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This is why James Bond doesn't use an iPhone – Wired.co.uk


No Time To Die is almost upon us and scores of James Bond fanatics are eager to see the spy use ingenious gadgets to save the day. But does he actually use the very best tech to get the job done? We think not. Laser Polaroid camera, anyone?

Before we get into what competent real-life spies should be using, let’s look at what Bond is set to wield in his long-delayed latest outing. Thanks to the pandemic’s cinematic shutdown, the movie will feature the Nokia 3310, Nokia 7.2 and Nokia 8.3 5G. Release dates for these phones come in at the year 2000, September 2019 and October 2020 respectively. 

Even looking past the unlikely union of Britain’s fictional super spy and Nokia, a brand that only captured a mere 0.7 per cent of the smartphone market in Q4 last year, out of date mobiles are hardly cutting edge bad-guy-beating tech – and that’s probably not entirely a good thing.

James Hadley, CEO and founder of Immersive Labs – a cybersecurity training and skills platform – and previously of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) had this to say on Bond’s untimely mobile choices. “If Bond is handed an older Android phone, he should check Q has updated the OS to prevent against new software vulnerabilities,” he says.

However, Hadley sees the merits in older phones, but they just aren’t practical for a modern spy. “There are some people who believe using ‘dumb phones’ – pre-smartphone devices less reliant on software – keep them safer,” he says. “However, this would obviously limit Bond’s ability to use even the most basic Internet applications.”

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So, for these older phones, it’s about prepping them to make them less vulnerable. As Hadley says, fingers crossed Q is savvy when it comes to modern security threats and not just lethal fountain pens. Jake Moore, a cybersecurity expert at internet security firm Eset, and a former police officer, explains: “Usually older devices come with more security threats, but if a device has been set up correctly with limited user control and bespoke tweaks, then the anti-tracking, anti-surveillance would balance out the legacy operating system and other flaws.”

What if Bond was using a bleeding-edge technology then, the very latest? Well, an iPhone would not be a good option for 007. “Untraceable phones with anti-surveillance, anti-interception and location spoofing functionality are a must for James Bond. An iPhone, however formatted, just wouldn’t be able to offer this ability to ensure tracking isn’t an option,” says Moore. “The security of an iPhone is impressive enough for the normal user, but with threats such as Pegasus around periodically it makes it difficult for a spy to use one securely and confidently.”

Haven’t heard of Pegasus? It’s a piece of NSO (an Israeli technology firm) spyware affecting the iPhone that could copy messages, record calls and even access your camera. Apple has already responded by releasing patches to fix bugs that were thought to have been exploited by Pegasus. 

“Pegasus spyware would no doubt be used by adversaries to target James Bond if he were an iPhone user,” concludes Moore. “While an iPhone might be good for capturing pictures of explosions and car chases, any downloading of embassy blueprints or covert incursions should be done on a locked-down terminal managed by a specialist team, inside a secure network,” Hadley says.

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However, there’s also more to it than Pegasus, with a recent “explosive” spyware report looking into the further concerns security experts have relating to iOS, stating Apple’s closed ecosystem approach restricts their ability to use monitoring tools and conduct investigations necessary to uncover vulnerabilities.

So, two-year-old Nokias are off the table and so are the latest iPhones. When it comes to Bond actually using secure tech for his clandestine adventures it’s about more than just devices. Here’s Hadley with a rundown on what agents dealing with secure information should consider.

“The only 100 per cent certain way to negate risk is to remove technology entirely. Some of the hardest to track targets have proven to be those who do things like writing letters and biking them to the intended recipient. For this reason, I’m sure James Bond has a healthy scepticism around technology in general, working on the assumption that everything digital can be hacked, traced and monitored – connecting to the internet using even a Q-approved device could carry risk,” Hadley says.



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