I get a lot of questions about burner phones. What kind to buy, how to buy, where to buy. The problem is, people go buy them and then use them improperly—completely defeating the purpose.
There is most definitely a right and a wrong way to use a burner phone. We’ll talk about 6 things that you should never, ever, under any circumstances do with your burner. In fact, if you have one and you have EVER done any of these things, you can assume that anything you talked about or did while it was in your possession is already known by your adversary.
1. Buy your burner phone anywhere you normally are.
This one doesn’t necessarily deal with usage, but it’s necessary to mention. If your idea of tradecraft is going to the Wal-Mart 5 miles from your house instead of the Target that’s 2 miles from your house, then please slap yourself for me. Don’t buy it near your work, your home, don’t buy it at the gas station you normally go to, the quickie mart where you get your smokes at 10pm, or anywhere else you ever go to. In fact, it’s also a good idea to not go in your own car. Don’t do anything you normally do, don’t stop anywhere you normally stop, and whatever you do, don’t take your regular phone with you. Have a cover story just in case. Always have a cover.
2. Put all your contacts in your burner.
It might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people go out of their way to purchase one “correctly,” and then immediately put their new phone side by side with their old one so they can put all their contacts in it. Or even worse, they simply log into their cloud account and download their contacts backup. I should not have to explain how beyond moronic this is. Burner phones are not for chatting people up. They’re for coordination, passing short bursts of time-sensitive information, etc. In other words, you use them if you have to, and only to speak to another burner phone.
3. Install all your regular apps.
Pay very close attention to these words from Grugq:
Just 4 apps are enough to reidentify users 95% of the time. A complete list of installed apps is unique for 99%.
Your burner phone is not your personal phone. Say that out loud to yourself until you understand it. Your burner has one purpose, and one purpose only. Don’t install Wickr on it and sign in with your regular username. Don’t install Candy Crush on it because that’s how you kill time with your regular phone. Don’t install that one app you can’t do without. Your burner is not your personal phone.