Indtroducing Profone tracker

It’s been a while since I released my Profone tracker. I think now it’s time to write a little about it, how it works and how you can collect the data.

It’s not a new tool if you ever try my GSM and WiFi tracker. As a matter of fact, it’s a combination of the above mentioned tools, the sole purpose is to improve accuracy. The only difference is that I introduced signal strength into the algorithm, and it works as follows.

s1 = 65;
s2 = 75;
s3 = 70;
s4 = 69;
s5 = 81;
s = s1+s2+s3+s4+s5;
w1 = (s-s1)/(N-1)*s;
w2 = (s-s2)/(N-1)*s;
w3 = (s-s3)/(N-1)*s;
w4 = (s-s4)/(N-1)*s;
w5 = (s-s5)/(N-1)*s;
lat = lat1*w1 + lat2*w2 + lat3*w3 + lat4*w4 + lat5*w5;
lon = lon1*w1 + lon2*w2 + lon3*w3 + lon4*w4 + lon5*w5;

Here s1 stands for the signal strength of the first the cell tower or WiFi AP, w1 stands for the weight of $1, and N stands for the total number of cell tower or WiFi AP.

At the moment, there is no other cost effective solution other than mathematical formula to improve accuracy. If you care enough about the precision of location, use GPS instead.

To use my new tool, you need to find more than one cell tower or WiFi Access points, either on PC or mobile devices, and there are many apps to help.

I myself use Net Monitor to collect those data, including MCC,MNC,LAC,Cell ID, and MAC address. You can find many other apps too. Once you have the data, you can enter them here http://cellphonetrackers.org/gsm/.

I am still working to tweak the algorithm, so the result you get may vary. However I do not think there will be any huge change.

In the meantime, do not forget to check out other tools I just develop, namely MAC lookup and MAC address generator.

2017-Apr-Wed | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags: ,

A little clarification for my GSM tracker

I have received quite a few messages and emails about my GSM tracker and its service since I got back. I think I need to make a little clarification about it as I expect to receive more such queries and I may not have enough time to respond.

What I have been and am doing is providing data service for a wide range of people and companies, not to end clients. For example, Michelin, some Chinese GPS tracker makers, some app developers, and police departments from US, Mexico, India, Pakistan etc. Among so many users only a few asked me in advance and got my written permission.

So to be exact, I do not really know who were and are using my service until people contact me. I will take a few of them as an example. Please see below figure.

A nice guy who I would like to call John sent me a screenshot that contains his location data and a link to my GSM tracker. He said that his wife’s phone keep receiving such text messages from his phone and he asked me how to stop it.

I do not really know. Obviously some app developer integrates my service into his/her app and the link led John to me. So I suggested him to check the apps he installed.

Another. It’s written in Italian. But no problem, we have Google translator. In English, it says ‘I want to cancel the tracking service on phone number + 39391xxxx271’.

It’s quite confusing to me as I am not tracking anyone via cell phone. Although I do not know the details, I imagine that he has the same issue with John.

As you can see, I will be of no help in his situation too. The only suggestion I can provide is check your apps.

I now have the most extensive database across the globe and I provide two versions, free version for all and paid version for certain users who need API access. So it’s no wonder more and more people and companies are adopting my service without my knowing and it’s their freedom as long as they do not take my server down with thousands of queries at the same time.

Unlike GPS which drains your battery quickly and may not be available in many places, cell tower tracking offers a more stable service with acceptable accuracy. That’s why more people like it.

But issues arise too. I think they need to provide after-sales service, not me. At least they should let their users know how to stop the service.

At the end of the post, I would like to emphasize that my service if free and open to all, but I do not provide any service to end users. In case you do not know yet, it provides location service to various users, but it’s not an app to install on your handset although I do have a mobile version, but that’s all.

2017-Mar-Fri | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags: ,

How did I lose my iPhone 6 Plus and password

This is a true story. I read it somewhere. The poster who is an iPhone 6 Plus owner lost his handset and pass code. I share it here with my readers because it’s a hard lesson, and other iOS handset owners should not let it happen to them.

