Are they listening to my conversations without me knowing? A few years ago the answer was “probably not”, but the popularity of smartphones that scenario has changed and now the answer is not so clear. How is possible?
The answer lies both in the actual construction of our devices and their operating systems and applications installed on them. Eavesdrop on another person is not at all difficult as long as we manage to manipulate these devices and install such an application that It gives access to those talks without the device owner ever knowing. Although in reality even that is not necessary.
Permissions on Android, first alarm
The problem is especially disturbing in Android, where the permit system to assign applications makes the responsibility is ours: when you install a new application is a series of warnings about things that allow you to view and make those applications with our device but most users just pay attention to that paragraph.
These permits are often sense and without them the application may not work properly, but there are other cases where an application or game suddenly ask us permission theoretically should not apply.
This is where we begin to suspect, and from Android 6.0 can access a manager permissions to protect our privacy by granting access to things like location or camera to applications and not others.
Spy applications that do not hide their orientation
Then there are the applications that are specifically designed to spy on our conversations. One of the best known was StealthGenie, its creator sold for that purpose and that was available to users iOS, Android or BlackBerry and allowed outgoing remote access to text messages, images and intercepting incoming calls.
That certainly is not the only application that is sold with that message, although other disguise their orientation real with euphemisms (calling them such as “monitoring tools”), and even sell devices with spyware already installed standard for those terminals that give you or we give in to our acquaintances or employees become monitoring solutions and espionage.
These applications leverage the capabilities of mobile operating systems to offer such possibilities remote listening. The BBC recently talked about how after talking on the landline phone with a friend of a fatal motorcycle accident he had had an acquaintance of both on your mobile who he had been on the table behind him had appeared looking related to such accidents.
Listen beyond the microphone
Cybersecurity experts confirmed that indeed our phones can be listening to everything we say without us noticing: they created a prototype application that put the telephone in listen mode, and while chatting with the phone on a table saw as the conversation was being transcribed in laptop that collected the data. Activate them only enough permission to access the microphone and launch a server listening on the internet to check that the system worked effectively.
Academic institutions such as Stanford University created such an application called Gyrophone that allowed use MEMS gyroscopes developed to measure acoustic signals around a mobile. The unique thing about this application is that component nor even the microphone Smartphone- was able not only to provide information about the owner of the mobile, but also to recognize what was said.
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The use of the smartphone as a listening device to spy process was one of the services they provided those responsible for Hacking Team, who with his tool RCSAndroid just offered that massive data capture -not only recording conversations or without sound environment- the owner of the mobile found out nothing.
This one of the theories that deck could have come true in recent recorded conversations of Minister Fernandez Diaz De Alfonso: recordings implicating Fernandez Diaz and could have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming elections could have been made with a Mobile hacked, suspect in the police.
Edward Snowden and warned us
This is a good example of how our mobile device is a powerful tool hears himself Edward Snowden dismounting in a recent interview with Vice. In that video explaining how the only way to ensure that the microphone was not active was open mobile to disconnect the cables that connect to the motherboard of the device. How then talk on the phone? Easy: connecting a headset with microphone.
These techniques are not only used by the “bad guys” clear: Edward Snowden revealed the use of these techniques by various intelligence agencies- the FBI confirmed these processes – and security experts confirmed that such solutions -including selling hackers mercenaries as hacking Team- exist and are much more spread than it might seem. The case FinFisher we talked a few months ago was one of the most famous (and never better) but what seems clear is that it is only one of many.