NSA can access Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphones: report

The US National Security Agency has the ability to extract data from Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphones, according to a report by German news magazine Der Spiegel

NSA agents can access data including geo-location, contacts and messages, the report says, citing leaked NSA documents.

It indicates that the agency's approach is to compromise a target's PC to extract information about their phone. The NSA has teams dedicated to breaking each platform's security defences, the magazine says. 

Der Spiegel reports that the technique has not been used in mass surveillance, but in a few targeted cases. "The material viewed by Der Spiegel suggests that the spying on smart phones has not been a mass phenomenon," it says. "It has been targeted, in some cases in an individually tailored manner and without the knowledge of the smart phone companies."

The story is particularly damaging for BlackBerry, for whom the security of its platform its strongest remaining selling point. The company has not commented specifically on Der Spiegel's claim's but a spokesperson insisted that "there is no 'back door' pipeline to our platform. 

"Our customers can rest assured that BlackBerry mobile security remains the best available solution to protect their mobile communications."

Meanwhile, Brazilian TV station Globo TV has reported that the NSA hacked into the country's state-owned oil company Petrobras, for "economic" reasons. That report is based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. 

The NSA has not denied the report and, according to Bloomberg, it told Globo TV that it sometimes collects information to assess the economic stability of particular regions. 

As Bloomberg observes, this would appear to contradict the claim made by an NSA spokesperson that it "does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber".

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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