Image Credit: Getty Images
Edward Snowden has made the shocking claim that spying agencies across the worlds have tools at their disposal which allow them to hack any smartphone with one simple text message, and then use the hacked smartphones to spy on their users.
The tools are referred to by the NSA whistleblower as a “Smurf Suite,” with Snowden telling BBC’s Panorama that the UK Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) can access a device’s camera and microphone using by delivering a “special text message.”
The Smurf Suite consists of a number of different individual tools, that each allow access to a different feature of a smartphone. Explaining the different tools to the BBC, Snowden said: “Dreamy Smurf is the power management tool which means turning your phone on and off with you knowing.
“Nosey Smurf is the ‘hot mic’ tool. For example if it’s in your pocket, [GCHQ] can turn the microphone on and listen to everything that’s going on around you – even if your phone is switched off because they’ve got the other tools for turning it on.
“Tracker Smurf is a geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ] to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.”
An aerial view of the GCHQ. (Image Credit: David Goddard / Getty Images)
Snowden also referred to a tool titled Paranoid Smurf, which essentially allows a device to protect itself from being detected as a spy tool if a user begins to suspect that something’s wrong with it. This would serve to prevent any technicians from being able to uncover the tracking tools that had been implemented in the device.
Snowden also added that the GCHQ could access a user’s phone call, messaging and web browsing history, along with their past and present locations, all by sending the encrypted text message to them.
While Snowden specifically referred to the GCHQ in the examples he gave, he described this exploit as being employed by spy agencies worldwide, along with describing the GCHQ as a subsidiary of the NSA and claiming that the NSA tells the GCHQ which individuals they should target.
The full Panorama special is available to view online in the UK via the BBC’s iPlayer.