The hype of smartphones and the progressive digitalization and internationalization of fiber-optic-based telephone networks have been essential in aiding the US National Security Agency (NSA). Apparently, the organization spied on 35 world leaders, including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the President of the Spanish Government, Mariano Rajoy.
On September 9, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, based on documentation subtracted by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, revealed that U.S. and British espionage services had dedicated time and efforts in -successfully- breaching the security of the three most popular Smartphone operating systems: iOS (Apple), Android and BlackBerry.
Smartphones, with their ability to store contacts, pictures and, in some cases, locations and even user credit card numbers in a single database, have been a priority target for espionage agencies due to the possibilities to obtain relevant information from them.
“Imagine Angela Merkel calls the US by phone”, says Chema Alonso, IT security consultant and author of the blog “Un informático en el lado del Mal”. “Since the NSA has Merkel’s number, whenever a call from that number reaches the transatlantic cable, they know it. And thanks to American telephone companies collaborating with the NSA, they know the number she’s been talking to and for how long”.
Espionage, for now and at first, only affects international calls. “For local calls they would need to bug the national telephone network, which is very hard without a conspiracy. So far, it hasn’t been known to happen”, says Alonso.