NSA can reportedly tap smartphone users' data

Intelligence-gathering agency has created working groups to access contacts lists, SMS, and user location on the three most popular mobile platforms, according to classified documents viewed by Spiegel.

The National Security Agency has the ability to access user data on three of the most popular smartphone platforms, including BlackBerry's e-mail system, according to classified documents viewed by German news outlet Spiegel.

The US intelligence-gathering agency has created platform-specific working groups to tap the contact lists, SMS traffic, and user location information on the Apple iOS, Google Android, and BlackBerry mobile operating systems, the documents indicate. NSA scripts allow the agency to access at least 38 iPhone features after the agency infiltrates the computer used to sync the device, Spiegel reported.

The documents also indicate that the agency has succeeded at cracking the encryption for BlackBerry's e-mail system, previously considered very secure. The Canadian handset maker told the newspaper that it had not programmed a backdoor pipeline to provide access to data on the platform but declined to comment on the surveillance allegations.

The alleged telecommunications surveillance has been a targeted activity that was performed without the smartphone makers' knowledge, the newspaper reported.

CNET has contacted the NSA for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

The allegations emerge on the heels of a report last week that the NSA had created a program to circumvent encryption intended to protect digital communications. The agency bypassed common Internet encryption methods in a number of ways, including hacking into the servers of private companies to steal encryption keys, collaborating with tech companies to build in back doors, and covertly introducing weaknesses into encryption standards, according to the New York Times.

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls -- in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established "listening posts" that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls.

 

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