The National Security Agency (NSA) has teams devoted to cracking and monitoring every type of smartphone, including the iPhone, Android devices, and the Blackberry, according to a report published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Once the team has bypassed security measures built into these popular devices, all user data stored on them is instantly accessible to the surveillance squad.
Based on information gleaned from a cache of documents produced by the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, the magazine reports that the intelligence agencies have mustered specialized teams assigned to work on developing advanced surveillance measures particular to the type of phone.
The full panoply of data stored on the phone is then susceptible to the surveillance and being stored by the snoops; this includes call logs, contact lists, text messages, notes, and GPS location markers.
According to its analysis of the internal documents, Der Spiegel reports that there is nothing in the information it obtained indicating that the NSA is conducting the type of wholesale, dragnet surveillance of smartphones as was revealed earlier this summer by Edward Snowden.
This capability exposes millions of people worldwide to the constant view of agents of the NSA. As reported by Der Spiegel:
In Germany, more than 50 percent of all mobile phone users now possess a smartphone; in the UK, the share is two-thirds. About 130 million people in the US have such a device. The mini-computers have become personal communication centers, digital assistants and life coaches, and they often know more about their users than most users suspect.
The documents cited in the magazine’s story indicate that the NSA scrambled to keep up with the proliferation of smartphones. As the devices were adopted by more and more telecommunications customers, the spies initiated new programs specifically created to crack the technologically advanced phones. Der Spiegel describes the push to put the popular devices under the NSA’s ever-watchful eye:
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