Scanners and Cell Phones?

The good citizens of rural Maine apparently use police scanners a fair bit as a supplement to their regular forms of entertainment. The scanners are so ubiquitous that when I am on call, the caller (from some local hospital) is reluctant to proceed with the call unless I am on a ‘secure’ phone. They feel that a ‘secure’ phone is a wired landline.

While I’m aware that older cordless phones could be intercepted by scanners, the idea that a commercial scanner could monitor a modern cell phone (say… a Motorola Razr) seems ridiculous to me. When I’ve expressed this thought to my colleagues, I am assured with deep seriousness that scanners can monitor cell phone transmissions with relative ease. No one up here has ever seen The Wire, as far as I can tell.

My question to the group mind - am I being naive here? Should I worry that some nosy citizen can listen in on my cellular calls?

They’re idiots. Cell-to-cell calls aren’t gonna get picked up on a radio scanner.

Nosy Citizen? I suppose if they’re Rupert Murdoch or some other Bond villain it’s possible, but even the News of the World case here seems to be limited to paying off phone company employees to pass on billing and SMS information rather than sitting in a white van outside celebrities houses listening to their phone calls.

Pre GSM it was trivially easy, as our royal family found out, to listen in on mobile calls.

But if they’re worried about eavesdroppers I’d suggest they ditch the landline in favour of a mobile and if they’re really worried, put additional encryption software on the handsets. It’s commercially available for most modern smartphone OSes.

Landlines absolutely aren’t secure, GSM at least has some encryption even if it can technically be broken in realtime.

If you have a standard analog landline, I stand outside your house at the grey interchange box (where the phone company wires meet your internal phone wiring) and listen to all your phone calls with one of these (the probe on the left, not the tone generator on the right):

Odds are I won’t even have to unscrew anything, just get the probe in the right spot, and it’ll all come out the built-in speaker.