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The NSA could be hacking your phone while you play Angry Birds

by Han Cilliers (Lola)  Posted Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:05:00 PM


Reports on ProPublica, The New York Times and The Guardian indicate that The National Security Agency (NSA) and its UK counterpart GCHQ are using mobile apps, like Angry Birds to hack user data. Personal information like age, sex and user location is among the most sensitive information transmitted to the NSA. It is unclear how much personal information is in fact leaked. Whistleblower Edward Snowden was responsible for providing the three news agencies with documents detailing the NSA's hack into millions of mobile phone users data.

The Golden Nugget

The Gurdian.jpeg

image: The Guardian

An extract from the Snowden documents reveals the now famous "Golden Nugget"  which details the NSA's "perfect scenario".It displays how a potential target/national threat uploads a photo from his or her mobile. From that single photo the Agency could obtain:

  • email selector
  • phone
  • home country
  • location
  • buddy lists
  • age
  • gendre
  • zip code
  • martial status
  • sexual orientation
  • income
  • education level
  • number of children
  • and "a host of other social working data as well as location"

The Angry Bird Response

Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks," said Saara Bergström, Rovio's VP of marketing and communications. "Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned [NSA and GCHQ]."
The Guardian

Rovio drew public criticism in 2012 when researchers claimed that the app was tracking users’ locations and gathering other data and passing it to mobile ad companies. In a statement on its website, Rovio says that it may collect its users’ personal data, but that it abides by some restrictions. For example, the statement says, “Rovio does not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13 years of age.”  The New York Times


President Obama's Response

President Obama announced new restrictions this month to better protect the privacy of ordinary Americans and foreigners from government surveillance, including limits on how the N.S.A. can view the metadata of Americans’ phone calls — the routing information, time stamps and other data associated with calls. But he did not address the information that the intelligence agencies get from leaky apps and other smartphone functions. The New York Times

Pandora's Box

The ever increasing reliability on smartphones is opening up a Pandora's Box of privacy related issues.we live in the age of ubiquitous computing where everything is connected. Just imagine the amount of personal information that is transmitted on a daily basis through your phone, PC or tablet. Most electronic device can be hacked if you know how to. The implications are terrifying. Check out my "All the world's a digital stage" and "Mobile Gamers be Aware: Apps that eavesdrop" for a closer look into the topic of living in a connected world.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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