What's the Latest Development?
Internal National Security Agency (NSA) documents taken by Edward Snowden and shown to Der Spiegel reveal that the agency has figured out how to hack into most smartphones, including iPhones, most Android-based phones, and even the famously difficult-to-hack BlackBerry. Noting the speed at which the devices were permeating society, the NSA set teams of experts to studying the different operating systems -- unbeknownst to the companies themselves, according to the documents -- and looking for weaknesses. In the case of iOS, the agency created small programs that can collect data on individual system features, including voicemail, photos, and popular apps like Facebook and Google Earth.
What's the Big Idea?
The documents seen at Der Spiegel didn't indicate whether any large-scale spying on smartphone owners was taking place. However, given the relative ease with which the NSA can access data commonly found on such devices -- "social contacts, details about the user's behavior and location, interests (through search terms, for example), photos and sometimes credit card numbers and passwords" -- and the overall carelessness of users towards security, it's perhaps not surprising that one NSA presentation included slides stating, "Who knew in 1984 that [Apple founder Steve Jobs] would be Big Brother...and the zombies would be paying customers?"
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