Do you think your smartphone phone calls and text messages are private? If you still haven’t heard about Prism, it’s about time you read related news and get rid of your illusions.
According to documents revealed by NSA’s ex-contractor Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency is not only capable of, but successfully tracks more than 5 billion phone calls daily. The number concerns the calls made with cell phones, smartphones and iPhones, not only by the U.S. citizens, but people worldwide.
The documents Snowden provided to the Washington Post, the Guardian and Spiegel report that NSA has a workgroup for every OS, developing and enhancing eavesdropping technology. Reportedly, the National Security Agency has a backdoor to Android, iOS and Blackberry phones. The NSA working groups allegedly planted access protocols into Android OS even before Android-based devices appeared on the market.
Besides having access to your messages and phone calls, NSA tracks where you are, retraces your movements, and even maps out your relationships with other people.
US officials claim the data collection is lawful since it aims at gathering intelligence about foreign targets that pose a threat to national security. Evidently, NSA regards every human a threat to national security because the data is being collected about everyone, not just politicians and activists. Amnesty International names such intelligence practice ‘the latest startling blow to the right to privacy’ and urges the US legislative system to amend the respective laws to protect the citizens’ right to privacy because currently there is no legal way for citizens to protect their privacy from the system intrusion and surveillance.
The documents Mr.Snowden provided as proof of his statements also reveal that NSA has long ago set up specifically dedicated working groups, each focused on a separate operating system, with the aim to keep having a stable backdoor to the devices based on respective OS.
NSA embedded backdoor access into Windows 95, and probably all subsequent OS. As people went mobile, NSA adapted its practices. Google quietly co-operates embedding NSA code into Android OS, which runs on three-quarters of all smartphones. Gina Scigliano, a spokeswoman for Google, confirms the fact in an official statement without any further commenting.
NSA officials claim their code, also known as Security Enhancement for Android, is ‘normally invisible to the user.’ It aims to isolate malicious apps from integrating with the system and infiltrate into device, gaining access to personal and banking information of users. NSA representatives refused to comment whether the code is part of Prism program, or not.
Google’s latest release has the code embedded, and some of the newer devices, such as Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, have the ‘bug.’ The Pentagon has approved smartphones and tablets based on Knox, Samsung’s enterprise software, which of course embed the NSA code. Samsung, HTC and Sony refused to comment.
Whether Apple and Blackberry officially co-operate with NSA, or the agency’s working groups made their way to the respective OS without the developers’ prior consent, still remains unclear. Both Apple and Blackberry claim to be immune to such unprecedented breach of their customers’ privacy.
Linux has integrated the NSA code a decade ago into its main version of open-source OS which is also the server platform for Internet giants Google, Yahoo and Facebook. Yahoo has been opposing itself to Google in terms of respecting privacy and security, but it turns out there is very little difference between the two.