NSA Planned To Hijack Google Play Store, Hack Android Phones

The National Security Agency (NSA) collaborated with the governments of four other countries on a planned attack that sought to infect millions of smartphones with spyware, according to a new report. The program, with the codename Irritant Horn, was designed to hijack the phonesEU connections to app stores operated by Samsung and Google that would allow spies to surreptitiously steal data from usersEU devices.

The report, first published by CanadaEUs CBC network and the Intercept, a news site founded by reporter Glen Greenwald, was based on internal NSA documents provided by former government contractor and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The group behind the plan was the EUFive EyesEU network, a collection of allied surveillance agencies from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand that regularly collaborate on cyber-espionage and spying.

Ministry of Misinformation

The details of the hack were laid out in the PowerPoint presentation EUSynergising Network Analysis and Tradecraft,EU which served as the basis for a series of workshops held in Canada and Australia from 2011 to 2012.

The presentation explained that the NSA had planned to use the XKEYSCORE hacking tool to launch a man-in-the-middle attack from Samsung and Google servers. The XKEYSCORE tool allows governments to wiretap any user for whom they have a personal e-mail address, according to previously published statements by Snowden.

While earlier reports had already disclosed that the NSA and the Five Eyes governments had created spyware to attack Android and iPhone devices, the latest revelation indicated that the espionage agency was also interested in using the technique to plant misinformation on usersEU phones. The agency seemed particularly interested in the potential of the technology to disrupt and prevent protests and citizen movements.

UC Browser Exploit

The presentation also described a vulnerability the NSA had discovered in the UC Browser application. Although UC Browser...

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