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Android smartphone microphones can be remotely activated by the FBI

Sam Loveridge

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Android

The FBI is capable of remotely activating the microphone on Android smartphones to record the user’s conversations.

Anyone looking to have illicit conversations may wish to purchase an Apple or Nokia smartphone as the FBI can hack the microphone on Android devices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI can “remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google’s Android software to record conversations”, all without the user having any idea it is doing so.

To do so, the FBI has been hiring hackers in an attempt to improve its surveillance techniques to catch terrorists and criminals in the act.

“[The FBI] hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things”, said a former FBI official in the cyber division.

Of course, the FBI is supposed to have a warrant in order to carry out such surveillance techniques, but sources familiar with the FBI say these methods are on the rise.

In order to tap into Android smartphone microphones, the FBI has developed its own hacking tools and purchased others.

By doing so, the FBI has been tackling organised crime, counterterrorism and child pornography.

Unlike the National Security Agency in America, the FBI says it only uses surveillance and hacking in specific cases and not very often. It was recently disclosed that the NSA gathers data on millions of American citizens.

Former FBI officials let on that the Bureau has a group called the Remote Operations Unit which handles hacking methods. It does employ controls to ensure only “relevant data” is collected when using surveillance techniques.

This means the FBI doesn’t use a wide net sweep to collect data on potential threats. The NSA recently came under criticism because of the surveillance software it used to collect data from Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Google users, as well as from other services on the web.

Next, read our pick of the best mobile phones of 2013.

RBH

August 4, 2013, 1:14 am

There is no question that we are living in the modern version of a surveillance state. The question is can we walk this tightrope balancing act of a free society against the demands of security as we are told we require.

The big problem is that you now apparently have multiple agencies that have access to tools that breach the fundamentals of a free society and can do so quite easily. While I'm sure that each agency acts within its defined responsibilities as a matter of course, there are always exceptions such as when one agency cedes to another. Little details tend to get overlooked and you get situations where an order from above will have people from different agencies doing a little part in committing a greater wrong.

History has shown that it is only a matter of time until this process is abused and it is the person with the worst of intent that is the most strongly motivated to be in a position to use these tools.

I'm not saying there's no place for these types of tools but you have to approach it with absolute transparency if you don't want it to become a honeypot for scumbags and villains.

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