This Is How The NSA Spies On Mobile Carriers Around The World

NSA Director Michael S. RogersGettyNSA Director Michael S. Rogers

The NSA has been monitoring over 1,200 email addresses associated with the world’s mobile operators.

New documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, published Thursday on “The Intercept,” reveal that the US intelligence agency has been intercepting emails sent and received by mobile network operators as part of a covert operation.

Operation AURORAGOLD is the NSA’s covert attempt to stay up-to-date on global smartphone development and ensure that it will continue to be able to spy on a variety of countries for years to come.

“The Intercept” reports that one of AURORAGOLD’s main targets is the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA). It’s not well-known outside the technical world of mobile network operators, but the GSMA is an important part of how carriers work together. Based in London, the organisation works to connect carriers and tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook.

The GSMA includes a number of “working groups” where tech companies discuss the latest developments in the mobile phone industry and work to integrate them into their own products. The NSA is taking an interest in these groups, as this newly leaked NSA presentation slide shows:

It’s easy to see why the NSA is interested in reading these emails. Mobile network operators stay informed about phone manufacturers’ hardware designs and encryption. Remember, the NSA reportedly sees everything sent and received by the email addresses it’s monitoring, meaning that it is seeing some really important documents about mobile phone encryption.

“The Intercept” reports that as part of operation AURORAGOLD, the NSA collects “confidential company planning papers.” Those can be used to strengthen the agency’s ability to spy on citizens around the world, as it can keep up with the latest developments in encryption.

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