Report: NSA Can Spy On Most Smartphones

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 8 2013 1:55 PM

Report: NSA Can Tap Data on Most Smartphones

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The NSA can allegedly access the computer a person uses to sync an iPhone

Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

The National Security Agency can access data from the smartphones of all major manufacturers, according to Der Spiegel. The German magazine allegedly got access to secret NSA documents that show how the NSA can tap Apple iPhones, Blackberry phones, and also those that run on Google’s Android. The NSA can apparently access most of the data held on these devices, including contacts, call lists, text messages, notes, and location.

The documents allegedly feature NSA workers celebrating that the agency has been able to access a computer used by someone to sync their iPhone. Small programs called scripts then allow access to at least 38 additional iPhone features. And the documents suggest the NSA has been able to crack the code to enter the BlackBerry mail system, a blow to a company that has long touted its security as a big selling point.

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The NSA documents apparently reveal that the agency has set up working groups for each mobile operating system, meaning that sets of employees are dedicated to cracking the security of these devices. But the documents suggest the ability to tap smartphones is used on specific cases and “has not been a mass phenomenon,” according to Der Spiegel.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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