There have been stories about potential smartphone hacks for awhile, but they have been confined mostly to criminals out to steal data. Now we have confirmation that the NSA – and by extension other agencies – are able to directly hack into iPhones, Android devices and even Blackberries, which were once thought to be more safe.
Millions of people in most countries possess a smartphone at this point. Hundreds of thousands of apps are available in both the iTunes and Google Play stores. More apps from third party developers and other brands are also floating out there on the web, available for free or a small charge.
Each of these apps, as well as smartphone hard drives themselves, possess their own storage sectors that nestle data about your device, your activities, and even your location thanks to the prevalence of GPS use. The NSA has always been very interested in how this data can be used for their surveillance programs.
SPIEGEL, a German based news source, began looking into the issue and found that a 2010 internal memo addressed the growing trend of smartphone ownership and its rapid rise in popularity. Within that same memo was the outline of groups created to exploit those devices.
When they contacted different companies for more information, both Blackberry and Google denied that there was any backdoor access through apps or otherwise on their systems, nor did they allow governmental access through other means. Though the same companies also denied any knowledge of the program they had been cooperating with for years, so take that how you will.
From what I can tell, a lot of the information gathered isn’t from the device itself, but synced computers that create backup files of things like call logs and even text transcripts showing what was sent. Which doesn’t mean they can’t gain access to the phone itself, just that it unnecessary and they can do things much more easily if they take advantage of the connection you have made yourself.
I think that this is going to hit Blackberry the hardest. They have been having a difficult time with sales already, and are on the verge of selling the company. But their primary selling point has always been the security of their devices. They have always boasted greater privacy and a more advanced coding that makes hacking impossible. But the NSA has allegedly been breaking in since 2010, and even have voice telephony capabilities.
That doesn’t bode well for Blackberry in finding a buyer.
Source: SPIEGEL Online