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NSA and GCHQ hacked largest SIM-maker, Snowden leak alleges

Spies in Britain and the United States hacked into the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM-cards according to a fresh set of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to the papers GCHQ and NSA operatives obtained mobile encryption keys from Dutch company Gemalto, which is responsible for manufacturing two billion SIM cards each year.

The 2010 hack gave the government agencies “potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data,” a report from The Intercept claims (via Gigaom).

The company provides SIMs for a whopping 450 network providers around the world, giving the NSA and GCHQ the opportunity to eavesdrop without a wiretap and without leaving a trace.

The report continued: “With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments.

Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.”

Related: NSA installing spyware in computer hard drives

The Snowden leaks suggests the existence of a covert Mobile Handset Exploitation team in charge of harvesting and decrypting the data.

The shocking revelations are the latest and perhaps the most worrying to emerge since the exiled Whistleblower began leaking data obtained during his time as an NSA contractor.

Should the leaks prove accurate, the program would give the governments unlimited scope to tap the communications of anyone they felt worthy. Worrying times.

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