What Is Google Project Fi, and Is It Worth It?

Yesterday, I wrote an article entitled Google Adds Always-On VPN to its Project Fi Cellular Service. See http://bit.ly/2Pqlg4L to read the article.

A couple of readers of this web site wrote and asked, “What is Google Fi?”

In short, Google Fi is the best and cheapest cell phone service available for many people, but perhaps not for everyone. It fits my needs well. It may or may not fit your needs, however.

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Google Adds Always-On VPN to its Project Fi Cellular Service

I have been an enthusiastic customer of Google’s Project Fi cell phone service for more than three years. I also always have a VPN (that I pay for) running all the time in my cell phone. You can read my past articles about the Project Fi cellular service by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aprivacyblog.com+%22project+fi%22&t=h_&ia=web.

I received a pleasant surprise today when I learned that Google is now offering a FREE VPN to all users of the Google Fi cell service and the VPN will be enabled all the time, whether connected by a cellular service connection or a Wi-Fi connection.

All phone calls, text messages, and data will be encrypted for privacy purposes all the time. The always-on VPN will need to be turned on in the Project Fi settings, where the feature is called “Enhanced Network” and labeled a “beta.”

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Police Decrypt 258,000 Messages After Breaking IronChat Crypto App

Your public servants at work: spying on you.

Police in the Netherlands said they decrypted more than 258,000 messages sent using IronChat, an app billed as providing end-to-end encryption that was endorsed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. In a statement published Tuesday, Dutch police said officers achieved a “breakthrough in the interception and decryption of encrypted communication” in an investigation into money laundering. The encrypted messages, according to the statement, were sent by IronChat, an app that runs on a device that cost thousands of dollars and could send only text messages.

“Criminals thought they could safely communicate with so-called crypto phones which used the application IronChat,” Tuesday’s statement said. “Police experts in the east of the Netherlands have succeeded in gaining access to this communication. As a result, the police have been able to watch live the communication between criminals for some time.”

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Other Governments are Listening to the Cell Phone Calls of Heads of State and Maybe to Your Calls as Well

From Bruce Schneier’s excellent Schneier on Security blog:

“Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the Russians and the Chinese were eavesdropping on President Donald Trump’s personal cell phone and using the information gleaned to better influence his behavior. This should surprise no one. Security experts have been talking about the potential security vulnerabilities in Trump’s cell phone use since he became president. And President Barack Obama bristled at — but acquiesced to — the security rules prohibiting him from using a “regular” cell phone throughout his presidency.

“Three broader questions obviously emerge from the story. Who else is listening in on Trump’s cell phone calls? What about the cell phones of other world leaders and senior government officials? And — most personal of all — what about my cell phone calls?”

You can read Bruce’s article at: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/10/cell_phone_secu_1.html.

Later in the article, Bruce states, “Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to improve the security of your cell phone.

I partially disagree.

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China and Russia Are Listening to Trump’s Phone Calls, Says the New York Times

According to The New York Times, the Chinese are regularly listening to Donald Trump’s cellphone calls (Warning: source may be paywalled. If so, try this alternative source). While he has two NSA-hardened iPhones, and a secure landline, he insists on using a consumer-grade iPhone — even while knowing he’s being eavesdropped upon — because it has his contact list on it.

“White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them,” reports the New York Times. But, officials were also confident that “he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities”; in other words, security through ignorance.

The article mentions the rationale is to be able to listen to his calls to find out what and whom influences him, and that the Russians also listen in, albeit with less frequency because of his unique relationship with Vladimir Putin.

UK ISP Tests SIM Card That Forces All of Your Mobile Data Through Tor

This sounds like a great idea except, perhaps, that sending data through Tor is always slower than normal connections on the Internet. Tor is a highly-secure method of connecting to web sites.

One UK grassroots internet service provider is currently testing a data only SIM card that blocks any non-Tor traffic from leaving the phone at all, potentially providing a more robust way to use Tor while on the go.

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Keep Loved Ones Digitally Close with Family Locator

Every time we have a disaster, I think of the cell phone app called Family Locator. I am in Florida at the moment, and news about this week’s Michael hurricane certainly reminded me of the need to find and even track the whereabouts of family members. This app answers an age-old question: “Where are you?”

The Family Locator app for iPhones, Android phones, and even BlackBerry phones lets you know where some or all of your family members are located, plus or minus a few feet. This can be critical information when they have been evacuated to a storm shelter of some sort in advance of a hurricane or forest fire or tornado, or if they are simply stuck in a blizzard. Setting up alerts in the app will also allow you to know when family members have made it safely to their next destination.

In order to function, both you and all family members you wish to locate must have the Family Locator app installed on everyone’s cell phones, and each phone must be turned on and communicating with cell towers or wi-fi hotspots.

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