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Let's say I live in Russia and I use Gmail. My Gmail has my phone number for recovery in case I lost my Gmail password.

Obviously if Russian police want to access my Gmail account then they can produce a SIM card for my name and receive the reset code.

So, there is not much to protect yourself. You need to keep your Gmail account secret so that they would not know for what account they'll make a reset.

But if I use a foreign SIM card, like a German SIM card, how secure would be my Gmail account? What do they need to get the reset code from my foreign SIM card? Assume that they have physical access to my SIM card, that the phone number is not printed on the SIM card, and the SIM card is protected with a 4 digit PIN.

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    Are you worried about Russia only, or about your data in general? If yes, I'm pretty sure that Russia is better than GMail (Google+US), and Germany gets worse too every day.
    – user155462
    Aug 23, 2017 at 10:24
  • Seem you are answering your own question.
    – mootmoot
    Aug 23, 2017 at 12:30

4 Answers 4

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The simplest answer to your question is: NO almost nothing (on the cloud) is secured from government. To receive your reset code nobody needs to reproduce a SIM card or to have physical access to it neither to crack your 4 digits PIN, thanks to a weakness in the design of SS7 (Signalling System 7) that allows eavesdropping, interception, shadowing, real time tracking... for as cheap as 10$

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  • It looks like in this attack the SIM card needs to be online. So, when my SIM card is offline (99% of the time while in Russia) I'm secure.
    – ilhan
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:50
  • @ilhan you're right Aug 24, 2017 at 15:30
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If they have physical access to your SIM card, they only need to plug it into a cellphone and receive a reset code for it (supposing you have a German SIM, and a foreign government is trying to access your account, and you have roaming enabled).

They can even travel to German themselves and receive the reset code there.

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  • But as far as I know SIM card doesn't boot when it has PIN code. Am I wrong?
    – ilhan
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:53
  • It does boot - however, some phones have a "secure boot" feature where you can choose to enter the SIM PIN whenever it boots. Aug 24, 2017 at 18:24
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If you still use this SIM card in Russia, a physical access to it is not needed. Since you are using roaming to get SMS, the SMS to your German mobile phone number will be forwarded to one of Russian operators. If the police has enough power, they can force the operator to read your SMS and delete it instead of sending it to your phone.

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  • My SIM card is offline 99% of the time. Should I think that I'm safe?
    – ilhan
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:54
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    Well, if you took it to Russia and registered at the Russian network with it, then your German operator will start forwarding calls and SMSs to Russian operator, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roaming#The_roaming_process. I'm not sure when exactly the registration in guest network expires if your SIM card goes offline. But if you are going to get SMS in Russian mobile networks with this SIM card, then your SMS can be intercepted at this time. So, the way to protect is not to use a SIM card with Russian mobile operators at all. Otherwise, the German SIM card will not bring you any benefit. Aug 24, 2017 at 8:25
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Well if its the deal with the government then it can directly contact the gmail and they can get direct access to your account or password for your account.(If its really an serious issue).

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  • Sam - you're likely to get downvoted making postings like this as an answer. Governments are powerful (and do not automatically act legtimately) but the the issues around jurisdiction and privacy are far from trivial.
    – symcbean
    Aug 23, 2017 at 20:53

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