I lost my iPhone 6 Plus on a Tuesday. When I found it’s gone, I called my number like crazy. No one would answer my calls however. So I tried using Find my iPhone and it said the phone was offline. I was not surprised because I always disconnect my device from the Internet when I do not use it. I tried again that night and it said my phone was turned off. I knew immediately that my handset was stolen and it will never come back.

find

I received a SMS the following day from my stolen phone saying that the phone was sent to a repair shop but the SIM card can be returned. Apparently it’s from the thief. I thought it over and agreed.

Two days later I received another SMS from a number 085295163352 and it reads:

iCould location info:

The phone you put in stolen mode is being flashed using iTunes and activated, the location info is recorded.

If it’s not been done by you, please visit icloud-ituens.com immediately to view its current location,

Unsubscribe by replying T [APPLE]

I clicked that link on my phone and it went to http://icloud-ituens.com/login_918830.asp, it looked quite like the official Find my iPhone webpage but the version is a bit old – 2.4. I did not give it a second thought and gave up.

I received yet another text message from 1069057804467 a day later, and the content is:

[Apple] Dear Apple user, your phone in stolen mode is in an Apple store requesting a new replacement.

If it’s not done by you or your phone is lost, please log into https://www.AppIeid.co and verify your information.

We will put your phone on hold once you pass the verification.

Unsubscribe by replying N.

To be honest, I was pleasant for a second that Apple provides such service. I clicked the link and it directed me to the same page I saw a day ago. I highly doubted it and was hesitate to enter my Apple ID and password.

So I called Apple’s official support line 400-627-2273 and it said please call back in working hours.

A day later from that day I received a package at work and it was my SIM card. It reminds me of the phone thing and I started calling Apple support. Unfortunately it’s always busy, busy, busy. I admit I was a little anxious at the time.

When I was ready to call Apple again I got a message from 1069057804468:

[Apple receipt] Dear iPhone user, your phone in stolen mode gets a new replacement successfully.

Repair No. 671108. If it’s not you sent the phone, please log in to https://www.AppIeid.co.

We will hold the replacement when you verify your information.

Unsubscribe by replying N.

I was in huge pressure then and preferred to believe it although I still had doubts. How I wish I have thought it through. I clicked that link again and entered my password, but it said the password was incorrect. How could I be wrong? I type my code every day! I realized suddenly that it’s a trap.

I dialed Apple’s support number at once and waited a minute till someone answers. A woman told me that Apple has no such service and it’s a Phishing site.

I refused to believe that and tried Find my iPhone. Nothing! The once offline iPhone 6 Plus is nowhere to find. It’s gone! Now anyone could use my handset!!!

It’s gone, for good.

Via [Baidu].

2016-Jul-Thu | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags: ,

Why can’t we find our lost mobile device?

I have received numerous requests asking me to track their lost or stolen device. There’s nothing I can do about it although they have my sympathy. If unfortunately you are one of them, do not expect me to give any answer. But why?

It’s in fact not easy to track a stolen mobile phone even if you have location app installed beforehand. Do not believe it? Well here’s a test by Avast.

Avast, yes you got it right, the famous PC security company, did such a test 5 months ago. An excellent promotion for their mobile security app too. Anyways, they installed three location apps on 10 mobile devices (I suppose all Android?), Avast Anti-Theft, Lookout Mobile Security and Clean Master, as well as the owners’ name and return addresses. They then ‘lost’ these handsets in New York and LA and waited patiently. Guess what? As of writing, only 4 handsets have been returned although they do not reveal how.

avast

 

According to Avast, here are what happened to those 6 lost mobile devices.

  • Most of those phones were perform a factory reset to wipe up data and apps.
  • Avast was the only one to survive the hard reset.
  • One had been shipped to India.
  • One appeared in
  • One was sent to a pawnshop.
  • One was left in a taxi in LA.

Those were what happened exactly to the other 6 handsets. Although a 40% chance to recover a mobile device is pretty good, Avast did not detail how those 4 phones were recovered, there might be a good chance some of them were returned by those who found the device. Even if all of them were recovered using location apps, what would happen if you have installed Lookout Mobile apps?

This is nothing new, I wrote a post 5 years ago about how to prevent people from uninstalling or wipe up the anti-theft apps, about 3 years ago I wrote about the reasons why you can’t track your android phone using plan B, and it turns out that things do not change at all.

The good news is that Avast is making things better, together with Samsung. I have an old Galaxy S5 LTE-A, it stops others from flashing a new ROM if they do not have the correct Samsung account and password, but it’s still not easy to find a stolen Samsung cell phone.

