Feeds

FBI spooks use MALWARE to spy on suspects' Android mobes - report

Spear-phishing: It's not just for the bad guys

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is using mobile malware to infect, and control, suspects' Android handsets, allowing it to record nearby sounds and copy data without physical access to the devices.

That's according to "former officers" interviewed by the Wall Street Journal ahead of privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian's presentation at hacker-conflab Black Hat later today.

The FBI's Remote Operations Unit has been listening in to desktop computers for years, explains the paper, but mobile phones are a relatively new target.

It would never work with tech-savvy suspects, though: suspects still need to infect themselves with the malware by clicking a dodgy link or opening the wrong attachment. This is why computer hackers are never targeted this way – they might notice and publicise the technique, said the "former officers", who noted that in other cases it had proved hugely valuable.

Such actions do require judicial oversight, but if one is recording activities rather than communications, the level of authorisation needed is much reduced. A US judge is apparently more likely to approve reaching out electronically into a suspect's hardware than a traditional wiretap, as the latter is considered a greater intrusion into their privacy.

Gaining control of that hardware still requires a hole to crawl through; ideally a zero-day exploit of which the platform manufacturer is unaware.

The WSJ cites UK-based lawful spook spyware supplier Gamma International as selling such exploits to the Feds. The company was recently in the news after allegations that it was also supplying dodgy governments with kit - allegedly including malware disguised as the Firefox browser.

Given the convergence of mobile and desktop, it's no surprise to see desktop techniques being applied to mobile phone platforms by both hackers and law enforcement agencies.

The usual techniques of not opening unknown attachments or unsigned downloads should protect you against the FBI, just as it would against any spear-phishing attempt. But then again, if you know that, they probably wouldn't try using it against you. ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.