How careful should I be with my Android phone?

I was wondering if anyone could give me their thoughts on this atypical situation.

I mainly use legacy technology, and a dumb phone. A bit back I thought I would pick up a Moto E on the cheap to see if there was anything in the world of modern apps I was missing out on. TracPhone has it locked down but I didn’t hook it to any carrier, so it has no cell service or data plan. It’s running KitKat (4.4.4) and I use it on airplane mode.

There is one single app on it that turned out to be helpful, and I use it every day. I would really like to keep this app, because it doesn’t run on any of the other legacy tech around. But, I hate the thought that this phone might be phoning-home overheard conversations during the brief times I take it off Airplane and hook it back to the network (I may never do this again, come to think of it).

Most of the obvious settings to turn off, are turned off. How much of a privacy risk do you think this phone is, if I want virtually nothing important to go back to Google? I’ve de-googled the rest of life, so the low-hanging fruit has been dealt with.

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If this is an option, this is what you would do ideally. The preinstalled Android operating systems on any Google Play enabled device phone tons of data back to Google, so unless you can install a custom ROM without any Google apps I wouldn’t trust it at all.

This depends on what you define as important. Most likely it won’t be sending back too much actual data, but the action of making a connection alone is enough to give them an IP address and by extension a rough location.

Jonah, thank you very much for your reply. I was not sure if Android even honors airplane mode, or sends back some data while it’s on as well. I wonder if it will burst, after months in airplane mode. :wink: I think you’re right, it’s best not to connect it again.

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Keep in mind that Android runs on its own processor in the smartphone. Besides, there are the baseband processor and other (mostly) proprietary sensors/chips in your phone. All of them run their own firmware and they communicate via APIs, living their own lifes.

So, there may be other possibilities to attack a vulnerable smartphone, even if airplane mode is on. The same is true for data transmission, however, it is unlikely that there is traffic to Google via these chips.

Hello, IFS handbook –

Between the information provided by you and Jonah, I really decided it was time to stop using this phone, with all its esoteric black boxes, since I really don’t like having potential surveillance devices in the house.

Thank you so much for the insight!

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on a scale of 1 to 10? 11 :slight_smile:

even IF (and that’s a big IF) you had a completely secure OS on the phone, you still have another proprietary OS (baseband) that has low-level access to hardware (cell radio, mic, whatever else) that is apparently loaded with security holes and shares memory with the user-facing OS (Andriod, etc.), so my POV based on the little research i’ve done, is that there is no security/privacy in any smartphone - there are people working this problem, but i don’t know of anything that’s really marketable yet

THAT SAID … you can still prevent some privacy risks, but i think you’d have to root, ROM and de-Google the OS (if it isn’t already) and grab all your apps from F-Droid - just make sure you can unlock the bootloader in the Moto E b4 you $ … oh, and the other think with most modern-ish phones, you can’t remove the battery

I was not sure if Android even honors airplane mode …

Android might, but the baseband may not

Consider getting an modestly priced phone (why donate to Apple or Samsung?) that supports LineageOS:

You don’t have to install Gapps and you can stick to F-Droid and use it on WiFi.

while we’re on the subject of buying things, i think i’ll wedge this in right here - Ting is really cheap long as you don’t use a ton of data - they use Sprint and T-Mobile nets, no contract, very good support (last i needed it which was a while ago), ROM friendly, just don’t abuse

their store is here but they only have 1 dumb phone at the moment - you can grab unlocked phones at B&H Photo to, just make sure the frequencies will work with Sprint or T-Mob

Mr_Book, it’s good advice – honestly I don’t strictly need a smartphone for now, but it might be required in the future for whatever reason, and at that point I will try to do something like that.

12bytes … there is another company a lot like the one you mentioned, their websites and even phone catalogs look similar, and they resell the Verizon network … and I love it too! Very cheap, especially for a low-data user, Verizon’s network is good, and their tech support just seems inexplicably intelligent … :smiley: