No question. Cellphones are more convenient portable communication tools than landlines. And yet convenience is too often a killer of security, privacy, and, increasingly, IQ and good mental health.
No question. Neither iOS nor Android offer total security and privacy. Regardless how much you pay for your mobile device, how many features, or what advertising, marketing, or PR suggests.
Yes. Flaunting and splurging on new smartphones and tablets is all the rage now. No. It doesn't mean the majority are smart for relying so much on them. Nor does it mean landlines, extinct. Yet. And critically, never let anyone with a sentimental attachment to smartphones sell you myths.
Wherever you ideologically stand on analogue, digital, or VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones, the goal here is simply to dispel any false myths regarding the security of mobile telephony, smartphones, and any dismissive attitudes to landlines. Here are 10 pros and cons to consider:An In-depth Analysis & Comparison of VoIP vs. Landline Phone Systems
Whether you use WhatsApp, Signal, Skype, Telegram, iMessage, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Chinese WeChat/Weixin or countless similar instant messaging software, “also known as Internet calling, IP telephony, voice over network and Internet telephony...VoIP uses your Internet connection to make calls. Your voice is transmitted as data over the Internet.”
Meaning, unlike fixed phones or landlines, you don't have to be tethered to a corded or cordless landline phone with its limited range and portability, or expensive (long distance) international call rates hindering your ability to start and seamlessly maintain communication with anyone in real-time across the globe. Especially, with most using a mobile phone.
Which is where the convenience via mobile apps begin. Albeit reliable connectivity, excellent signal, and security are another matter entirely.In case this in-depth article is too dense for you, the first reason I personally prefer landlines is that: Data is a toxic asset. And all cellphones, however shiny, expensive, or whatever Apple says about security and privacy, have not just an SS7 problem but an exhaustive list of flaws addressed below, that effectively make them tracking, spying, and sophisticated cyber crime facilitators that leak your private data in a billion or more different ways.
That, in most cases, can't be said of landlines. So, are your calls more secure with landline or with VoIP?
Click or tap above for a more detailed answer. But basically, landlines are, by design, not hacker-friendly. Which is a good thing as “neither of these methods of communication is completely safe and private. Authorities can wiretap your conversations in both settings. Hackers can too, but hackers find it more difficult to hack and eavesdrop on the telephone line than on VoIP.” See the better cost-saving and security/privacy balance argument further below (#8 - 10).
Regardless, study the hyperlinked images above (click/tap image) to understand what follows as we segue into mild to serious fraud and a multitude of inconvenient, even, life-threatening security risks and cyber crimes your favorite mobile expose you and others to.The Attack Surface and Attack Vectors Problem
Your cellphone may be able to fry eggs, bake bread, deliver Pizza, and enable free chat. But at what cost to your privacy and security, compared to the relative simplicity and security of landlines?
Signal (above) is among the best of them. And yet, practically every 24 hours, vulnerabilities in VoIP such as the Android bug that allowed hackers to answer calls on behalf of users are either discovered, or exploited. And that is because regardless the security and marketing hype, all these apps widen your attack surface and attack vectors.
By definition, “an attack surface is the total sum of vulnerabilities that can be exploited to carry out a security attack. Attack surfaces can be physical or digital. The term attack surface is often confused with the term attack vector, but they are not the same thing. The surface is what is being attacked; the vector is the means by which an intruder gains access.” And if smart, your goal is to reduce your attack surface to the point where it is pointless to target you, because there isn't much of anything to hit, steal, manipulate, or sabotage.
In other words, “both physical and digital attack surfaces should be limited in size to protect devices from anonymous, public access.” Which brings us to attack vectors, which include the selfsame convenient features we want, not just in messaging apps but a plethora of tools and resources.As you'll learn if you click or tap above, one of WhatsApp's recent flaws involved an attack vector enabling access to, and theft of user files.
An attack vector is “the technique by means of which unauthorized access can be gained to a device or a network by hackers for nefarious purposes. In other words, it is used for assaulting or exploiting a network, computer or device. Attack vectors help unauthorized elements to exploit the vulnerabilities in the system or network, including the human elements.
