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Snowden leak reveals how the NSA and GCHQ hacked billions of SIM cards

Spy agencies in the US and UK hacked computers belonging to the world's largest SIM card manufacturer to gain access to access billions of phones across the globe. The National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ, in the UK, hacked Dutch SIM card maker Gemalto, according to the latest document leak from whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents, provided to The Intercept, reveal that the NSA hacked chips on SIM cards used by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and about 450 other network carriers around the world.

If you use one of these, then there's a big chance the NSA could access your private data whenever it wanted © / ANDROIDPIT

The documents reveal how the NSA and GCHQ stole encryption keys from Gemalto and used them to monitor communications on phones using Gemalto's SIM cards.

Gemalto, which makes around 2 billion SIM cards a year, said it was unaware that its data was being stolen. Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, said he was "disturbed" by the alleged breach. Experts have said the NSA's actions were in violation of international laws and equivalent to thieves obtaining the master key to a building filled with private homes.

The hacks date back at least as far as April 2010, when the NSA and GCHQ formed the Mobile Handset Exploitation Team (MHET). According to The Intercept's report, the main goal of MHET was to hack SIM card manufacturers and inject malware into their products that would give full access to the data passing to and from the cards.

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The level of security on Android is continually being questioned. / © ANDROIDPIT

According to US law, national security agencies can gain access to customer data on US mobile networks after obtaining a court order specifically to do so, but previous Snowden leaks revealed that the NSA was gathering data on a mass scale without obtaining these orders.

To legally hack a Dutch SIM card manufacturer, the NSA would need permission from the Dutch interior minister to go ahead with the operation. Dutch lawmakers are currently investigating whether such permission was given, or if the the NSA did it illegally. "I don't believe he [the interior minister] has given his permission for these kind of actions," said Dutch MP Gerard Schouw.

The number of revelations regarding the NSA's mobile communications surveillance continues to grow.


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  • I agree privacy is the upmost important fact here.
    but I'm sure you agree, if say Joe bloggs at number 99 was carrying out terrorist activity.
    then I'm sure you'd want answers. why this person wasn't watched and prevented from his actions.
    I see we can't have best of all worlds here.
    I mearly state IF needed then yes there should be a right to access your personal data.

  • 8
    Yanwyn Feb 20, 2015 Link to comment

    A persons privacy is one of your most sacred rights as a human being. Absolutely no one should be allowed to trespass on that! Not politicians, religions, Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, Motorola, Samsung or anyone else! Though they do everyday as most people are aware. If they demand to have access to your contacts, calendar, files or photos, they are invading your privacy. Sometimes it is a requirement for an app, but there are other times when that is not the case. Some things in life are sacred, your privacy is one of them!

  • I personally don't mind governments having the means to monitor me.
    if you've got nothing to hide, why worry?
    its not like they are monitoring every single soul.

    • And that's why they continue to get away with it . I don't have anything to hide either but its a major invasion of privacy ,And it's illegal as crap. You shouldn't be OK with it

    • Jews in Germany had nothing to hide until the Nazis came to power in 1933. People have very short memories

    • john Feb 20, 2015 Link to comment

      because Craig, nothing to hide today does not mean nothing to hide tomorrow. not because you've done something wrong, but because your the wrong (fill in the blank)

      you scare me.

  • Andi Feb 20, 2015 Link to comment

    use China old principal, if it important meet the person directly face to face. 👍👍👍

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