[cryptography] NSA can spy on smart phone data

ianG iang at iang.org
Sun Sep 8 13:11:47 EDT 2013


Privacy Scandal: NSA Can Spy on Smart Phone Data

SPIEGEL has learned from internal NSA documents that the US intelligence 
agency has the capability of tapping user data from the iPhone, devices 
using Android as well as BlackBerry, a system previously believed to be 
highly secure.

The United States' National Security Agency intelligence-gathering 
operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all 
leading manufacturers. Top secret NSA documents that SPIEGEL has seen 
explicitly note that the NSA can tap into such information on Apple 
iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Google's Android mobile operating system.

The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most 
sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS 
traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been.

The documents also indicate that the NSA has set up specific working 
groups to deal with each operating system, with the goal of gaining 
secret access to the data held on the phones.

In the internal documents, experts boast about successful access to 
iPhone data in instances where the NSA is able to infiltrate the 
computer a person uses to sync their iPhone. Mini-programs, so-called 
"scripts," then enable additional access to at least 38 iPhone features.

The documents suggest the intelligence specialists have also had similar 
success in hacking into BlackBerrys. A 2009 NSA document states that it 
can "see and read SMS traffic." It also notes there was a period in 2009 
when the NSA was temporarily unable to access BlackBerry devices. After 
the Canadian company acquired another firm the same year, it changed the 
way in compresses its data. But in March 2010, the department 
responsible at Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency declared in a top 
secret document it had regained access to BlackBerry data and celebrated 
with the word, "champagne!"

The documents also state that the NSA has succeeded in accessing the 
BlackBerry mail system, which is known to be very secure. This could 
mark a huge setback for the company, which has always claimed that its 
mail system is uncrackable.

In response to questions from SPIEGEL, BlackBerry officials stated, "It 
is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government 
surveillance of telecommunications traffic." The company said it had not 
programmed a "'back door' pipeline to our platform."

The material viewed by SPIEGEL suggests that the spying on smart phones 
has not been a mass phenomenon. It has been targeted, in some cases in 
an individually tailored manner and without the knowledge of the smart 
phone companies.

Visit SPIEGEL ONLINE International on Monday for the full article.

More information about the cryptography mailing list