The NSA has compromised the world’s most popular mobile devices, allowing them to read texts and collect personal information,
reported German news site Der Spiegel.
The latest leak is not the best break for beleaguered American tech companies battling to maintain their image at home and abroad.
In fact, it’s disastrous.
Top secret NSA documents that SPIEGEL has seen explicitly note that the NSA can tap into such information on Apple iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Google’s Android mobile operating system.
Already tech companies are slated to lose billions overseas as a result of the NSA leaks, reports The Washington Post. BlackBerry denies they built back doors into their software, but the other companies remain silent.
That’s unfortunate, because recent reporting The New York Times indicates the companies participate in at least some collusion with the feds. There’s also coercion, whether it be monetary, legal, or in some cases, possibly quasi-illegal hacking of big tech’s security protocols.
Because strong encryption can be so effective, classified N.S.A. documents make clear, the agency’s success depends on working with Internet companies — by getting their voluntary collaboration, forcing their cooperation with court orders or surreptitiously stealing their encryption keys or altering their software or hardware.
Most worrisome, however, is the allegations that Tech colluded with U.S. surveillance services by pre-baking back doors into software they marketed as secure. Again, whether this is the case with mobile phone platforms is left wholly ambiguous in the Der Spiegel report.
It’s safe to say that this is a public relations nightmare for marketing mobile platforms overseas. As if to characterise global suspicion of Internet surveillance, the anonymous internet browser Tor saw its traffic double in August from 600,000 to 1.2 million.
Apple’s iOS and Android — both of which dominate international markets — have both been implicated in the Der Spiegel report, which says that feds have access to “contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information.”
Meanwhile Apple and Android are hardly the only options for mobile users out there (although China’s Huawei doesn’t seem much better). Several other services provide “low end” devices and cheap service as the definition of “smart phone” shifts. One small Mexican town even started its own mobile service.
A full 61% of Apple’s revenue comes from overseas sales, so damage control is likely in full effect. Already this summer, world leaders have called for their people to ditch American tech.
“Whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don’t go through American servers,” Germany Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said, according to the Associated Press.
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