Examples of attack vectors are email attachments, pop-up windows, deception, chat rooms, viruses and instant messages.” Pricely why Hong Kong protesters had a reason to be alarmed when it was discovered that a convenient Telegram group chat feature actually exposed members' identity.Convenience is not a strong suit of landlines. But users smart enough to appreciate them understand that they reduce the considerably greater attack vectors mobile devices open one up to.For example, widely popular in China and “mandatory in some workplaces”, the Xi Jinping propaganda cult app (above), according to a new report: doubles as a powerful Communist Party surveillance tool, with root (or 'superuser') access to users' text messages, pictures, as well the ability to turn on users' microphones and eavesdrop without their knowledge.
In the case of Mainland Chinese waxing eloquent about convenience while the Communist Party heavily surveils and abuses user data privacy and human rights through apps like WeChat/Weixin, which smart Chinese (and foreigners) know to avoid like the plague, the fact that a BBC tech reporter (no less) was whinging about his mobile app problems is proof that most users missed the memo.Robocalls vs. Massive Bank & Financial Fraud via Mobile App Security Holes
When I returned to the U.S. after over a decade in the Asia Pacific, I was offered a landline by a business and personal friend who didn't use it because of his distaste for robocalls. His telecommunications provider had bundled the services he wanted for his small business with a fixed line that he wouldn't touch.
I happily took it, knowing that fundamentally, a good telco will automatically block robocalls and often, for free, just as they do pharming and similarly sophisticated, more dangerous attacks. But generally speaking, you're more likely to be a pharming victim as a smartphone owner constantly trading your security and privacy for convenience, than you are as a dedicated fixed line user, as the opportunities for massive fraud and cyber crimes are considerably diminished.
From massive bank app security holes (click/tap below) to organizations with low risk intelligence regarding mobile security, to never-ending Apple bug and serious security woes and phony AVs to ads that make Android security is hot mess, the staggering amount of data security and privacy baggage, many of them, business-killing threats, that accompany smartphones is clear only to clear-headed risk intelligent and risk mature folks prepared to deal with the results of their own threat assessments. As seen above, even End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is barely making a dent due variegated attacks.The Limits of E2EE vs. Landlines
E2EE was “intended to prevent data being read or secretly modified, other than by the true sender and recipient(s)”. Except that in the jungle of mobile device and application security, E2EE is akin to a well defended door or gate to a fortress with no contingencies for tunnels being used to breach security.
Or, for Game of Thrones fans, flying dragons raining fire and mayhem on the best battalions, from above.
Unlike the limited attack surface of landlines, E2EE is repeatedly exposed as flawed, just when overly tech-focused security "experts" think they have everything from Telegram to Signal and WhatsApp figured out. And despite well-resourced state actors like China hacking the selfsame service providers.Even The Department of Homeland Security Will Admit It: Cellphones Really Aren't Safe
They may be taking over homes and businesses alright, but in case you missed the memo by now, cellphones really aren't at all secure. And the SS7 flaw alone (click/tap above) is a sobering reminder of the silliness of spending so much money on shiny, supposedly “new” smartphone iterations stuck with the same ignored nonfixable flaws. Essentially, new and improved expensive spying and hacker devices. All things you can't say about fixed line (corded) phones. Patch management and maintenance included.
...and all the countless cyber crimes a smartphones expose you to. It's easier to teach yourself and your staff about CEO fraud (also known as Business Email Compromise) via landlines, than the nebulous and voluminous how-tos(s) of keeping up with, and mitigating emerging smartphone hacks, flaws or updates. Bearing in mind, hackers options. This too, is an advantage of fixed line phones.
Cryptocurrency investors are losing money left and right. And their mobile phones are facilitating their losses. A classic case of: MO' tech, MO' security problems. Yet they're not learning. As one said: “I lost north of $100,000 last Wednesday. It evaporated over a 24-hour time span in a “SIM port attack” that drained my Coinbase account. It has been four days since the incident and I’m gutted.”
Cellphone-based security and privacy breaches are costly. But with landlines, the menu of options for crime is limited. Plus, it's easier to tip off the target and set off alarms. But with cellphones, the sky is the limit. Especially the more exposed, over-extended, and over-dependent one is on smartphone apps and functionalities.Then There's The Simjacker Flaw
Another nonfixable embedded problem — hackers' exploit delight — that doesn't respect the latest and greatest mobile device. Click/tap above.
“It all started when researchers detected unusual and suspicious SMS events in the last quarter of 2018, and when actively monitored, they recorded nearly 25,000 Simjacker messages attempted to be sent to 1500 unique mobile devices in a period of 30 days.”
Indeed at the time of writing, several hundred million SIM cards and major telecommunication service providers and their customers affected, across at least 29 countries. Details below.Security researchers, who also “also observed that the attackers were attempting to use dedicated SS7 attacks against some users in case SimJacker attacks failed”, believe that “prior to the discovery, they would have successfully tracked the location of many thousands of mobile subscribers over months and probably years.”
There's a handy FAQ here. But once again, landlines are not saddled with such problems.
Without tight regulatory oversight, businesses will do whatever is most profitable. But just because smartphones are a trillion dollar market running on the data of unwitting consumers, just like cyber criminals, doesn't mean cellphones in general are better for you.Do The Math: From Digital Sanity To Home Security, Does Silicon Valley Control You?
Sure doesn't control me. Click/tap above to at least see the video before answering the question.
Personally, I'm 100% mobile app-free and more than content, mentally healthy, and ruthlessly productive, using a $16 Nokia phone whose credit I topped-up for only less than $7 in the last several months. Pure sanity. And yet you wouldn't know that I'm a security technologist who passes on every smartphone gift he gets, fixes or hacks.
My cellphone is OFF over 23 hours a day. Less than 30 minutes, to be precise. My fixed line comes with a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) complete with Caller ID, Call Screening, several voicemails. All self-contained, therefore 100% local. Not telco-managed. Plus, a slew of advanced security and privacy features all in one unit, that I travel with. The latter is on 24/7. Except for strategic or security calculations to turn it off. Effectively, this PDA handles all incoming calls and business. Although this article was drafted in Asia, I live the exact same way when I'm back home in the United States. Plus, robocalls not blocked by my telco is, by my PDA. Monthly phone/Internet bill? About $42.Verdict: Do the math. Low maintenance. No apps, streaming account subscriptions; Lots of security. Yet all that doesn't mean I don't use VoIP. However, if you now understand mobile security is in fact a myth, and want smarter solutions, click or tap above to elevate your IQ with Radical Cyber, Mobile & Social Media Security IQ.
Because instead of communicating on the massively insecure smartphone ecosystems we just explored above, I conduct my productivity and most business on better-secured desktop ecosystems and landlines. So why spend so much on a device, apps, service costs and all, that, even with a Faraday Shield (see link above), can still be used to compromise your security and privacy in a million different, ever-evolving ways?
Your home security system meanwhile, doesn't have to be hard-wired and vulnerable to sabotage. “For the same price or less as your previous, hard-wired security system you can have a completely wireless system that operates on its own cell phone network.” Or better, a double redundancy home security system that leverages the advantages of both cellular and landline technology.Landlines Help You Escape Stupidity More Than Smartphones Make The Average Person Smarter
Smartphones have many trapped in a cycle of stupidity and dysfunction. (Click/tap above for story). Yet with landlines, you can only do so much, fostering a certain level of productivity at the least. Plus, porn site surfing sponsored by mom or dad using a landline, is not an option, unlike smartphones, say. After all, with a landline, barring outgoing calls is an effective, plain vanilla cost-saving option. Whereas buying mobile devices for spoiled kids only unleashes unforeseeable costly monsters.
Never underestimate the wisdom of the so-called dumb phone in contributing to your quest to avoid not only being a cyber crime victim, but perhaps more importantly, simply as person free from the stresses and mental health issues associated with smartphones. As demonstrated above, and as evident in the news, there are a lot of smartphone users who aren't smart.
Verdict: Even if you don't need a landline, for better self care, sanity and productivity — minus any productivity apps delusion — downshift to so-called dumb phones. And save money. Click or tap below.How to Reduce Landline Phone Bill & Other Final Thoughts
Sure, I've been help by strangers who whipped out their smartphones and went straight to maps and other apps. But despite the hype about Digital Transformation, the fact that more cost-savings and security benefits are to be found with landlines in contrast to the well-publicized damage smartphone-related security breaches cause, suggests landlines won't go extinct anytime soon. Moreover, landlines are still important for a host of other reasons. And the below fill the gaps.
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