New Wikileaks files expose widespread mobile phone, email hacking capability

Summary:Wikileaks has released dozens of new documents highlighting the state of the once covert, but now lucrative private sector global surveillance industry.

LONDON -- Wikileaks founder Julian Assange unveiled today the latest batch of released files from the whistleblowing organisation.

Speaking to a number of students and members of the press, bright and optimistic as ever, said: "Who here has an iPhone? Who here has a BlackBerry? Who here uses Gmail? Well, you're all screwed."

According to Assange, over 150 private sector organisations in 25 countries have the ability to not only track mobile devices, but also intercept messages and listen to calls also.

The technologies developed by this industry can be used to access Internet browsing histories and email accounts, through computing tapping or accessing mobile phones remotely. This information is then sold as wholesale information to governments or other private industry partners.

(Source: Wikileaks)

Speaking at City University in London, he said that the publication of the 'Spy Files' is intended to be a "mass attack on the mass surveillance industry". He described the interception of this data as "lawful", it will lead society to a "totalitarian surveillance state".

Along with representatives from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and Privacy International, documents were shown to suggest that software could not only read emails and text messages on mobile phones, but invasively alter them and send out fake messages to others.

The UK, one of the most surveilled countries in the world, with more CCTV cameras per person than any other major city, is one of the most prevalent in Internet monitoring, phone and text messaging analysis, GPS tracking and speech analysis technologies.

In the past ten years, he highlighted, the private industry had grown from a covert, behind-the-scenes industry, that primarily sold the U.S. National Security Agency, and GCHQ, the UK's third intelligence service.

Wikileaks released today 287 documents, documenting "the reality of the international mass surveillance industry", highlighting how "dictators and democracies alike" can procure this "spying system" technology developed by U.S., the UK, Australia and Canada.

Last month, it was found that Leeds-based company Datong plc. sold phone tracking and remote-disability technology to Scotland Yard, home of London's Metropolitan Police, which could then be used to track protestors or disable remotely shut-off mobile phones en masse.

ZDNet uncovered evidence to support that this technology could have been sold to oppressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.

In one case, a subsidiary of Nokia Siemens Networks, Trovicor supplied the government of Bahrain technology that enabled the tracking of human rights activists, the Wikileaks website said.

U.S.-based company SS8, along with Hacking Team in Italy and Vupen in France, are all said to manufacture Trojan malware that can hijack computers and phones -- including BlackBerrys, iPhones and Android devices -- and "record its every use, movement, and even the sights and sounds of the room it is in".

Wikileaks said that other companies like Czech Republic-based Phoenexia collaborate with military units to create speech analysis tools, allowing the government to acquire intelligence based on identified gender, age and even their vocal stress levels.

In one document dating back to 2006, it shows how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sold technology to the oppressive Libyan regime to "intercept data" and acquire the "localisation of GSM", the ability to locate where mobile phones are located geographically.

Another leaked document from 2011 shows how one UK firm is "depended upon" by the government, including "law enforcement agencies, intelligence and military agencies [and] special forces". Such technologies can be "integrated into bespoke solutions for static, tracking and mobile overt and covert surveillance".

Related:

Topics: United Kingdom, BlackBerry, Government, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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