A new document from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that the United States, Canada, and other so-called “Five Eyes” nations hacked weaknesses in one of the world’s most popular mobile browsers to access smartphone traffic. The hacking involved using apps in the Google and Samsung app stores.
Consistent with much of the Snowden revelations, the “mainstream” media has largely ignored the story.
According to the “Top Secret” document, the spying agnecies of Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand started targeting the UC Browser in 2011 after it was discovered that a leak released details of millions of users. UC Browser is the most popular app in China and India.
The agencies stated goal was to exploit the weakness to collect data on suspected terrorists or intelligence targets. Some cases apparently involved implanting spyware on targeted smartphones.
The Five Eyes nations were looking to exploit similar leaks in other mobile apps. CBC reports that the document shows the surveillance agencies did not alert the companies or the public about weaknesses.
The latest document release from Snowden was reported by The intercept and Canada’s CBC.
Canada’s Communications Security Establishment surveillance agency refused to comment on the CBC report, while the British GCHQ stated that all surveillance programs are “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework.” The U.S. National Security Agency and New Zealand surveillance agency did not respond to CBC News. Australia’s signals intelligence agency refused to comment.
Not everyone believes the government’s claims of accountability and promises that the program was only used in search of terrorists. Michael Geist, a professor at University of Ottawa and an expert on internet law, told the CBC “All of this is being done in the name of providing safety and yet … Canadians or people around the world are put at risk.”
The documents also reveal that the Five Eyes agreed not to spy on each others’ citizens and instead focused their attention on apps stores in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Cuba, Morocco, the Bahamas and Russia.