is there an easy way for particular governmental organizations (especially in
countries where freedom of speech is a problem) have some technology where
they can easily eavesdrop on cellphone internet data and parse it in an easy
fashion like, running a simple app and recording a plaintext version of the
transferred data?

For example you type about, let's say a chat app over the phone, is there an
easy way the government could directly spy on you and FILTER out the plaintext
of the application? (If you think that apps like wireshark can filter out packets
very easily, is that kind of think possible for cellphones too?)

Please try to answer as broad as possible.

Thank you

  • 1
    A web search for ECHELON will return results of mass telephone interception of inhabitants of 5 countries.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 16:27
  • I use COMODO mobile security which is very effective and safety and has more security options.
    – user7686
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 9:38
  • @Johnbrito - where you are affiliated with a product, we do appreciate it if you announce this fact so as not to mislead anyone. Again, have a read of the faq, under the promote section: security.stackexchange.com/faq#promotion
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


Yes. The easiest way is to get or force the mobile phone carrier to provide unencrypted access to a mobile switching center. At this point identifying and interperting packets and the data the cary is exactly equivenlent to using a packet sniffing tool like wireshark. Given the limitations of cellphones and smartphones it is easier to identify the applications generating data traffic.

Recognition of plain text words or phrases is trivial and a monitoring for target words or phrases is likely. It is also possible to intercept Voice over IP data traffic and perform a speach to text conversion, although this would be significantly more complicated and take a fair amount of resources.

  • Thank you for your answer. What is the like hood of this being the "usual method" of application in an ordinary eurasian country like russia, greece, turkey, cyprus, bulgaria?
    – Herr
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 8:34
  • 2
    I don't know about 'usual' but it seems very likely. It is the way the US and UK do it, and is the most straightforward.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 12:58

Running wireshark on a backhaul network is trivial for an operator, and therefore, trivial for a government that can "ask nicely" for the operator to do it.

If you want security, you have to use a secure protocol and terminate the crypto and authentication directly on the endpoint. Don't depend on the operator.

  • Would something like kryptoscommunications.com this protect me from governmental eavesdropping, at least for VoIP? Is there a better way?
    – Herr
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 23:57
  • Without already knowing about them, I'm reluctant to look and make a judgment. There have been plenty of cases of systems people though were good that turned out not to be - haystack, for a prominent example. Stick to known, standard tools - openssh, openvpn, pptp, etc. Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 2:26

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