Can You Go Off-Grid Whilst Still Using a Mobile Phone?

In today’s digital age, it seems almost impossible to live completely anonymously. Many people can be found online, simply by carrying out a simple internet search, and our mobile phones ensure that we can be located virtually anywhere.

For most, this isn’t a problem. But some people may object to others having this level of knowledge about their lives. The big question is – is it possible to go totally ‘off-grid’ while having a mobile? Or can you never be truly anonymous in the 21st century?

Slipping out of sight – while remaining technological

In realistic terms, it’s incredibly hard to be 100% undetectable while you’re using a connected mobile device. In the majority of cases, it would be impossible. However, if you’re game for having a go (for example, if you’re in training to appear on Channel 4’s hit programme Hunted) here are a few ways that you can make yourself more anonymous whilst still having a mobile phone.

  • Ditch the social media accounts. Social media provides an easy way for people to stay in touch. It also offers hackers an opportunity to access a wealth of information about your life. Posted about your forthcoming holiday? They’ll now know when your house is empty. Put up some photos of your child’s birthday? You’ve just given them valuable information about what your online passwords might be. If you really want to ‘go dark’ on your phone, stop using social media sites.
  • Browse privately. Even if you’re using a private Wi-Fi network to browse the internet, your actions could still be monitored – by the government, the internet service provider, or even a random company, wanting to tailor ad content to your browsing habits. VPNs (Virtual private networks) provide an easy way around this. Simply download a VPN app (like NordVPN or ExpressVPN), press a button to connect, then browse without detection.
  • Call and text without being monitored. There’s only one way to make calls and send texts while remaining totally anonymous, and that’s with a prepaid sim and an unlocked phone. Be aware – records of your call will still exist, but there won’t be anything that links your phone conversation or text to you. Alternatively, you could encrypt your calls with an app like Signal Private Messenger. All conversations are encrypted end-to-end, which prevents most forms of external access.
  • Prevent hacker access. This should be a top priority for everyone, regardless of whether you want to go off-grid or not. If you want to greatly reduce the chances of anyone sneakily installing mal- or spyware on your phone, don’t download anything. If you want to keep using apps, be aware that many of them ask for unnecessary access to various aspects of your device, such as the camera, your location, or your microphone. Think carefully about what you grant access too – particularly if you’re trying to remain anonymous.
  • Clear data / browsing history. This reduces the ease with which people can find out what you’ve been doing on your phone. However, it doesn’t wipe the information completely – so be warned that this isn’t a 100% fail-safe way of remaining undetectable while using your phone. The good news is that it stops casual hackers / phone thieves from accessing the information easily.
  • Be wary of cloud-based storage. Some free cloud-storage services don’t offer great online privacy. This means, whatever you upload or amend on these platforms is at risk of being accessed by others. Any online activity is essentially traceable, but if you must use cloud storage, look for a service that’s extensively encrypted. It helps to keep your files just that little bit more undetectable.

Caller Unknown

Is it ever possible to ‘disappear’ completely with a mobile phone?

Ultimately, in this day and age, it’s incredibly hard not to leave some sort of trace of yourself online. Unless you’re prepared to forgo all technology and live on a remote island somewhere, chances are that people will be able to locate you digitally, and your phone only makes this process easier.

However, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily panic about the level of access people have to your online life. There are various ways you can limit this (while still enjoying your smartphone to the max), and a good insurance package provides extra peace of mind, in case the worst does happen.

Focus on making your phone as secure as possible. There are various apps that can assist with this task, and the great news is that many are free to download.