Using Phones Without SIM cards? Check out the Privacy Benefits | Rob Braxman Tech

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Summary

➡ Rob Braxman Tech talks about how NoSim phone solutions offer a way to use phone services without a traditional SIM card, which can improve privacy. However, understanding how it works is crucial to reap its benefits. NoSim solutions use internet-based services, avoiding the need for a carrier, but they may not be suitable for everyone due to potential inconveniences. It’s also important to note that while NoSim solutions can enhance privacy, they don’t guarantee complete anonymity, especially against government surveillance.

Transcript

You may be one of those people eagerly looking for a phone solution that uses NoSim cards. I’m not sure what your expectations would be with this approach because it is not perfect. However, it is a solution you should be aware of and should consider. But to get a full benefit out of a NoSim phone service, you must really understand how the phone system works and what threats are eliminated by the NoSim phone. You must weigh the particular benefits based on your assessment of your own personal threats. It also means an awareness of the inconvenience since, of course, any approach out of the norm causes some problems that you may not be willing to tolerate.

By the way, there are benefits to using a NoSim solution even part-time. It doesn’t have to be used all the time. This opens up more possibilities, so we’ll get into that. It’s important to learn the details of this since using a NoSim solution without understanding of all the threats may still lead to zero improvement in privacy. If you’re willing to expand your knowledge of phone solutions, including ones that use NoSim cards, stay right there. I have to always present a big picture of the phone network since most people have no real understanding of how it all works and how it fits into the surveillance infrastructure in communications.

The phone network, known as the Public Switch Telephone Network, or PSTN, is what allows you to connect to others using a phone number. Unfortunately, this phone network has been the subject of government mass surveillance since its inception as the telegraph, and heavy surveillance has been built in since World War II. In some ways, this seems like an outdated concept since many people do their communications using various apps like Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger, and so on, and really just need internet service. But unfortunately, the world doesn’t operate in the way we want. The phone number and the email is the only way to communicate with new people and many businesses.

The big entities we rely on define our moves, and often it relates to having an identity and a way to find us. The phone number is an identity. If you go to a government website, they will not only want an email address, they will ask for a phone number. They ask for this for medical coverage, tax forms, or with the use of any government service. This goes the same way with private companies. Most platforms demand a phone number that they can send an SMS message to, to do two-factor authentication. So basically, the phone number is an ID card.

The reason the phone number is an effective ID card is because the government actually has a record of every call ever made. There should be no big mystery to most of you since you can see this on your phone bill. But the bigger shocker to most people is that every single text message you’ve sent is kept in databases, one of which is the main aggregator. The database that contains everything is the FBI DCIS database. I’m sure other three-letter agencies even have worldwide databases. The other thing that most people don’t realize is that the government can check on everyone’s calls very easily and even listen into conversations effortlessly in real time.

In the US, this surveillance tech was enabled by the CALEA law, Communications Assistant for Law Enforcement. Similarly, Snowden has also clearly revealed that all the same data is being sent to the NoSuch Agency using a program called PRISM and this has the participation of every single carrier. So to make this clear to you all, it should be apparent that a government is able to see who calls who and is able to establish a clear connection between people and this is often referred to as a relationship map. The use of the cell network radio communications introduces other risks such as direct radio interception by devices called MZ catchers.

These devices can listen into call traffic and is used extensively by law enforcement. For example, it was used to wiretap Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-lawyer. And the cell radio communications also include a level of location tracking. Not as precise as the Wi-Fi triangulation used by Apple and Google. But enough to isolate your location to within a mile or less. So that is the foundation of the PSTN communications network. We would all like to avoid this and not be part of the data collection of the government. If a government wants to find you though and you’re a targeted individual, then a NoSim phone solution is not for you.

There are ways to surveil targeted people by watching the people you know. Your approach should be no phone use at all. But for the regular people who are interested in keeping their data private, what exactly is the NoSim solution and how does this help keep our data from the carriers and the state? There are two elements here that are important to understand. One is the identity portion. A phone number with a regular carrier using a normal SIM card is often tied to something called KYC or Know Your Customer. This is a regulation which forces carriers to know who they’re giving phone numbers to.

And this is a feature that makes the use of a SIM card or normal phone line bad for privacy because you have to show ID. All SIM cards have a fixed identifier called an MZ or International Mobile Subscriber Identity and they match that to your identity. Often the caller ID will even have your actual name on it and so there’s no hiding for most people. The alternate solution is to use a cloud-based phone service where the phone traffic is handled solely through the internet and without directly using the cell network. This technology is often referred to as voice-over IP.

