NSA and National Security Agencies Wanted to Hijack Play Store

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This morning The Intercept detailed plans for the NSA, and the Five Eyes security allies to hijack the connection between the Play Store and your Android phone. The information apparently came to light through a document shared by Edward Snowden, and shows again the severe privacy concerns that are out there. In the mobile space we’re used to these issues coming up often, but its more concerning when its your own government causing security concerns. If the NSA and Five Eyes had succeeded every app on the Play Store would be spyware for all intents and purposes.

From The Intercept’s report we know that Five Eyes ran a series of workshops back in 2011 and 2012 to develop a way to hijack Google’s app store:

“The main purpose of the workshops was to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for surveillance. The agencies used the Internet spying system XKEYSCORE to identify smartphone traffic flowing across Internet cables and then to track down smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google.”

The codename for the project was IRRITANT HORN, the spyware was planned to relay information to the security agencies without the user being aware. Snowden previously detailed how agencies designed spyware for iPhones and Android devices, and this latest information shows how they planned to infect the devices. If you take a look at the released document, it also details some plans to infect Samsung’s app store, although I don’t see any mention of Amazon in the mix.

There is really no need to worry, as Google’s current security protocols make it nearly impossible to infect apps uploaded to the Play Store with spyware. This news does however raise new privacy concerns over government agencies spying on their own citizens.

Source: The Intercept

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Jeff Springer

"I am currently a researcher and Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University. I fell in love with Android with the Nexus One release and realized that it was superior to iOS in all the ways I care about. I still use a Mac (and an iPhone for the camera), but my Apple tech products pale in comparison to my number of Android devices (watches, tablets, and phones). When I’m not rooting/modding one of my many Android phones or doing math/programming, you can find me taking in Phoenix Suns/Arizona Diamondbacks games in downtown Phoenix, and drinking good beer!"

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