Do you get text messages on your smartphone? If you do, then your phone can also be remotely accessed — its cameras and microphones are secretly activated for government spies to see, hear and capture your private moments, even if it is switched off.
US National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden has revealed in a recent interview that spying agencies around the world possess tools that allow them to “take over” smartphones with just a text message — and that there is “very little” the phone owners can do to stop it, reported independent.co.uk.
He explained to BBC’s Panorama that these SMSes are specially crafted so that they would pass unnoticed by the targeted phone users.
“It’s called an ‘exploit’,” BBC quoted him as saying. “That’s a specially crafted message that’s texted to your number like any other text message but when it arrives at your phone it’s hidden from you. It doesn’t display. You paid for it (the phone) but whoever controls the software owns the phone.”
While espionage units globally were engaged in digital spying, he cited the UK intelligence agency GCHQ and its American counterpart NSA as having invested in smartphone hacking in the most prolific way.
According to him, the set of smartphone spying tools with GCHQ is called “Smurf Suite” and each of the individual tools has its own name — “Nosey Smurf”, for instance, lets spies turn on the microphone of the targeted handset, said independent.co.uk.
“Dreamy Smurf is the power management tool which means turning your phone on and off without you knowing,” Snowden told BBC.
“Tracker Smurf is a geo-location tool which allows (GCHQ) to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.”
Then there is something called Paranoid Smurf.
“It’s a self-protection tool that’s used to armor (GCHQ’s) manipulation of your phone. For example, if you wanted to take the phone in to get it serviced because you saw something strange going on or you suspected something was wrong, it makes it much more difficult for any technician to realize that anything’s gone amiss.”
While GCQH declined to comment when sought by BBC, citing its policy, an official spokesperson has said in a statement: “All of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate.”
Snowden, who has been charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents to the media about digital espionage, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013.
The British government is planning legislation that would give more powers to intelligence agencies to monitor online activity to investigate crime.
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