Secret, anonymous messages aren’t just for the dastardly. Luckily, a little privacy isn’t difficult to get. With some effort and a spare phone, you’ll be whistleblowing, protecting your privacy from harassers, and staying anonymous when selling on Craigslist or looking for dates on Match. Here’s how.
That’s right; we’re building a “ghost phone.” A device you can use to generate a phone number and send completely anonymous texts. Our “ghost phone” works best over Wi-Fi, preferably not your Wi-Fi, so you can stay untraceable. There are ways to use cellular data here too, especially with a VPN (which we’ll talk about later), but if you want to be really untraceable, Wi-Fi is the way to go.
Of course, when we talk about who needs something like this, the people that probably jump to mind probably aren’t very nice. Remember though, not everyone with something important to say is willing to say it publicly.
Whistleblowers and activists are some good and noble examples of people whose privacy we want to protect, but it’s handy for everyday life, too. Think about how handy it’d be to have a “ghost phone” to sell stuff over Craigslist. Or maybe you’d rather use your “ghost phone” to screen your online dates. Maybe you just want to prank your friends. Maybe you’re an activist, and record street harassment, violence, or protests, and want to make your information public as soon as possible—but without being immediately traceable. If any of those sound like you, this is a worthwhile project.
Before we begin, there are a few things you’ll need:
- An old or spare smartphone (iOS or Android). You could do this with your normal, everyday phone, but the goal here is to be as untraceable as possible, and your real phone carries and leaks a ton of data about you, where you go, and what you do. The disposability of an old device that’s doing nothing but acting as a ghost texting phone is important here. Plus, worst case you can always wipe it or toss it, no harm no foul.
- Hushed, an app that can generate disposable numbers for calls and texts, and then send texts over Wi-Fi from behind that number.
- A free, no-login VPN like Cyberghost or Hideman to encrypt your texts and anonymize your location (especially useful if you’re stuck using your own Wi-Fi.)
- A good Wi-Fi connection, or several—you don’t want to use your own Wi-Fi network if you want to be untraceable. Choose a coffee shop or library’s free Wi-Fi instead, and make sure you only use it while your VPN is up and connected.
We’re recommending Hushed here, but Burner, another app we’ve covered, is an alternative. However, it doesn’t have the same free trial or pay-as-you-go plans. It’s designed for people who are more concerned with maintaining those disposable numbers than staying totally anonymous. Google Voice is another option, but then you have to use a Google account (pretty much the opposite of “untraceable,” even if you use a dummy account, since you’ll need to use it repeatedly) and you only get one number to call or text from. It’s free though, which is nice. If you’re going to be doing this a lot, maybe look into the alternatives, but if your primary concerns are disposability and anonymity, stick with Hushed.
Also, when it comes to free VPNs, keep in mind that both of the services we’re recommending here reserve their best, fastest, and most reliable VPNs for paying customers—which, means you might get connection drops, lags or delays in message delivery, and so on. When I set this up myself, I had great luck with CyberGhost for a while, and then the connection dropped, so it was great to have HIdeman to switch over to, and vice versa. If you’re willing to put down money, both CyberGhost and Hideman allow you to pay using Bitcoin, so you can get more time and better connection options without leaving a paper trail for someone to find.
Sound good? Here’s how you’ll set everything up.
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