After saying all of that, it seems it’s Apple who has done the best to protect their customers’ devices. But good job, Avast!

2016-Feb-Sat | Category: Cell phone tracking |

How has Find My iPhone improved over the years

Let’s start with the news that people can spy on an Android phone even when the handset is shut down. In fact, I have shared the news on Google Plus and here is the link if you have not heard of it. You should not be panic although it does sound a bit of scary. There are a few things need to be done in order to turn an Android phone into a spy device, as noted by ryan moreno.

1. The phone needs to be rooted.
2. The phone has Android 4.4.4 or ealier.
3. The phone should be able to install apps from app stores other than Google Play, in other words, unkown source checked.

That’s too much? Well according to AVG, some 10 thousand of phones have been infected and most of them are in China. That sounds only reasonable as Google Play has been blocked and many local app stores are very popular.

A few days later, the news come out that the same might happen in iOS device too, but it’s good news this time. According to a new Apple patent, people will be able to track their iOS devices even when it’s turned off! This is definitely good news for Apple fans and a step forward in Apple’s anti-theft effort if Apple does introduce it in future iOS versions. According to the patent, users will be able to track an iOS device in sleep mode. The device will send out pictures of its current user and location data periodically in such mode. Apple may also ask for the passcode to turn off any iOS device, the device will enter sleep mode automatically if a wrong passcode(s) is entered. But I suppose the handset should not be unlocked when the thief gets it. Now let’s take a look at what Apple has done these years to protect their customers’ iOS devices.

sleep mode

Apple is not only the first to announce a modern Smartphone, but also the very first to develop a phone tracking app-Find My iPhone. However the first iteration of Find My iPhone is far from perfect. It could pinpoint a phone, it allowed an iOS device to be remotely locked or wiped, or display a message, but no more. I of course knew you can play a sound, but it’s nothing new since you can call it using another phone too.

And that’s why I wrote how to stop Find My iPhone working, and I also mentioned a few things Plan B should be doing in this post, well that should apply to iOS too.

To my surprise, Apple has improved Find My iPhone dramatically since then although I seldom see any such effort on Google or Android OEM’s side.

As we all know, you need a tracking app running in the background all the time with internet connection in order to track a cell phone. That means a few things I would outline below.

1. The phone needs to stay on. No one should be able to turn it off or take out the battery. The battery should not go dead, but it’s kind of impossible, well as long as possible then, or charge itself.
2. The app needs to be running all the time. No one should be able to kill it or uninstall it in any way.
3. Internet connection should be available all the time, either cell data or WiFi. I personally think cell data is more reliable. I also think the app should send the LAC and CellID to the server in case there is no internet connection.

Well those are what Apple has done if you know Find My iPhone well, at least partly. If you have an iPhone with the latest software, you know no body could turn off Find My iPhone or change the Apple ID without the correct passcode. Even if the thief wants to perform a factory restore or flash the phone, the activation lock is in place to stop that. In a word, even if its owner could not get it back, activation lock will make it totally unusable.

According to the Independent, the new Find My iPhone and activation lock already cut iPhone theft in half. With the new patent now, the chance of recovering a lost iPhone would increase.

What’s next?

Although I think Apple will use the companion core to do the tracking thing in sleep mode to save power, it’s still necessary to extend the battery life overall. The best option would be increasing the battery capacity at the moment, it makes sense when you consider the iPhone 6, a 4.7′ phone with a merely 1810mAh battery.

Ref. Find My iPhone change log, activation lock.

2015-Feb-Thu | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags: ,

Why are you here?

This blog is all about how to track down a cell phone and extend the battery life during that period of time to ensure your handset always stays on.

If you come here in search for information on how cell phone tracking works and various mobile tracking technologies, then check out my posts and tools. If you want to know how many and what apps work on your specific device, then I already have got many for you. Since iOS and Android dominates the mobile space, you will find most apps were, and are designed for the two platforms. However, I stopped introducing new apps as almost all of them are quite similar to others mentioned in this blog. If you still need different phone tracking apps, head for Google Play or App Store.

This post will discuss how to track your iOS or Android device, and what to do if you could not recover your handset, and finally how to track others phone. Due to the reason mentioned earlier, this post will only involve iOS and Android since most people use these two systems.

