HOWTO communicate in repressive regimes

Patrick sez, "Unlike most of us, it looks like @PatrickMeier knows what he's talking about. He should, considering he's doing a PhD at Harvard on 'The Impact of the Information Revolution on Authoritarian Rule and Social Resistance: From Information Revolution to iRevolution?' Patrick has an excellent guide on How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments. He keeps it up to date based on his studies and input from readers, and will provide a more detailed guide on request (my guess is that not all requests will be handled equally). If you're a Farsi speaker, please translate it and email me, I will post it (or maybe Patrick will want to post it next to the original)."
Mobile Phones

* Purchase your mobile phone far from where you live. Buy lower-end, simple phones that do not allow third-party applications to be installed. Higher-end ones with more functionalities carry more risk. Use cash to purchase your phone and SIM card. Avoid town centers and find small or second-hand shops as these are unlikely to have security cameras. Do not give your real details if asked; many shops do not ask for proof of ID.

* Use multiple SIM cards and multiple phones and only use pay-as-you go options; they are more expensive but required for anonymity.

* Remove the batteries from your phone if you do not want to be geo-located and keep the SIM card out of the phone when not in use and store in separate places.Use your phone while in a moving vehicle to reduces probability of geo-location.

* Never say anything that may incriminate you in any way.

How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments


  1. I might add to that bit about removing batteries: some electronics (I am not at all sure about phones, mea culpa) will use capacitors capable of storing enough charge to accomplish tasks. A quick way of shorting larger capacitors couldn’t be a bad idea, although I suspect that any exposed caps in cellphones are of the surface mount, low-charge, non-dangerous variety.

  2. The author assumes you can just buy PAYG sims without a paper trail. I have tried to buy local sims on my travels and in some cases have been asked for passport-level ID so that the authorities know who owns which sim. What do you do then?

  3. Couldn’t these very tips be used by terrorists/law breakers to prevent being monitored in democratic countries?

  4. Cory, you know Google now translates to Farsi. It’s pretty accurate with the little bit I’ve tested. At least it would give a good gist of what he’s talking about. Translated page here:

  5. You only need ONE phone and PC cable. Ericsson T10/T18 or Siemens A35/36/40, SL 45, S40 ,C30, C45, S45, ME45 is a good choice, IMEI change is just few clicks on those phones.

    btw: gps blocker is useless, GSM networks use triangulation

  6. Taku-san, all mobile phone technologies track all their users all the time. It’s necessary in order for them to work.

    You have to hide in the noise – as the original poster says, use lots of phones and keep the batteries out of the ones you are not using at any given time. You should also give away your phones with a few minutes left on them – preferably give them to street children or tuck them inside a vehicle you know is just passing through.

    And never say anything incriminating or informative on the phone. Use Starkese, if you follow me (and I think that you do).

    If you are worried that your native land may descend into savagery in the future, you might want to start a pattern now of doing most of your business in cash. Just withdraw enough cash to tide you over every couple of weeks; lots of people do it, you can blend with the noise.

  7. True that, PaulJ, and none of the gangsters had PhDs from Harvard, they were just smart. Use a burner, kids!

    I really love this piece of non-advice:

    Never say anything that may incriminate you in any way.

    LOLZ, thanks doc!

  8. “* Never say anything that may incriminate you in any way. ”

    Of course, if you do this then you’re probably defeating the whole point of going through all this work.

  9. @ Rasz

    I assume it’s blocking the local GSP sender/receiver signal to confuse it. It’s the ground unit that does the triangulation. Ofcourse the interference signal this unit puts out to confuse the GPS unit will stick out like a sore thumb to anyone looking for GSP blockers nearby. It’s like a cell phone blocker only with satellites instead of towers.

    The article does go a bit off the deep end and some suggestions are plain silly (“oh noes a camera without batteries ! Drats, foiled again “!) but most are common sense.

  10. The first rule of working for Vinne “The Chin” Gigante was NEVER say Vinnie “The Chin” oever Vinnie.

    He was ALWAYS our friend (while you touched your chin) or that guy (while you touched your chin).

    So, NEVER use names when speaking, either via mobile OR in person. Context is your encryption.

    “remember the time when I was trying to pick up that chick and got shot down real bad? Yeah, ok, I’ll see you two blocks north of that corner an hour after the time that show we liked when we were ten used to be on. We’re gonna talk with that guy with the eyebrows.”

    I know what that means, and only two other people on the planet knows what that means.

    Also. Never speak when you can point. Never point when you can write. Never write when you can nod. Never nod when you can wink.

    North is never north. Neither are any of the other cardinal points on the compass. Arange your substitutions ahead of time.

    Time is never what the clock shows. YOUR time is always at least an hour off in one direction or another.

    If you suspect you’re being tailed, abort! Don’t try and ditch the tail. Being too cute and playing games only confirms your guilt. Do something mundane like buying some food or a magazine. Go home, eat your food, read your magazine. If possible, arrange an action that’ll alert your fellows you think you’re being followed, like ditching the apple core of the apple you bought when you spotted the tail in a trash bin in sight of where you were going to meet up with the guy with the eyebrows.

    Simple tradecraft, people. And it’s all on the web. Leatn it now.

  11. Couldn’t these very tips be used by terrorists/law breakers to prevent being monitored in democratic countries?

    Sure. Then again I as a law-abiding citizen use some of the techniques here described to prevent being monitored in a democratic country. If you care about civil rights or your rights at all, a little paranoia is a good thing. You can’t go wrong assuming that you live in a repressive environment wherever you’re at. The difference is only gradual.

Comments are closed.