Der Spiegel:National Security Agency can intercept Smartphone data
One of Germany’s leading print weekly newspaper Der Spiegel has reported National Security Agency, a United States spy agency has the capability to access user data from various smartphone platforms like Android, iPhones and Blackberries devices, according to secret documents sighted by German media on spy agency documents it sighted that claim the spy bureau has working groups aiming to get access to data held on the phones, and that these have succeeded in compromising devices from leading manufacturers. In reference to the documents sighted by the German media organization, the surveillance of smartphones by US security agencies is limited. However, individuals are targeted depending on each case and surveillance is implemented without the smartphone makers’ knowledge. It is in public light that National Security Agency accesses any personal data stored on smartphones including but not limited to text messages, photos, users contact list, notes, geographical location information and videos among others. Der Spiegel newspaper quoted documents that mentioned a specific case where the National Security Agency was able to hack in to a person’s computer by means of an iPhone set up to sync with it.
The newspaper also revealed that Blackberry devices email service, which have been for a long time been considered immune to spies and most secure among all devices until now there is a high possibility that Canadian company devices could also be compromised by the National Security Agency and its United Kingdom sister counterpart, Government Communication Headquarters. In a quick rejoinder to the German newspaper, Blackberry spokesperson told Der Spiegel that there was no way its platform would be compromised although they refused to comment on alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic. Der Spiegel revelations of smartphone surveillance capabilities comes hot on heel after National Security Agency fugitive contractor Edward Snowden revealed how spy agency has made a concerted effort to circumvent and undermine encryption protocols commonly used to secure data traffic. The NSA sought 19 years ago to introduce the so-called Clipper chip encryption device for use in computers and telecommunications equipment, with the government holding the unscrambling key in escrow. Civil liberties organizations vehemently opposed the Clipper chip that made it possible for agencies that obtained the decryption key from the government to listen in on communications, and the device was not adopted by manufacturers.
Electronic Frontier Foundation co founder John Gilmore has noted that the National Security Agency took part in and led the Internet Engineering Task Force committee developing the Internet Protocol Security standard which is a suite of protocols used to authenticate traffic, and also to encrypt data packets for end-to-end security. It is commonly used for virtual private networking secure communications applications. John Gilmore also notes that committee participants with National Security Agency connections suggest measures that reduced privacy or security for the Internet Protocol Security standard and retain a way for the protocol to specify that no encryption is applied. According to John Gilmore the National Security Agency staff are said to have lied to the Internet Engineering Task Force standards committees by claiming that United States export controls banned debating secure cellphone encryption protocols with non-Americans in attendance. Internet companies have expressed deep concern over National Security Agency plot to subvert encryption and authentication protocols, claiming they could be abused. Multiple research documents have shown that the current cellphone encryption for voice packets is easily breakable along with that used for the control channel and in response to news of the National Security Agency allegedly tampering with security protocols, a Democrat congressman, Rush Holt, has tabled a bill in the US House of Representatives that would ban the agency from degrading commonly used encryption.