Here's the flashlight I keep in my purse at all times. It has three beam settings (low, high, strobe) and can put out 250 lumens. We get these particular flashlights in three-packs from Costco for $15 and they're excellent little tools. We have three or four hanging by the door. We keep a couple in every vehicle. And I keep one in my purse.
Apparently it's a good thing I'm using this flashlight because of a fascinating (and horrifying) bit of news I just learned. It seems the seemingly innocent flashlight app on your smart phone is, in fact, a digital spying unit.
Reader Fred sent this link which tells how a representative from Snoopwall.com learned 500 million people (half a billion!!) are infected with a spy virus on their smart phones through their flashlight app and are entirely unaware of it. The top ten flashlight apps downloadable from Google are all malware which transfer names, addresses, credit card info, banking info, family photos, videos, GPS location, as well as whatever info you have on friends and relatives. These data primarily go to China, India, and Russia.
Apparently even un-installing the flashlight app doesn't work because they are infected with Trojans which linger in the background even if the app is removed. The smart phones must be factory-reset in order to get rid of the malware. The only flashlight apps are that "just" flashlight apps are under 100 kb. The malware apps are on the order of 1.2 mb to 5 mb.
Hard on the heels of this story is a recent story from the Washington Post entitled HappyTracksgiving: How your travels are tracked this holiday season. This article details just how much spying and tracking is taking place on a routine basis. Virtually all means of travel is monitored through cameras, license-plate recognition software, facial recognition software, and other methods. This takes place in airports and airplanes, train stations, buses, car services, toll payment systems, through surveillance cameras on streets and in stores, as well as "the rising use of overhead surveillance, from airplanes, drones, and aerostats, those blimp-like craft floating above some border areas."
To those like me who want to throw up their hands in disgust and just go for a walk in the woods, the article continues: "What about a horse on backwoods trails? Hot air balloon? Offroad mountain bike? Well, even if you manage to avoid the ground cameras and the drones, there’s still that pesky phone in your pocket. If you’ve flipped on location services for your iPhone, maybe so Google Maps can keep you from getting lost, Apple and Google both are getting location data from you. So are the operators of many others apps. / Too paranoid to use a smartphone? Even the oldest, dumbest flip phone has to communicate with cell towers in order to work, meaning Verizon or AT&T – and potentially the government – know what cell tower your phone is using and in some situations can remotely activate GPS systems. Location technology initially developed for 911 calls also can estimate how close you are to various towers, making it easier to home in on your exact coordinates. Altitude measurements – revealing what floor you are on -- are next."
But we're not supposed to be paranoid. After all, "they" are not specifically looking for us. As the article explains, "Bear in mind that all these systems operate passively, continuously, even if nobody is looking for you. If you are an actual target of the authorities –- be it your government or somebody else’s -- there are even more powerful tools available. Surveillance companies sell malicious software to install on smartphones for tracking locations, browsing your e-mail and activating video cameras and microphones."
Needless to say, all online activities -- including the contents of this blog -- are also tracked. Cheery thought, no?
We don't have smart phones and only our basic-model cell phones are only turned on while traveling, but that's no longer good enough. Apparently we must just accept the fact that we are being continuously tracked, each and every one of us, from cradle to grave.
Nonetheless I think I'll stick to my purse flashlight. At least it doesn't spy on me.