How to track iOS or Android device

To begin with, I will introduce the things you need to do if you wanna track your mobile device. In fact there is not much you can do if you own an Android device. Unlike Apple, Google does not take as strong anti-theft actions in Android as iOS. Google did not even have official location tracking measures in place until last August, four years after the announcement of Find My iPhone. Even so, the so called Android Device Manager is still inferior to the latter.

Android device manager

So here is the thing. If you have an Android phone, you may already have seen and used Android Device Manager depending on when you got your phone and its brand. If you bought your phone earlier than August 2013 and did not receive any system update later, the chances are good you do not have it. Besides, some Android OEMs may remove this feature in their phones. So even you get your phone after that time, it does not mean you have it on your device. To verify that, simply go to settings-> Google settings, if you see Android Device Manager sits there, then yes you have it. Otherwise, no. However you can now download it as a stand-alone app from Google Play. Now sign in with your Gmail account and check remotely locate this device and allow remote factory reset and you are all set. In addition, some Android OEMs have their own tracking services, for example, Samsung. But that’s beside the point.

It’s much simpler when it comes to iOS as long as you have up-to-date firmware. However iOS devices offer many more. More features, more secure options. In order for Find My iPhone to work, go to settings-> iCloud-> Find My iPhone and turn it on. Of course you need to sign in with your Apple ID. Once you turn on Find My iPhone, activation lock is automatically enabled which gives you further protection from thieves. Activation lock was designed to prevent anyone from accessing your iPhone/iPad and turning off Find My iPhone. Even if the thief performs a factory reset or a firmware update (DFU), he or she will be asked for your Apple ID and password at launh to use your device. In a word, the phone will be totally useless without the correct Apple ID and password.

If you have Android Device Manager enabled on your Android phone or Find My iPhone enabled on your iOS device, then proceed to the next step. Since both services have a lot in common, I will try to explain the steps as briefly as possible.

If you have an Android device, there’s not much to do. If you have set a pattern or finger scanner in place, the thief will not be able to use your phone immediately, but its another story if you use swipe to unlock your phone. Go immediately to http://www.android.com/devicemanager, login with your account information and you should be able to view the location of your phone. If you do locate it, you can ring your phone or call your number if it’s somewhere near you. Otherwise you should definitely wipe your data remotely since the thief could either turn it down or do a factory reset or flash a new ROM. It all depends on how well the thief knows about your phone and system.

However I think a better option would offer some money in exchange for a return. You should also report the theft to a policeman and your carrier.

iPhone lost mode

If you have iPhone, then navigate to http://www.icloud.com/ from any device and sign in using your Apple ID and password. You can also locate your missing device from any other iOS device using Find My iPhone app. Once you are there, the first thing to do is put your phone in lost mode. You will be able to send and display a message on the missing phone, such as this iPhone has been lost and locked, call me at xxx-xx-xxx. There aren’t much the thief can do except return the phone or switch it off. However the location information will be uploaded to Apple server and displayed on Apple Map whenever the thief boots it. Apple will send you a mail when that location is updated. So if someone’s iPhone goes missing, he needs to check his Email or iCloud account from time to time.

What to do if you could not recover your handset

Someone might get their phone back, but most people fail for various reasons. If you have tried very hard and still do not see any hope, then its time to wipe the data. Both iOS and Android have the same function and can be done with one tap.

Here I will discuss a few things to increase the chance of getting the missing phone back. This is especially important for iOS devices as there are more you can do. I sum it up in three points.

1. Use two-step verification and write down your Apple ID, passcode and recovery key. In the meantime, you should also keep your package and information like IMEI number, SN number etc. Do not save it on your PC or share on the internet.
2. Enable activation lock.
3. Enable family sharing etc.

For Android device owners, the best solution is find and install some so called stealth tracking apps. I once wrote about Plan B and said a few features a good phone tracking app should include and Apple has done exactly that. If you can find such an Android app, then go get it.

How to track others device

Finally I will go on talk about how to track others phone. Some people might want to track other people for whatever reason. In fact there isn’t much you can do until you have physical access to their cell phone or you are a popular ROM developer. Another trick is tell people you can repair their devces. At last, you can also persuade someone to download and install your disguised tracking app, but you still need a script to create the parameters. If you have the money, then things are much easier, just ask someone to develop a custom made app with all parameters set.

