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NSA can spy on any smartphone — even with encryption

Kiss your privacy goodbye. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed the NSA has the ability to spy on any smartphone.

Turning Christmas into a whistleblower wonderland, the latest hacktastic revelation from the seasonally surnamed Edward Snowden has revealed that America’s seriously nosy snoopers at the National Security Agency can crack the encryption and eavesdrop on any smartphone. Any.

Nothing is private -- least of all your phone calls.

Despite it bring illegal for the NSA to swan around recording calls without being granted a court order first, according to the story in the Washington Post the spy agency can easily decode encrypted calls, allowing them unfettered access to anyone’s chatter and kicking open the door for spook departments across the globe to do likewise.

Snowden’s warning relates to the standard smartphone encryption tech known as A5/1, which is apparently as effective as a chocolate fireguard against the invasion of the Agency. Indeed, according to the Post’s report, the encryption only actually works between the device and the cell tower, after which all calls are decrypted for transmission; and you don’t need to be a rocket-surgeon to realise how rubbish that is.

Worse still, computer scientist David Wagner from the University of California points out that the encryption technology was designed way back in the dark old days of 1987 – several lifetimes ago in terms of technology – and as he succinctly puts it “one cannot expect a 30-year-old car to have the latest safety mechanisms”.

The Post went on to explain how 80 per cent of smartphones relied on this out-dated and evidently easily infiltrated encryption technology and that, whilst some carriers were busy upgrading to the new A5/3 variant, it still wouldn’t make a lick of difference to call-security once the signal had passed the cell tower.

The good news, however, is that the NSA swears blind that it only snoops on the smartphones of funny foreign types. Even so, it may be worth talking in Pig Latin in future…

Image: Flickr

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