Whether you like it or not, the government surveillance is a reality that you simply cannot ignore. It’s got its eyes everywhere, making it extremely hard for an average person to stay off the radar. When it comes to spying, the government is clearly making the likes of James Bond look like a couple of amateurs. It’s got everything from a great cover to state-of-the-art gadgets. That, however, is not all it has at its disposal. Reverse engineering some of the tools used by the government for its surveillance program, a group of security researchers have uncovered some pretty unnerving facts about the tools that were and may still be in use.
The Spy Files
With the intent of dealing a heavy blow to the mass surveillance industry, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released documents showing the list of companies that were offering surveillance products to help their clients, mainly government agencies, gain complete control of the target device. The products, basically software, were designed to circumvent the strong security protocols in devices to act like malware. The documents included the names of a number of countries, both local and international. These names included Germany’s DigiTask, US-based SS8, France’s Vupen and Italy’s Hacking Team. The products appeared to be something straight off of a hacker’s wish list.
From Italy with Love
To find out what the products shown in the WikiLeaks documents were exactly capable of, security researchers at SecureList reverse engineered the RCS (Remote Control) tool, originally created by Italy’s Hacking Team. The researchers kept their focus on the iOS and Android module of the malware and came up with some pretty unnerving results. The surveillance system was discovered to be pretty powerful. Furthermore, the product by the Italian company had all the functionality of a spyware. The iOS version of the product gives clients the ability to take control of the handset’s WiFi and GPS units, record SMS and MMS data, log e-mail, spy on online activity, track call history, record voice, log keystrokes, control microphone, and much more. Unfortunately, Android devices face the same degree of vulnerability once contaminated with the software.
No Need to Panic
There is absolutely no doubt that the RCS is a powerful tool, one that is capable of making a complete mockery of privacy. However, you don’t need to get all panicky upon learning this. As it turns out, the iOS modules are only functional on jailbroken iPhones. Furthermore, the malware can only be installed if the attacker gets physical access to the device, or somehow manages to get remote administrator access to it. Even the Web is no danger as far as this particular threat is concerned. However, do keep in mind that mobile phones can be infected with the malware if they’re connected to a computer running Hacking Team’s desktop software, but even then the phone may remain protected if it’s locked by password. If all this doesn’t remove your anxiety, then maybe the Italian company’s claim that its product is intended for legal surveillance, would. A police officer with a warrant for a suspect in custody is among its list of ideal clients.
As said earlier, there isn’t much you can do about government surveillance. The sooner you accept it, the better you may be able to feel. Chances are the government agencies aren’t listening to your daily conversations or going through the emails you exchange with your loved ones, or even business partners. It’s not practically possible for the likes of NSA to keep their eyes on millions of messages and emails that get exchanged every day, so relax. As for the existence of such powerful tools, let’s just hope that the companies have stringent policies in place to prevent the sale of their products to shady buyers.