a chance that it could be intercepted along the way.
Can phone apps track my location?
An application is the most likely way for someone who shouldn’t be able to track your phone location to gain that capability. The potential number of ways that apps can be used maliciously grows every day. Generally speaking, tracking apps either get their permission from you, or they are installed and operate without your knowledge.
Some applications will track your information as part of their service. If the application’s infrastructure is compromised, then there is a potential for real-time tracking if you use the application. The hackers may also access a mass of location data that details your movements over time. The only way to avoid this collection of data is to not give the data.
Stealthy applications can run in the background, report data whenever there is an opportunity, and leave you none the wiser. The spy doesn’t have to be particularly skilled to install and use one, especially if they have physical access to the smartphone. If you click on a link sent to you via a text message, the page may secretly install such a tracking app.
Can my location be tracked via smart devices like FitBits?
Like smartphones, any smart device that connects to other devices can potentially be tracked while it’s sending out signals. Spyware apps and viruses are less common for devices venturing away from the core operating systems to specialized versions, but there are always vulnerabilities in any electronics that are waiting to be discovered. When using a smart device, you should use the same care and concern for your privacy as you would with a smartphone or computer.
How do you remove tracking apps from a smartphone?
A full factory reset is the best way to clean a smartphone of unwanted applications. Like hand sanitizer, this will kill the vast majority of the malware, but not all of it. Software hidden within the default programs may find a way to persist, and any changes to the hardware will remain.
Importing data that you stored before the reset might bring the vulnerability back to your phone, especially if you are redownloading an application that contains malicious code. Take care with the sites and apps that you access.
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