In order to explain this fully, we will be using AD Google Phone as our base device in all instances where I talk of a mobile phone. I’m using AD Google Phone in this example because there’s almost no point eliminating carrier or government mass surveillance while allowing big tech surveillance. Might as well protect against everything. Next, I will introduce you to our version of voice-over IP called the Brax Virtual Phone Service and then we’ll discuss how this can be used. When we talk about a SIM card, we are talking about a regular cell phone service provided by a cell phone carrier.

In the US, the three major cell providers are T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. Then there are resellers called MVNOs that are affiliated with these carriers. Examples of these are companies like Mint, Cricut, Straight Talk, Red Pocket, and so on. So our plan is to make calls without ever connecting to these carriers. Let me just demonstrate here how we can make and receive calls on your computing device, which does not need a mobile phone, by the way, using Brax Virtual Phone. In this example, I’m going to mix it up. I’m going to use a phone with a Brax Virtual Phone account.

Then I will use a computer with another Brax Virtual Phone account. So phone to computer to introduce more variety. I will need software to access the Brax Virtual Phone service. So in this case, I will be using an application called Linphone on the mobile phone. On the computer, I will run an app called MicroSip. I’m not going to show you this in detail here, but when you sign up for the Brax Virtual Phone service, you will be able to provision a phone number in the USA or Canada, and then you will have access to this setup screen.

The important thing to note in this setup for later is that you have the option to forward your calls or have your calls go direct to voicemail, which can then be forwarded as email. You can also do forwarding of SMS messages to email or to another phone number. And then another option is the ability to send and receive text directly from the Brax Me app itself, which can be viewed from any browser. This means that you do not need an actual phone in theory. I’ll make a separate video demonstrating the Brax Virtual Phone setup and options later.

Okay, you saw in the setup that there are options where you don’t actually need to ever make a call, but here we will make outgoing calls. Let me make a call from the phone to the computer. These phone numbers are for demonstration only, by the way, and will be deleted. You can see that that connected, and so I will hang up. Then let me do the call in reverse now and use the PC to call the phone. Now, just to demonstrate that this is able to dial any number, I will just call some other line.

This one is the Microsoft tech support number. What do you see here? You can see that I’m able to use the phone network or PSDN normally. I have no SIM card. Let me show you that this phone has no SIM card. But it does require that both the phone and the computer have some internet access, like through Wi-Fi. So in the case of a home with DSL internet service, you definitely do not need a SIM card as your device. A phone, a computer, or a dedicated hardware phone called a SIP phone can all use the internet, and the phone service is actually handled in the cloud by the voiceover IP service.

What are the advantages here? First, you are not using cell service. So there’s no phone number associated with your name on the cell network. Someone could do a nationwide search of your phone number and you will not be found. Second, you’re not connecting to a cell tower. So your location is not available to either the carrier or a third party listening or tracking the call. Third, the Brax virtual phone service has no requirement for KYC. We don’t register your name anywhere, so it is not searchable on the phone network. Let’s talk more about KYC for a moment.

There is still KYC required for any number, but I supplied that KYC with my own identification for Brax virtual phone. I do not require that of my customers. Also, for the identification of those interested, my trunk provider for Brax virtual phone is actually in Canada. So I’m not directly subject to USA, PSTN requirement. When someone is searching through phone records and searching through texts, the main advantage of this NoSim solution is that there is no corresponding identity to make an easy match. Now, again, we need to understand that this is not perfect. Governments in particular will track you if they know who you are calling.

So, though they may not be able to identify you directly, they can if the person you’re calling has a regular phone number with their KYC ID. I don’t normally think of this since I’m not a targeted individual and have never committed any crime. So this is not a global concern for all. However, aside from that, there is the benefit of disappearing from the mass surveillance grid. It’s even better if both parties are actually on a Brax virtual phone since then both parties have no identities. Here’s an interesting little feature I will demonstrate again. If two parties have Brax virtual phone, you can dial each other by extension.

When you sign up for Brax virtual phone, you will be given an extension number and you can call anyone on the same service just with that extension. Let me just demonstrate that extension calling. Now, what’s the benefit here? Well, actually, this is quite special. When you do extension to extension calling, there is no record on the phone network. This is not classified as a PSDN call. There is no billing info associated with it, and there are no records even on the trunk provider. So we will have two people calling using normal phone lines, but with no apparent surveillance information.

