Technology

Spy Agencies Target Mobile Phones, App Stores to Implant Spyware

Noah Meloccaro, right, compares his older iPhone 4s to the new iPhone 5 held by Both Gatwech, outside the Apple Store in Omaha, Neb. (Nati Harnik/The Canadian Press/AP)
Noah Meloccaro, right, compares his older iPhone 4s to the new iPhone 5 held by Both Gatwech, outside the Apple Store in Omaha, Neb. (Nati Harnik/The Canadian Press/AP)

 

(CBC.CA) – Canada and its spying partners exploited weaknesses in one of the world’s most popular mobile browsers and planned to hack into smartphones via links to Google and Samsung app stores, a top secret document obtained by CBC News shows.

Electronic intelligence agencies began targeting UC Browser — a massively popular app in China and India with growing use in North America — in late 2011 after discovering it leaked revealing details about its half-billion users.

Their goal, in tapping into UC Browser and also looking for larger app store vulnerabilities, was to collect data on suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets — and, in some cases, implant spyware on targeted smartphones.

The 2012 document shows that the surveillance agencies exploited the weaknesses in certain mobile apps in pursuit of their national security interests, but it appears they didn’t alert the companies or the public to these weaknesses. That potentially put millions of users in danger of their data being accessed by other governments’ agencies, hackers or criminals.

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