Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Nov 2013 23:06 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

I've always known this, and I'm sure most of you do too, but we never really talk about it. Every smartphone or other device with mobile communications capability (e.g. 3G or LTE) actually runs not one, but two operating systems. Aside from the operating system that we as end-users see (Android, iOS, PalmOS), it also runs a small operating system that manages everything related to radio. Since this functionality is highly timing-dependent, a real-time operating system is required.

This operating system is stored in firmware, and runs on the baseband processor. As far as I know, this baseband RTOS is always entirely proprietary. For instance, the RTOS inside Qualcomm baseband processors (in this specific case, the MSM6280) is called AMSS, built upon their own proprietary REX kernel, and is made up of 69 concurrent tasks, handling everything from USB to GPS. It runs on an ARMv5 processor.

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Great article
by Berend de Boer on Wed 13th Nov 2013 01:38 UTC
Berend de Boer
Member since:

Very relevant warning. What kind of phone does RMS use?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Great article
by Morgan on Wed 13th Nov 2013 01:46 in reply to "Great article"
Morgan Member since:

I would think even a modern "dumbphone" would have this nastiness in it. A modem is a modem, and even the most basic cellphone has baseband software, if I'm not mistaken. So much for going off the grid by abstaining from smartphones.

And this potentially affects much more than just cellphones. My wife's iPad and Kindle are both 3G versions, which means they have AT&T-connected modems in them. The iPad modem is "turned off" via iOS, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's off altogether. The Kindle's 3G is used every few days when she doesn't have a WiFi connection.

Beyond those devices, how many cars these days come equipped with onboard cellular connectivity? Here in the US it would be most if not all GM vehicles via OnStar, as well as Teslas. I wonder if every one of those devices have the same potential vulnerabilities as your average cellphone.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Great article
by shmerl on Wed 13th Nov 2013 01:46 in reply to "Great article"
shmerl Member since:

May be no mobile phones at all?

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Great article
by Delgarde on Wed 13th Nov 2013 01:55 in reply to "Great article"
Delgarde Member since:

Tin can and string?

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Great article
by Poseidon on Wed 13th Nov 2013 03:13 in reply to "Great article"
Poseidon Member since:

He doesn't use one. He doesn't like being tracked.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Great article
by glarepate on Wed 13th Nov 2013 09:01 in reply to "Great article"
glarepate Member since:

Very relevant warning. What kind of phone does RMS use?

So I googled it.

Cellular Phones

I see that cellular phones are very convenient. I would have got one, if not for certain reprehensible things about them.

Cell phones tracking and surveillance devices. They all enable the phone system to record where the user goes, and many (perhaps all) can be remotely converted into listening devices.

In addition, most of them are computers with nonfree software installed. Even if they don't allow the user to replace the software, someone else can replace it remotely. Since the software can be changed, we cannot regard it as equivalent to a circuit. A machine that allows installation of software is a computer, and computers should run free software.

Nearly every cell phone has a universal back door that allows remote conversion into a listening device. (See Murder in Samarkand, by Craig Murray, for an example.) This is as nasty as a device can get.

From the book Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle, I learned that portable phones make many people's lives oppressive, because they feel compelled to spend all day receiving and responding to text messages which interrupt everything else. Perhaps my decision to reject this convenience for its deep injustice has turned out best in terms of convenience as well.

When I need to call someone, I ask someone nearby to let me make a call. If I use someone else's cell phone, that doesn't give Big Brother any information about me.

He seems to know about this already. So he doesn't own one but he borrows them from others if he feels the need.

He doesn't seem to think that his voice can be matched by any listening system(s). GLWT Richard.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Great article
by theosib on Wed 13th Nov 2013 19:15 in reply to "RE: Great article"
theosib Member since:

What’s ironic is that RMS really does have nothing to hide. He wants everything Free and out in the open, with the exception of personal things that SHOULD be private. He wants his personal privacy not because he’s doing anything illegal (well, maybe he smokes a little pot, but only fascists care about that), but because he believes in the inalienable right of personal privacy.

Basically, as the leader of the “Free” world, RMS is the ideal counter-argument to “if you have nothing to hide."

Reply Parent Score: 4