There’s another major benefit to using a Brax virtual phone type of service. And this is that you can provide a different phone number to various platforms for two-factor authentication. Instead of giving these sites your regular phone number, you give them your virtual phone number and your identity is not ultra apparent. They can’t search you on the phone number databases that they have. This is actually a major issue since many sites use the phone number to confirm your real identity. Now that I’ve described this solution, how do you actually use this in real life? You actually have a range of choices.

You have the option of forwarding all calls and texts to email. This is even more interesting because here you don’t even need any special device to receive incoming messages. Your texts and calls can all arrive by email. The only time you’d need to use an app like Linphone and need internet would be to make an outgoing phone call. Now here’s another unique feature here. SMS or texting can be done anonymously using the Braxme app itself. So this means you don’t even need to install anything if you’re interested in just the texting portion. This is particularly useful if you’re using the Brax virtual phone primarily for 2FA.

Let’s talk about the many hybrid solutions that solve the main problem and that is the lack of internet. Without a SIM card, the phone has no internet. The first option is to use a data-only SIM card. Now this is hard to get in the US as carriers deliberately block phones from using this if the device is able to make a phone call. But there are hotspot devices, sometimes called MiFi, like this device here from Netgear, which is called an LTE modem. Cell data is all about internet connectivity. Cell data doesn’t actually go through the PSDN, so it exists as a separate channel on the phone.

Your data traffic gets routed directly to the internet. And you can use the normal internet encryption protocols and VPNs to obscure the traffic all you want. So normally this is a safe solution. Obviously, data-only SIM cards may still require KYC if purchased from a US carrier, so it is definitely not anonymous. However, the absence of phone or texting traffic limits any surveillance. By the way, I have this Netgear modem and I did a video about it before. But I didn’t like my particular service, which was T-Mobile, on this because they were throttling the data on hotspot.

So just make sure to find a carrier that will not throttle. Also, the advantage of a separate device is that your main calling device, like the phone, is insulated from attacks that can happen on the hotspot device. For example, it should be immune from Stingray-type attacks or even baseband modem attacks like SIM jacking. There are definitely cybersecurity benefits. And of course, there’s no need to use this constantly, as you can always use Wi-Fi and turn this device on only if you need internet remotely. Using it occasionally and only when you’re on the move limits the attack surface.

The other similar option is to carry another phone and make it a hotspot. This actually works better for some carriers as it does not get throttled. Let’s say this phone has a regular SIM card with a phone number. Remember that that doesn’t matter if no one calls you or you call no one on that number. This works particularly well if you never give out that number. So you could use it as a dedicated hotspot only and only in cases where it is needed. Again, think of the hybrid use cases. You use Wi-Fi at home most of the time and you use these hotspot or data only options only if needed.

As another example, you can put an actual SIM card on your D Google phone that is running Brax virtual phone as your normal phone service. But here you have the option to turn off the SIM card when not in use. So that makes it disappear from view and cannot be recognized by a stingray. You’ll need a phone that can disable the SIM card. This is a standard feature on D Google phones. So understand this little detail if you turn on your SIM card but never make a call on it or send a text, then there is no data to capture other than perhaps a rough location.

Here’s another option. Use prepaid SIM cards. Then there is no identity associated with this SIM even with the location. Check out the advantage here though. The Brax virtual phone number still exists and you always have it the same number. The phone number need not change even when you keep changing SIM cards. Think about this combination. Again, prepaid SIM cards plus Brax virtual phone. This is probably the most convenient. The solutions I mentioned here are quite usable for those who realize that their lives do not revolve around the mobile phone. Those who can wait for phone and text messages to arrive via email and those not obsessed with mobile apps.

If you’re more of a PC type of person, then this will work well. What these solutions offer though is a way to disappear from the grid, at least as far as phone traffic is concerned. You still have the ability to use the phone network, but your general presence via an identity is eliminated. For protecting yourself against being searched online, this should be very effective. Now together with a de-google phone, which hides you from big tech tracking, the No SIM solution hides you from carrier and government mass surveillance. In case you’re wondering, the Brax virtual phone service used as an example in this video is one of the products you’ll find in the Braxme store.

This particular service is very inexpensive, likely one of the lowest priced voice over IP options available. The starting tier is only $60 a year, which is $5 a month. There are options for unlimited calls and texts as well. We offer other products on the store, including various de-google phones, which is a perfect privacy pair with Brax virtual phone service. We also have our identity free Braxmail product and our VPN service, BitesVPN, to hide your IP address. Come join us on our community on Braxme and the store is there when you sign up. Thank you for watching and see you next time.

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See more of Rob Braxman Tech on their Public Channel and the MPN Rob Braxman Tech channel.

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