Before the recent apprehension of the suspected billionaire kidnapper kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, little or none, was known that there is a mobile phone called ‘Vertu’, which he used to perpetrate his crimes. Science writer, STANLEY CHIBUIHEM AMALAHA, takes a look at this world’s most expensive phone and the unique sophistication that distinguishes it from other mobile phones.
Serendipity is an invention or discovery of interesting or pleasant thing by chance. It has been playing great roles in science.
Typical example of serendipitous discoveries include: the ‘Good Year Tyres’, by American Charles Goodyear. The Spectrum (Seven colours) of White Light, by Sir Isaac Newton, to mention but a few.
Although, the act being perpetrated with the phone is evil, but the apprehension of the kingpin and the popularization of the phone which he was using to carry his act, could be likened to serendipity.
Vertu phones have been in existence for years. However, it was not until the recent apprehension of Evans that they become popular to many Nigerians.
Vertu was a British manufacturer and retailer of luxury handmade mobile phones, which was established in 1998 by Nokia, a Finnish mobile phone manufacturer.
In October 2012, Nokia sold Vertu to private equity group (a Turkish businessman Hakan Uzan) and retained 10 per cent share. Presently, Vertu, otherwise called ‘mobile communications instruments,’ are made in its factories in Church Crookham, Hampshire, England.
Its offices are located in New York City, Dubai, Moscow, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore. Few months ago, Vertu Telecommunications Company collapsed and eventually went out of business in early this month (July 2017).
The concept of producing luxury mobile phones Vertu, was to market phones explicitly as fashion accessories, with the idea; “If you can spend $20,000 (about N7.2 million) on a wrist watch, why not on a mobile phone?, says the Economist, a British International Magazine.
Most Vertu phones are made of Sapphire, which is the second hardest material on earth after diamonds, hereby making it scratch-safe. It is five times stronger than glass. It is the world’s most expensive phone and has different models.
Cell phones that do not require a compulsory registration of identify are usually called “burners” or “burner phones”. Assuming police has the highest chances to trace identity and location of mobile phones (since they have rightful access to all possible instruments). “Using traditional burner phones does not constitute an obstacle to the investigation process.
In order ways, traditional burner phones are not untreatable depending on the capacity of the instruments a particular country has”, says The Economist.
According to Prof. Ogbonna Oparaku, Former Director, National Energy Center, Nsukka, Enugu State, ‘Turaya and Vertu phones are satellite phones, which operate directly with the aid of satellite.
Unlike other phones with mandatory registration of prepaid SIM cards, which make use of electromagnetic waves through base stations and service provides, Vertu phones can operate without SIM cards.
In the same highlight, “Thuraya and Vertu phones can operate without SIM cards. They are satellite phones. In Nigeria, we don’t have the capability to track them, because they have in-built software that makes them untrackable, “says Charles Arungwa, a Lagos-based software engineer.
A senior police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on Evans, said. “A Thuraya, and two Vertu phones with dubiously registered SIM cards and 162 phones lines were recovered from him.
Investigation shows that there are 36 more SIM cards outside the already recovered ones. He has 11 phones worth millions of Naira. These made it difficult to arrest him for a long time because Thuraya and Vertu phones can operate without SIM cards thereby making them beyond tracking.
“That is the kind of phone Boko Haram terrorist group is using in the desert. Similarly, these phones can operate even where there is no network,“ he added.
According to online publication by Vertu Phone Manufactures Company England, “We provide untraceable encrypted phones, to be more precise; we do offer a service that allows our users to use untraceable encrypted phones.
We call our phones “burners” in the sense that: you do not have the obligation to register your identity when you purchase one. Our phones inherit their characteristic of being untraceable because, they are not connected to any cellular network whatsoever.
To be more precise our phones do not connect to any circuit switched network. They are connected exclusively to the Internet using WiFi and automatically link to a VPN gateway chosen by our users, and located in 80 different countries.
Our users can choose a different gateway at every call and we are not aware of which gateway they use. Our VPN networks are encrypted and the traffic obfuscated.
In this way, neither the network operator that provides the link to the phone generating the call, nor the operator providing the link to the phone receiving the call, are aware of the fact that a call is taking place, PLUS, since our data path triangulates the traffic over at least 5 different countries, two of which with no data retention law, neither the source operator is aware of where the call is directed, nor the receiving operator is aware of where the call is sourced.
In this way we provide untraceability to our users. To be clear our users can communicate only in between each other, to avoid illicit use.
Preventing phones from tracking
Research studies carried out by Science Telegraph show that the following methods help for preventing mobile phones from been tracked.
Location technology in cell phones could be helpful for example, when looking for the nearest gas station, but it can also enable others to retrieve information about your whereabouts, legally or illegally.
One method of location tracking involves the use of wireless signals to triangulate your position between cell towers. Another method uses the GPS radio on your phone to pinpoint your location.
A third method uses the Wi-Fi hotspot to which you’re connected to approximate your current position. If you suspect you are being tracked using your cell phone, disabling any of these features can prevent you from being tracked.
Turn off the cellular and Wi-Fi radios on your phone. The easiest way to accomplish this task is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature.
This shuts down both your cell radios, as well as, the Wi-Fi radio installed inside your phone so that neither of them can connect to their respective networks.
Disable your GPS radio
Disable your GPS radio. Some phones have this as a stand-alone setting, while others bundle it into menus like Privacy or Location Settings.
Turning off location-based features on your phone can prevent your GPS from being activated, which in turn keeps it from providing your phone’s location.
On some phones, activating “Airplane Mode” will also disable the GPS. Checking your phone’s user manual for exact instructions will be helpful.
Removing the battery
Shut the phone down completely and remove the battery. This is the easiest way to ensure that you can’t be tracked via your cell phone, but it comes at the price of not being able to use your phone at all. If you need access to any data on your phone, back it up to a PC before you power down your device.