If you have any thoughts about tracking others device, then let me know on my Facebook page.

2015-Jan-Sun | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags:

Why can’t you track a missing phone using Plan B

Here by missing I mean stolen or lost handset, not misplaced. By phone I mean Android, not iPhone (I do not have an iPhone although Plan B does have an iOS version) or Symbian (lots of people ask me for help have a Symbian device, but it’s out of the question to track a handset running an outdated OS), or BlackBerry (I know nothing about it).

I have the impression that if you lose your Android handset and have no mobile tracking app installed beforehand, the best choice is Plan B, at least that’s how lookout inc advertizes it. In their app description in Google play it says Plan B is your last resort to find your missing phone. This is the first and only ‘find my phone’ app that you download AFTER you’ve already lost your phone. In case you haven’t heard much about it, take a quick look here.

And that’s what the blog, forum and tweets say too. After people repeating it here and there, I come to believe and recommend it to anyone who lose an Android handset and ask me for help.

However, does Plan B work like lookout say? I decide to explore it a little bit more when someone tells me that Plan B does not work.

The first step I take is installing it to my handsets. At the moment I have two Android devices, Sony Xperia neo running Android 4.0.4 and LG LTE 2 running 4.1.2. So I will test it on both devices. I go to Google play and search Plan B, only to find that it’s not compatible with any of my handset. Frustrating, right?

I finally manage to find a note below the app description stating that it only works with Android 2.0-2.3. A page from lookout official website also confirms this where it says that Plan B does not support Android 3.0 (it’s intended for Android tablet only) +. Are you kidding me? ICS was released almost one and half a year ago. 18 months passed and still no support for Android 4.0+? Well this isn’t something good because according to the latest report, devices running ICS(4.0.x) and Jelly Bean (4.1+) together account for some 45.1% of all Android devices. If Plan B is really designed as the last resort for missing Android devices, don’t just sit and wait until all Android 2.0-2.3 devices disappear from the market.

I do not have an Android Gingerbread handset, so I could not test Plan B. But I will go on anyway. As we all know, it requires network connection to install Plan B (basically anything) to your Android device, be it WiFi or mobile data. However you have no control over it once the phone is in somebody else’s hand. The installation will fail if the thief

1. Disable WiFi and 3G/3G data.
2. Turns off the phone.

Well it seems to me it’s like impossible mission 5. I mean, if someone took your handset, will he powers on it, enable WiFi or 3G/4G and downgrade it from ICS to 2.x simply waiting for you to track and find him? Alright I will be fair; every mobile location app faces the fact. However, even if you managed to install the app onto your handset for some kind of coincidence, you still have issues to solve.

1. Make sure the thief or his buyer (the thief may resell it, right?) does not change the SIM card which is highly unlikely.
2. Ensure no one removes the app which is also impossible since anyone can see the Plan B icon on the screen without much trouble.
3. For any good reason the thief or his buyer does not perform a factory restore or flashes a new ROM.

Well, it seems like impossible mission 6 now, not to mention Plan B may crash for unknown reasons (port taken by other apps, or could not auto-start or compatibility issues). So you see there’s a huge hurdle between you and your handset even if Plan B is installed successfully.

Above explains perfectly why you can’t locate your missing device using Plan B. If lookout treats Plan B seriously, there are a few things to consider.

1. Add Android 4.0+ support.
2. Hide the icon, and app from app list and task killers.
3. Stop anyone from disable WiFi or 3G/4G once SIM card changed until correct pin entered.
4. Take and send pictures of user once SIM changed as well as location data.
5. Lock the phone once SIM changed until correct pin entered. Paid version does have remote lock and wipe.
6. Text LAC and CellID to the given number in case of loss of WiFi and mobile data.
7. Get into the ROM so a factory restore will not destroy it.
8. Find a way getting into bootloader or something else which allows auto-install before any new ROM is flashed. In fact Samsung is implementing this measure right now. Samsung will install ‘Lojack for Mobile Devices’ in its future Galaxy S4 handsets in the low-level code inside the phone that it will survive almost any ROM flash and root. That is, the thief could hardly get rid of it, which tracks the position of a lost phone whenever there is network access.

2013-Mar-Sun | Category: Cell phone tracking | Tags: ,

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