So, what does it mean to ‘ping’ a mobile phone? We’ve all heard of phone hacking by now, where you can access someones voice mail by using a pin code, or ‘blagging,’ where you can pretend to be someone else and obtain private information about their bank accounts, for example. But what does ‘pinging’ a mobile phone mean?
Pinging a mobile phone is finding out which mobile phone mast is nearest to the user’s phone. This information can then be used to locate a person who’s mobile telephone number you know. This is allegedly used by law enforcement and/or police on a regular basis. To catch ‘naughty’ people and terrorists, and such like. It is normally the mobile phone provider that supplies this information, about mast locations etc. and you would normally have to have an account with them. For instance … when you dial 999 that location information is broadcast within the call to the emergency services operator.
If someone is carrying a mobile phone, that phone is constantly sending signals to the closest mobile phone mast. Even if the phone is switched off, the location of the mast will tell you, to within a few metres, exactly where that person is located. When they move, they can continue to be tracked via the various masts that their the signal is bouncing to … and from. Even when the phone is switched off.
Mobile phones can also be used as a listening device. It can be activated via a mobile phone mast, if you know the location. The phone becomes a mobile microphone, allowing someone to listen to everything that’s said within the range of the mobile phone.
So, to re-cap. Pinging is finding out which mobile phone mast a person can be located at. The mobile phone number needs to be known. The mobile phone company can provide this information … but you have to be allowed to have it.
In other news, you might have heard the sad news that Sean Hoare, a former NOTW reporter when his close friend Andy Coulson was Deputy Editor, was found dead at his home today. Unexplained but not suspicious, the police are saying. Now, this is probably a total coincidence and I’m sure that I’m barking up the wrong tree, but I hear that Sean may have mentioned the “pinging” technique in an interview he did with the New York Times … only last week.
Oh, and incidentally, Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange, T-Mobile, Everything Everywhere and previously of Virgin Mobile, has resigned today … for ‘personal reasons’. Apparently.
Just another coincidence I should imagine.