New revelations from the Snowden leaks show just how pervasive NSA spying has become. While the public hears about the ‘meta data collection program’, the agency’s exploits run far, far, deeper, according to newly leaked documents.
Analysis of the Snowden trove reveals that The National Security Agency and its allies in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand planned to hijack the data links to Google and Samsung app stores in order to infect smartphones with spyware.
The project was run by a secretive NSA electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, an international spying group from the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
The top-secret document dates to November 2011 and February 2012, meaning that similar yet far more advanced programs are now in full operational status. The result for end users is that they have no idea if they are using the real Google Play store or the NSA’s booby trapped version.
The secret spy team used the NSA’s internet spying system XKEYSCORE to pinpoint smartphone traffic flowing across the Internet and then identified smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google.
Codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the agencies developed a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they sent malicious “implants” to devices in addition to apps users actually wanted to download. The ‘implants’ could then collected every piece of data from the phones without their users noticing.
Such data included emails, texts, web history, call records, videos, photos and every other file stored on the devices.
The newly published document shows just how pervasive the secret police spying has become, infecting virtually every American and international mobile phone, PC or connected internet device. The NSA then processes this vast flow of data in the world’s largest computing cluster – which some estimate is bigger than Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Ebay combined.
Processed data is then added to ‘dossiers’ the agency has on every single American, including politicians, judges, civil servants, defense department officials and everyday Americans.