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

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.


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.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.