The spy that came in from the call... on bugged mobile.
MOBILES have everything these days: GPS, SMS, MP3... and now MI5.
In a development straight out of James Bond, spooks have worked out a way of using everyone's favourite gadget as a bugging device.
Real-life Qs have developed a crafty surveillance technique that involves sending a signal to the target mobile which reprogrammes the electronics and allows it to be used as a listening device. The affected phone - even if it is in standby mode or apparently switched off - remains in contact with the listening station, transmitting conversations picked up on its microphone.
And if you still think this is science fiction, think again. Last week, German police admitted using the system. In Britain, the Home Office have been more, well, British, saying: "We are aware of the technique but we don't comment on which techniques are used by law enforcement agencies."
The eavesdropping breakthrough is targeted against major criminals and terrorists, and offers numerous advantages over "traditional" bugging techniques. Spooks do not have to break into the target's house or car, they do not need to know where their suspect will be, and there's no need to worry about recharging a bug because the target takes care of that.
The reprogramming software is typically sent to a mobile via text message. Once installed, the software lurks in the background until the security services decide to activate it by sending a secret code. This establishes a phone link between the mobile and listening station and activates the inbuilt microphone.
The reprogramming even allows a mobile to be switched on remotely while the screen remains apparently off, preserving the illusion that the suspect's phone is safe.
Insiders with the British security services have told Scotland on Sunday that the bug gives "absolutely top notch" results, but would not give details of how much it was being used in this country.
A source said: "They are really effective because the mobile-phone microphone is so good. And they travel with the suspect."
The biggest difficulty in using the new technique is - in the UK at least - the bureaucracy involved. Investigators complain that getting permission to mount a watch takes at least half a day of form-filling, telephone intercepts require a full day, and quip that installing a bug needs "a letter from God".