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More of the leaked documents on NSA spying show that they are using mobile apps to snoop on people. And the GCHQ has been involved as well, since at least 2010. Being careful about what apps you install can prevent these types of data leaks. And using mobile VPNs increases your chances of resisting infections that further compromise your data.
How They Do It
The NSA and the GCHQ teamed up to gather app data. The GCHQ is known to spy directly on American citizens and share data with the NSA. The NSA in turn delivers data on UK citizens. This team-up was necessary since both the US and the UK governments are not allowed to spy on their own citizens. App data is gathered by the apps for advertising and marketing purposes. These two agencies are intercepting it for their own agendas.
Data is collected from apps that are known to have vulnerabilities. One such app is Angry Birds. This game has recorded about 1.7 billion downloads. The game was used, according to the documents, as a learning tool for app data gathering. The two agencies were in 2010 studying how to use mobile apps to access private information. Details like sexual orientation, location, and age were accessible. The agencies use their mass surveillance tools, but documents show that they are also able to target specific mobile phones.
App Data Security
Smartphones have security settings that users can adjust to protect themselves. A mobile phone can be instructed to disallow the sharing of certain types of data. When these settings are in place, the phone can warn users what a downloaded app does. For instance, your phone can tell you whether an app can access logs, contacts and SMS, track your location and read your identity. You can also secure your mobile phone by not connecting it to your online accounts. These accounts allow your phone to access more personal data. This data can then be read by some apps. Some apps are also programmed to infect user devices with malware and spyware. Even after the app is removed, these malicious programs remain. There is no way to stop an app from doing what they are programmed to do. But not using these types of apps will prevent the data leaks that are caused by them. Be careful t do research before you download an app.
Mobile VPNs can’t stop apps from gathering data either. But they can prevent your phone from sending accurate location data. When users are connected to mobile VPNs, they are given alternate IP addresses which show alternate locations. Some apps are programmed to gather additional information. With mobile VPNs, user data is encrypted and sent through a private tunnel. It therefore cannot be read by any third party. This way, even if an app gathers data, it will not be accurately read by them, spy agencies, or anyone else.
‘Leaky’ phone apps targeted by NSA and GCHQ