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Are cellular phones more or less secure than landlines? It's hard to tell from watching movies, where some criminals seem to think mobiles are secure and others refuse to use them.

That's all down to the age of the movie. Old fashioned analogue mobiles are insecure. Modern digitals are safer than landlines.

Eavesdropping mobile calls

Watch TV crime movies and it's not clear whether mobile phones are more or less secure than landlines. Sometimes criminals don't like holding conversations on cell phones in case somebody is listening in, and sometimes they seem to prefer them to landlines.

What's the real story?

It all depends on how old the film is. Early mobile phones used analogue (analog) technology, which made life easy for eavesdroppers. The British newspapers once published details of a mobile phone conversation involving the late Princess of Wales - the so-called Squidgy tapes. This was picked up using a legal, portable scanner.

But nowadays almost all cell phones are digital, which makes them inaccessible to mere amateurs, and tricky even for professional spies.

At one stage, the US security services tried to resist the introduction of the best digital cellular phone technology to the US because they knew it would make their job so much harder.

So here's the bottom line. If you use an old-fashioned analogue mobile, it's possible for anybody with a good knowledge of electronics to listen in to your call.

If you use a modern digital phone, you only have to worry about eavesdroppers with official status, such as the intelligence services and police, and even they find it hard work.

Ultimately they can listen to every call you make if they want to, but unless you're a very big bad fish indeed, it's highly unlikely.

In general, modern mobiles are far more secure than landlines.

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