The NSA and its friends wanted to slap spyware on your phone through Google Play

nsa friends spyware phones google play android vulnerable
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to release damning documents revealing the NSA’s questionable transgressions, this time focusing on the agency’s desire to install spyware on your phone. However, according to a report by The Intercept, the NSA didn’t act alone.

Published in collaboration with CBC News, the report revealed that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes alliance, which include agencies from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia, planned to infect smartphones with spyware by hijacking the connection between the Google Play Store and your device. Codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the project would then allow the agencies to send “implants” to devices in order to collect data without users being aware of what was happening.

In order to achieve this, the agencies ran a series of workshops in 2011 and 2012 in Australia. As The Intercept puts it, smartphone traffic running through Internet cables was to be intercepted by using XKEYSCORE, an Internet spying system. After intercepting these cables, the agencies would then look at smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google.

The agencies also discovered a vulnerability in UC Browser, a popular app browser used primarily in Asian countries like China and India. This vulnerability found the browser to be leaking identifying information on its users’ phones, information that allegedly helped these agencies uncover “covert activities” by a foreign military unit in Western countries.

Technology research group Citizen Lab, however, also discovered the vulnerability and alerted UC Browser, leading to the company issuing an update for the app that closed the hole.

The NSA has already caught flak for doing everything from tapping international leaders’ phones to the stealing of SIM card encryption keys, though this report now raises questions about whether other agencies around the world carry out equally questionable tactics in the name of security. Thankfully, Google Play is now designed to prevent “man-in-the-middle” attacks like this one, so you shouldn’t worry about such a plan being carried out.


Tesla Model 3 vulnerability exposed at Pwn2Own; hackers take home the car

A Tesla Model 3 vulnerability was exposed at the Pwn2Own hacking competition. The hackers, who were able to display a message on the electric vehicle's internet browser, won $35,000 and took home the car.

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.

Mozilla rolls out Firefox for iPad with split screen support

Mozilla released a version of Firefox that is specifically designed for Apple's iPad. The internet browser comes with several unique features for the tablet, including split screen support and unique tab management.

Scientists wreck a smartphone in a blender, but not just for fun

It’s oddly mesmerizing to watch a smartphone get torn apart inside a blender. Researchers recently did just that in a bid to find out which materials make up a handset, and also to encourage people to think more about recycling.

This $76,000 Grand Seiko watch has something in common with a plug-in hybrid car

How can a watch that costs $76,000 possibly have anything in a common with any car, let alone a plug-in hybrid? It's all about the complex, technically incredible Spring Drive movement inside this Grand Seiko watch.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is minutes away: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.

The excellent Apple iPad gets even deeper price cuts on Amazon

The humble iPad from 2018 is still one of the best tablets around -- and a solid choice for most people. Amazon has seen some great price drops for these tablets recently, and now you can own an iPad for even less than before.

More than a screenshot: How to record the screen on an Android device

If you've ever want to record video of your Android screen, there are plenty of apps that can help. Here's an easy guide on how to record the screen on an Android device with the right settings and apps.

Apple March 2019 Event Coverage

Apple’s next event will take place March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California at 10 a.m. PT. We’ve got a handy guide on how to watch, but don’t expect to see any new iPads, iMacs, or AirPods at the show, all of…
Product Review

Want to see how powerful the Snapdragon 855 chip is? Just rev up the Xiaomi Mi 9

How fast do you want to go? If the answer to this is “as fast as possible,” then take a long look at the Xiaomi Mi 9. It’s one of the highest performance smartphones you can buy. It’s a real monster, and we’ve been using it.

Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for and start using with your iPhone

Apple is getting into the credit card business. Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for directly on your iPhone, and it doesn't have fees. There's a lower interest rate and you can even get Daily Cash from all purchases.

Apple Arcade might be the new game subscription service worth signing up for

Apple Arcade will launch this fall bringing a new game-subscription service with cross-platform support for iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. At launch, the service will feature more than 100 exclusive games, with more added to the service regularly.