from the no-matter-what-phone-it-is dept
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 "location" tidbit is particularly interesting, in part because that's one point that Senator Ron Wyden has asked the NSA to discuss repeatedly: whether or not it's tracking people's location info based on their mobile phones, and the NSA has denied that they do (or, rather, indicated that they're not doing that currently).
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.
As for the Blackberry, that's often been pitched because it was supposedly much more secure than other phones -- but the NSA figured out how to get around that. And here's an interesting tidbit: for a little while, they lost access because RIM changed how it encrypted its data:
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, it changed the way in compresses its data. But in March 2010, the department responsible declared it had regained access to BlackBerry data and celebrated with the word, "champagne!"The 2010 cracking of Blackberry data is interesting, because we've noted previously that the NSA had claimed a "major" breakthrough in breaking encryption in 2010. This was first reported by James Bamford a few years ago, and discussed in more detail just last week with the revelation about their encryption hacking efforts. These may have been different breakthroughs, but interesting to see the timing.
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.
Either way, it's yet more confirmation of the capabilities of the NSA to tap into almost anything if it really wants to.