Last year I wrote an article (here) which detailed a way to set up your phone strategy with enhancements to privacy & security in mind. Since that time, I have received numerous emails with questions and feedback on the solutions I set up. I decided to post an update to my strategy and highlight some of the changes I have made over the past year. I am going to leave the original article untouched so that readers can compare the changes on their own and see how things have evolved over time. Our phones a very personal devices. What works for me, may not fit into your scheme for whatever reason. I feel that my personal set up offers a lot of advantages over using a cell phone in a more traditional manner. The cost savings alone has been well worth the changes I made, in additional to increased functionality.
In my previous article I discussed purchasing my phone in an anonymous manner, and setting up pre-paid service without providing the carrier with any personal information. That remains the foundation for a more private and secure phone and I encourage you to research that yourself as you consider a new phone. The carrier assigned phone number on your phone will never be used for anything, so a pre-paid plan that offers an abundance of data is a must. Currently, T-Mobile and Verizon offer good pre-paid plans with lots of data. Another very affordable option is a company called MintSIM (link) which uses T-Mobile’s network. Regardless of the carrier you choose, be sure you have set up the account in a way that did not disclose your personal information and to pay for your phone using cash or other privacy conscious methods.
Readers who have studied my original article know that all of my calling and texting is done using VoIP options. Again, the carrier assigned phone number is never used so there is no concern about ‘talk minutes’ in your plan. My original setup utilized Line2 as the main VoIP number on my phone which the majority of my contacts had as my main number. I have since abandoned Line2 and no longer use the service. Line2 served as a good solution at the time, but better options are now available in my opinion that offer some exciting advantages to privacy advocates.
I have also written about some of the specific apps I use on my iPhone (here). Those should be reviewed if you need current recommendations on some of the cornerstones of privacy enhancing tools.
So, now that some of the foundation had been reviewed let’s take a look at my current cell phone set up.
The carrier assigned phone number is never used for anything. Moving on…
I utilize the Sudo App (link) to handle the majority of my phone calls. The nine Sudo profiles offer nine different phone numbers that can make and receive calls and text messages. As with any VoIP provider, Sudo does not need a cell connection to operate, which means when WiFi is available, my phone is in airplane mode and not communicating with local cell sites. The majority of time this is the case, I utilize WiFi for all communications. At times when I am on the road, then my carrier’s data network is used to handle VoIP services, like Sudo. Here are the nine Sudo profiles I use in my strategy.
1. Personal – this number is given to family and friends who are trusted but choose to communicate with me using their carrier assigned cell number. I am aware that these calls/texts are subject to monitoring, data collection, and are considered ‘not secure’ for my level of paranoia.
2. Work – this number is given to anyone who knows me through my job. Most of my work contacts do not use a more secure form of communications, unfortunately.
3. Personal business – this number is issued to businesses that know my real name.
4. Travel alias – this number is used when traveling under an alias name.
5. Financial – this number is only used for select financial institutions.
6. Miscellaneous – this number is used as a burner for anyone and any business that may fit into this category.
7. Private – This number is used for…???
8. Designated for future use.
9. Designated for future use.
Sudo allows all of these profiles to have their own separate ring tone if you desire, including a silent mode. All profiles except Personal and Work are typically in silent mode so that I am not bothered with unwanted calls. The Work profile is also silenced when I do not want to notified of calls or texts that are going to that number (days off). I am one who hates being included in group text messages…..ones where the conversations go on for hours about a topic that I never asked to participate in to begin with. This typically happens with Work contacts…so using this stmrategy allows me to give them the silent treatment at my leisure, which I really enjoy.
The importance of compartmentalizing your phone numbers cannot be overstated. Compartmentalization has been discussed here before, so please review that concept if you are unfamiliar. The impact to privacy & security is tremendous in my opinion when you isolate who has your information and for what purpose. A scary example of this was discussed here.
With Sudo handling the majority of my calls, what remains are my contacts who are also privacy conscious. People closest to me and who understand the importance of secure communications, are able to reach me on either Signal (reviewed here) or Wire (reviewed here). Fortunately, the people in my personal life who I communicate with most often are using one of these two apps, if not both. Again, all of this works on WiFi or cellular data, so it gives me a lot of flexibility in how I use my phone and how often I actually connect to a cellular network. At home for example, I am never connected to cellular networks which I believe has some real advantages.
Signal and Wire can be used on a computer also, and Sudo is expected to have a web based or desktop application in the works as well. These are more examples of enhanced versatility that a traditional cell phone user does not have. I want to finish up by pointing you to some additional resources and discussions on the topic of private & secure cell phones. It is certainly one that I enjoy exploring and I am sure my own strategy will continue to evolve as technology evolves. If you have an interest and have made it this far in your research, please take a look at some of these resources.
Episode 021: The Phone Debate: Android vs iOS
Episode 035: Wire
Episode 037: The Forensic Evidence on Our Phones
Episode 034: Sudo Strategies
Episode 029: Andriod Security
Episode 023: Michael Buys a New iPhone
Episode 011: Nine New Lives with Sudo