In Jacob Applebaum's latest talk at the 30c3 conference, he advised all journalists to use Tails or similar OS for their laptops.

Does anyone know of a similar OS or functionality for Smartphones?

I know some businesses who have journalists who will be frequently travelling to Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics. They had incidents where journalists was held at border control and cell phones were confiscated.

4 Answers 4


In your specific case, there's a different answer: never carry sensitive data through a border.

Border agents almost always have enormously wide legal powers to search devices on their own, and are very happy to utilise them when asked to by intelligence agencies.

In fact, if you expect to be subject to a targeted attack by an intelligence agency, I would go further and advise you to not even carry an empty smartphone through a border, because of the risk that it is taken away, compromised, and returned to you.


You can use a Linux Phone like the OpenMoko, Nokia N900 with TOR enabled. Or you can have a look at the BlackPhone by Silent Circle.


I would not trust any phones at all. I have yet to see one that can call but that does not contain one proprietary part or another (including the SIM itself). If it exists, you could run Android on it. Android can be compiled from sources, so it's relatively hard to build secret backdoors in. Though even then, I wouldn't trust the mobile network itself, so I'm not sure how much use this is. Besides not using a phone at all, my recommendation is using a simple, disposable phone that is powered off most of the time (battery out). Be especially sure to turn it off when you're within 10 kilometers from home or other places you regularly visit. The mobile network tracks your location at all times, so you have to be careful to prevent it from seeing patterns in your location.

Mobile devices also have another use: they are generally always with you so can be said to be relatively tamper-proof. Laptops are often unattended for hours. Another talk at the 30c3 was about tamper protection and recommended using nail polish with glitter and then photographing that for later comparison. A phone would be a good place to store such photos.

I'm not sure how to disable any phone from using any networking capabilities (which is what you'd want if you only use a phone for these things and not for calling), but never inserting any SIM-card and having airplane mode always on seems a good start. You can still exchange data with it by hooking it up to your (Tails) laptop and just transferring files, so it might still be useful for composing e-mails or reading things.

This won't prevent people from physically threatening you and extorting passwords and information that way of course, but at least you have some idea of what they know and that you are being spied on at all.


Talks in the InfoSec community about the BlackPhone by Silent Circle. These people are in the business for security and privacy. It is yet to be released.

You can also have a Tor relay setup by a Raspberry Pi and have a Tor Browser client on your phone to access the Tor relay, although I would not know how feasible it is in your scenario.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .