The FBI uses the microphone and camera on phones to spy on people

Do you carry your cell phone with you wherever you go? Of course you do. Indeed, a study even showed that 75% of people actually use their phone while in the bathroom! So is it any surprise that the best way to get information on suspected criminals would be to snoop on them via their own phone?

A report from the Wall Street Journal is claiming that, via unnamed sources, the FBI is doing just that, by tricking suspected criminals into clicking links that install malware on the device. An interesting tidbit of note is that the organization only uses this method on non-technical suspects; they fear that a computer expert would be able to identify and release details of the malware to the public. In addition, a search warrant should be required before the malware is installed on a phone, but the line gets blurry if the attack is aimed at only gathering metadeta. There's no word on how many people are targeted, what the barrier is to install the software, or how it's removed once the investigation is complete.

As we said earlier, if the government can spy on you via your phone and laptop, why should we care if the upcoming Xbox One can do the same thing? And lest you think this is an issue only in the United States, remember that other countries have their own monitoring services in place. The privacy genie is already out of the bottle, so how do we put it back in? An even more important question is whether the majority of the world even cares anymore.

Source: WSJ | Photo courtesy of Etsy

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Guys, there are years since laptops have included cameras, and 2 years ago TV have start to came with cameras on them... We're surounded...

Wow, that's gotta be the most boring job ever, the cameras show the darkness of a pocket or purse and all they hear is background noise and footsteps lol

You guys dont see the bigger picture:

Neowin posting stories that do not have proof behind then.

I think members should start noticing that instead of what this article which only says to me "Click me for hits" Nothing else.

neohelp said,
You guys dont see the bigger picture:

Neowin posting stories that do not have proof behind then.

I think members should start noticing that instead of what this article which only says to me "Click me for hits" Nothing else.


So you think the Wall Street Journal is making stuff up?

Old news to me... I've known about the Govt's ability to remotely activate your microphone and camera at will, even when the phone is "off" if what I've read is correct, for many years.

if the government can spy on you via your phone and laptop, why should we care if the upcoming Xbox One can do the same thing?

If Johnny jumps off a bridge, why don't you do the same thing?

Oh, you actually expect a serious answer? Because supposedly the government needs a legal reason and suspicion to invade your privacy, and supposedly they only use the data they receive for legal purposes IF the person is involved in illegal activities. That's a vast difference between just having a camera/mic on in your house all the time.

And lest you think this is an issue only in the United States, remember that other countries have their own monitoring services in place.

Ah, so you agree it's an issue. But on another topic, in other countries women are genitally mutilated. So why doesn't the US start doing that too?

Edited by Geezy, Aug 3 2013, 8:07pm :

Geezy said,

Oh, you actually expect a serious answer? Because supposedly the government needs a legal reason and suspicion to invade your privacy, and supposedly they only use the data they receive for legal purposes IF the person is involved in illegal activities. That's a vast difference between just having a camera/mic on in your house all the time.

Always connected != always on and sending data. Your phone is "always on" -- if you have a Windows Phone, there's technically nothing stopping MS from spying on you. There's nothing stopping Apple from spying on you (heck, they WERE collecting GPS data on everyone for a long time). My point is that the Xbox One is a tiny part of the overall problem - and if you don't have a problem with cell phones and laptop cameras, then you shouldn't have a problem with the Xbox One.

I don't think it's reasonable to say that you should add to a problem if you can't solve it. I've got debt, so I guess I might as well spend more money anyway...?

You're right, the Xbox One is only tangentially related to this topic, so it shouldn't have been brought up in the first place. But the main issue still remains, and it doesn't benefit anyone to redirect focus by comparing it to one instance which hasn't been publicly shown to be abused, even though clearly you point out it is possible.

I'm not saying MS even wants to do this stuff (although they've demonstrated interest on a marketing front), but if the FBI can exploit a device to tap into its video and/or audio, why would they suddenly be picky about which device they use? It's not even just FBI/NSA... voyeurs compromise laptops/cell phones to acquire images and it's creepy.

Edited by Geezy, Aug 3 2013, 11:01pm :

Ok, so you're against all cellphones, microphones, cameras, and GPS, no matter what device they're in? Because honestly, that's the only real solution. Comparing it to your debt example, you can say, "I'm in debt... So I'll buy this new car, but not this candy bar," but it makes as much sense as, "I'll buy this cell phone but not this game console."

that is interesting news. Does FBI spy on people who ask others for money for cybersex over the internet too (romance scam)? If person who make richest, then she or he buy house, car, or others from people who send their money for foods, but they lied to them, then they will report tax collection (IRS), right?

Rohdekill said,
Let them record all they want. 99.999% of us all live insignificant lives anyways. As do I.

Wonder how many dick pics or sex clips they got lol, the NSA are all a bunch or perverts really..

