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Government Smurfs Own Your Phone

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Government whistleblower in exile Edward Snowden warns that the US and British governments want to eavesdrop on your phone and take pictures with it.

Snowden recently said in a BBC interview that spy agencies are trying to develop tools that allow them to hack into smartphones and that there's little phone owners can do about it.  The British digital spy agency, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) can accomplish this simply by sending an encrypted text message to a target's phone.  The user can't even see the message, making it very hard to avoid letting the agency hack the phone.

The tools used by GCHQ have been codenamed after Smurfs.  Do you remember the Smurfs?  They were the little blue guys (and gal) who lived in mushrooms and were constantly hunted by Gargamel and his cat, Azreal.  Here's GCHQ's cast:

  • Dreamy Smurf has the power to turn a phone on or off without the owner's knowledge.
  • Nosey Smurf turns your phone into a microphone.  Your phone could be sitting in your pocket and GCHQ can hear anything going on around you.
  • Paranoid Smurf hides the other Smurfs spy tools.  It even makes it difficult for phone technicians to find them.
  • Tracker Smurf uses the phone's geolocation tools to see where the phone is with more precision than cell tower triangulation.

Snowden says that even though GCHQ is the agency using these tools, America's NSA spent almost a billion dollars to create the tech and provides it to the GCHQ.  He says the GCHQ is basically a client agency of the NSA.

The spy agencies claim they won't use the technology on ordinary citizens.  They're not going to use it to take over everyone's phones or read everyone's email.  But, says Snowden, "They can, and if they did you'd never know."