NSA and Allied Spy Organizations Planned to use Google Play Store to Install Spyware on Smartphones


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The latest revelation to come out of the Edward Snowden NSA leak scandal would have left Android and iOS quite vulnerable to spy organizations. One of the Top Secret documents shared by Snowden detailed that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) was developing a plan alongside allied spy organizations from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, in which they would hijack the connection between the Google Play Store and the users' device so they could implant spyware on mobile phones.

The project was codenamed IRRITANT HORN, and the implanted spyware was meant to share data from the infected smartphones with the agencies, without the user ever knowing data was transferred. Supposedly, Samsung's app store was going to be targeted as well. The project even held a series of workshops in Australia 2011 & 2012 so they could develop methods to achieve this. Here's a quote with a few more of the details,
The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept. The document outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were working on during workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012. ~ The Intercept

The article listed in the source link below details the leak further, and even shares some of the reasons why the spy group was working on this project. Apparently, the various spy organizations were concerned there would be another "Arab Spring."

Here's another quote with more on that,
The project was motivated in part by concerns about the possibility of “another Arab Spring,” which was sparked in Tunisia in December 2010 and later spread to countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Western governments and intelligence agencies were largely blindsided by those events, and the document detailing IRRITANT HORN suggests the spies wanted to be prepared to launch surveillance operations in the event of more unrest.

The agencies were particularly interested in the African region, focusing on Senegal, Sudan and the Congo. But the app stores targeted were located in a range of countries, including a Google app store server located in France and other companies’ app download servers in Cuba, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, the Netherlands and Russia. (At the time, the Google app store was called the “Android Market”; it is now named Google Play.)

The leaks are definitely a "touchy" subject, and for good reason. Regardless of how we may feel about these leaks and Edward Snowden himself, there is one good thing that came of it. Since then, Google has dramatically tightened up their security. Their current protocols are much stronger now, so being infected by apps through the Play Store is nearly impossible.

Source: The Intercept
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