October 25, 2020

"This way I hack the phone so they do not track me" (and it's crazy) | Technology

"This way I hack the phone so they do not track me" (and it's crazy) | Technology



Adolfo has a Xiaomi phone. Its external appearance is like other mobiles, but all the software is different. Adolfo does not want the technological giants to know what he writes, what he seeks or where he is. For the same reason he did not want to leave here with his last name or face in the photo.

For Adolfo, the change began with the revelations of Edward Snowden Before, he hardly cared about privacy. Today he does, and he explains it this way: "I appreciate my private life and I do not want everything to be in the hands of companies, the government and other people." Although he also jokes. He calls "the aluminum caps" to those who are more obsessive than him.

Adolfo argues that it is not necessary to know how to do it

Your technical explanation of how you had to hack the cell phone so they do not track you is crazy for the uninitiated. Adolfo maintains that it is not necessary to know how to do it. But he, a graduate in computer engineering, has dedicated several hours for years to find solutions. It is clearly a path for few: "I know a person just like me and another who is starting to consider leaving platforms," ​​he says.

The list of the changes he has made on his mobile phone does not intend to demonstrate his ability but to show the unbeatable battle for achieve to be invisible with a phone in his pocket. The only way to prevent large companies and governments from collecting our daily information is to have no cell phone.

The technical difficulty is not the only obstacle. There is another: Adolfo's phone is less practical. GPS is slow, it can not have networks or the browser is less agile. Sometimes, even, Adolfo gives in and accepts some intrusion in exchange for a certain comfort. Your system is not perfect either.

GPS is slow, can not have networks or the browser is less agile

There are mobile brands with all this more or less as standard. Adolfo wants to buy someday, for example, a Purism. But for now it is very expensive (600 euros) and "I do not know yet if your success is going to be big or small, although surely lower than I expect," he says. For now, your Xiaomi will be for a few years.

The operating system. The day Adolfo bought his Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 he did not start using it. First, he asked the company to send him a code to deactivate the bootloader, which manages the start of the phone. That allows you to format it. Then the operating system changed to LineageOS, based on Google's Android code but with variations. Google thus stops controlling everything that goes on the phone.

But the most normal apps do not work well without your operating system. They hang often. To avoid this, he installed a free implementation of Google services, called MicroG. It's like adding an extra cushion so that the surrounding apps are comfortable and do not complain about the absence of their normal base.

The applications. If there are no Google services, there is also Google Play, the place to download applications. How to download them then? Adolfo uses the Yalp Store: "Yalp provides anonymous emails so you can download the apps from the Play Store and avoid having to log in with your account," he says. "It's the Google Play of aluminum hats," he jokes about Yalp.

In addition to the apps from the Play Store, there are lots of free apps. Those are downloaded from F-Droid, which is a repository of only open source applications. "There's nothing coming from Google," says Adolfo. Many indeed serve to replace the Google ecosystem.

In the parallel world of those concerned about privacy there is always another app that does the same as the official

In the parallel world of those concerned about privacy there is always another app that does the same as the official one. The result of this effort is that the main screen of Adolfo's Xiaomi is different. "The applications that I use daily are K-9 Mail (for email, with OpenKeychain to encrypt it), Slide (for Reddit, a forum website), an open-source Telegram, Tusky (for Mastodon, which is a Open Twitter) and Nextcloud ", which is linked to your private cloud, whose servers are in a friend's house. Adolfo does not assume anything in public clouds.

The email. The main email account of Adolfo is from Gmail and not Protonmail, the preferred mail for privacy stakeholders. Why do you prefer Gmail? One, because it offers free 15 gigs in the inbox and Prontonmail only 500 megabytes. Two, because Protonmail "is a commercial product and we do not have to trust 100%, its infrastructure is decent but it has holes," warns Adolfo. This is the final problem of this world: every solution has "little holes".

Adolfo therefore has a Gmail account, but does not use the Gmail app. It connects to mail through another application with which you can encrypt important messages with friends who also encrypt. Thus they speak secretly in the noses of Google: although Google keeps their emails open, the encrypted emails are illegible without the decryption key.

Google does not have Adolfo's contacts either: "I'm not happy that Google knows who I'm talking to." Save your contacts on a server-a hard drive-in your home. When the mobile changes, it synchronizes the contacts again.

The GPS. Another headache Adolfo likes the Google app: "It works very well, it has a good cartography, a quick response when searching for directions, it searches for stores, it gives different routes, you do not need to be logged in. What it does ask is that when you use it put the GPS, "he explains.

There the problems begin. Adolfo avoids the serial GPS and has instead activated "three location services". The problem is its slowness: "With Waze a traffic app I have been sometimes up to half an hour inside the car to be able to start moving, the car started, the music working and nothing, just to position me because it does not work well" , He says. He stopped using Waze.

Adolfo knows that Google somehow tracks his use of the map app: "They identify you in some way with an identifier, if it's a small identifier in front of my entire account, with all the record where I've been, it's a price that I can not pay, nor do I use it much, "he says.

Social networks. Does not have. Only LinkedIn and because there is no other choice. Your only caution is that you have it linked to another Gmail account, for work, not personal.

I used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and He has abandoned all three. Although he used a lot of Twitter and liked Instagram. Use Youtube, but on your phone use another app to see the videos: Newpipe. "Download the video and play it but without a Google account," he says.

The vocabulary that Adolfo uses to describe Mastodon is almost
of political rebels

There is another new network that does use: Mastodon. The vocabulary that Adolfo uses to describe him is almost political rebels: "Mastodon is Twitter, but federated, what does it mean? That there can be an unlimited number of instances, that is, it is not a centralized network. of the people and it's free software, "he explains.

Twitter is like a building where we all enter to tweet and see tweets and the company controls it. In Mastodon each one tweets from his building and we follow each other and we see each other without being all concentrated. An entity does not control everything.

The searcher. Only DuckDuckGo, the private alternative to Google. "Although there are no real reasons, I trust 99% of them," says Adolfo. "It's always good to leave a margin in case something happens that makes me distrust them."

The Navigator. Fennec, a modification of Firefox without trackers. Why not Tor, the typical private browser? It has good things: "In a way, it anonymizes you on the Internet, which improves privacy considerably." But there are always objections and suspicions: "In the beginning, it was a US invention for the navy, although it is now an open project, the original code is there and part of its funding comes from the US government," he says.

The courier. It has WhatsApp and Telegram. Has been using WhatsApp for 8 or 9 years. "I only give access to my contacts to see who is each and with as few people as possible, we also use it when Telegram falls, which is my general purpose messaging," he explains.

The great problem of this battle is not just the complexity. Adolfo admits that there are things he would like to do and not do because they do not give guarantees. For millions of people to stop doing something they want, the threat to their privacy must be much greater.

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