NSA Angry Birds are Stalking You
So you’ve had a rough day at the office. You plop down on your couch with a cold beverage nearby, ready to let the day go. You have twenty minutes until your chicken pot pie dings, and the thought of chicken reminds you of, well… Angry Birds. Harmless fun. NOT!
While you may be enjoying a mindless game, somewhere far off in cyber land others are just beginning to work very hard. WHO THEY ARE: advertising companies and intelligence agencies alike. WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO YOU: gathering all of the most personal data off of your mobile device: everything from your name, age, sex, location, and perhaps even your political alignment or sexual orientation—and lots more!
All of this is according to documents provided by the former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to the New York Times. Snowden asserts that the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been able to gather information from so-called “leaky apps” that give out all sorts of unintended intelligence.
Through these leaks, intelligence agencies and advertising groups are able to collect and store information on location and planning data through use of Google Maps, and access your address books, buddy lists, and telephone logs through use of posts to sites such as Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Twitter placed on mobile devices.
It turns out that Big Brother is actually an NSA Angry Bird. I don’t know whether to be more upset with the NSA for scraping this information from Apps, or with the Apps themselves for scraping this information without even telling us!
This top secret NSA document (one of many released by Snowden) shows some of the activities that can be searched.
It’s pretty much understood and accepted that apps (especially older ones) track locations and gather other data to pass on to mobile ad companies. And we’ve known for some time that the NSA has been pursuing our mobile information, but these documents show us many more details of the “mobile surge” and the ambitious plans the agency has for using the information they gather from apps on smartphones.
Every time you use a smartphone, you need to remember you’re also really using a computer- a highly-sophisticated, highly vulnerable computer. According to Philippe Langlois, who has studied the vulnerabilities of mobile phone networks and is the founder of the Paris-based company Priority One Security, “By having these devices in our pockets and using them more and more, you’re somehow becoming a sensor for the world intelligence community.” In other words, we are all spies for anyone who has access to our mobile phones, which includes pretty much every app we have.
So what’t the solution? None, as of right now. Until there is legislation governing what can be captured from our mobile phones, we are open game, so to speak. And that makes me angry.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.