Amazing power of denial. Program after program after program outed, after being vehemently denied by both government and corporations countless times. Since the 90's it's not only been the plan, it's been in place and as technology progressed, so have the tracking programs. Just because you don't know about something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Basically, if something is possible, it's been actively considered and probably acted on in some way. Now we're seeing it done on a massive scale. If you're not worried about being "observed", you should be, because everything is being cataloged and stored, just in case they need to focus on or intimidate you in the future, they'll have everything they need to do it....and now it's just easy, no warrants, help from tech companies themselves, it's a tyrannical govt. wet dream. But hey, go ahead and relax, everything is fine right, says the same people that kept telling us these things weren't happening before and were proven wrong. Xbone will be the crown jewel of home spycams, the capability is just too easy and juicy, it'll start with a handful of extra creepy people being targeted, then quickly adopted into a PRISM like system with the usual justifications.

There is no need of any malware to use the built-in microphone. Any GSM phone can be used to listen to conversations even if the phone is turned off. In order to disable this "functionality" you need to pull out the battery.... if it is removable.

What a load of crap. I'll send you a nokia 3315 running the normal firmware (NOT the spy firmware) and you prove to me and everyone else your balonyous point.

Fritzly said,
There is no need of any malware to use the built-in microphone. Any GSM phone can be used to listen to conversations even if the phone is turned off. In order to disable this "functionality" you need to pull out the battery.... if it is removable.

You watch too much TV.

stevember said,

You watch too much TV.

Not as much as I would like...... I work and attend business meetings subject to confidentiality.

"why should we care if the upcoming Xbox One can do the same thing?"

Two wrongs make a right fallacy right in the article. You're supposed to leave it to the "commenters" to make that fallacious argument.

Also, the FBI/NSA has to trick the user into installing third party malware to get their phone cam/mic spying to work. The kind of spying discussed in the Xbox One is more akin to a backdoor built into the system.

Yes al Qaeda wants to play Xbox one before the blow themselves up, and they're going to talk about it in the front of the living room. Seriously who came up with this asinine theory.

Neo003 said,
Yes al Qaeda wants to play Xbox one before the blow themselves up, and they're going to talk about it in the front of the living room. Seriously who came up with this asinine theory.
Not sure if you noticed but NSA and MS spying on ordinary US citizens has been major network news for over a month now. Conjuring up "terrorists" is a convenient false strawman for what's actually happening.

Its everywhere, and you're purposely singling out a company which in this case is Microsoft, just to make your point.
While every US based company does exactly the same, if not worse.

And the US is not alone, even in my little country the AIVD tracks people, hacks into phones, systems and what not just cause some people are suspects.
It's quite known. If you're not a suspect, they aint tracking your every single move to see what exact moments you are masturbating, going to the toilet or what groceries you buy. And yes, sometimes you might be reviewed. It's very easy. If you don't want your things tracked, recorded or anything... don't take your phone with you everywhere you go and don't put the sh*t on the internet or even your computer.

If Microsoft is just another company, what difference does it make if they're singled out or not? It's not like Google or Apple hasn't faced things like this. Why we need corporate cheerleaders is beyond me...

Honestly, seeing as I actually like Microsoft as well as being a Microsoft consultant, it's only natural that I'd hold them to a higher standard anyway. I'm more critical of them because I like them. They aren't deaf either, seeing as they have a well documented history of listening to the consumers.

All the concerns regarding Microsoft and the NSA will hopefully give them reason to distance themselves from them, and follow through accordingly in the future.

Yeah, most sites just bash MS and move on. There are far fewer sites that give a crap about investigating stories beyond the subject line.

I'm not saying this site does that all time either, but it is one of the few resources for MS news.

As far as MS and the NSA, all of the info I have seen points to MS complying with various court orders or NSA demands backed by laws on the books. I haven't seen the evidence that they willingly gave them anything without such pressure/threat of legal issues.

What I think is unfair for these companies is that they aren't even allowed to defend themselves against these accusations. MS, Google, Apple, etc are bound by gag orders, etc that prevent them from telling us the truth. That's why MS is raising hell with the DOJ to allow them to share the facts on this stuff.

Without the ability to tell us the details of these programs, these companies just get racked over the coals.

I don't get why more people don't vent their anger towards the government, hold them accountable. All of these spying issues stem from them and its there that we need to focus on changing.

trooper11 said,
I don't get why more people don't vent their anger towards the government, hold them accountable. All of these spying issues stem from them and its there that we need to focus on changing.

Totally agree with you there. I think people are just petty for the most part.

The whole flawed patent system for example gets zero attention, while people slam Apple for using the system to their advantage, yet cheer on Samsung for doing it too. It's all just stupid.

(not to throw this topic off track, I just feel it relates in how people seemingly dismiss the obvious problems)

scaryrobots said,

Again, you have no idea what you're talking about. MS is doing the exact same thing every other company that provides these kinds of services does. When the government comes to MS, Google, Apple, etc.. and they ask for information they are obligated to turn over information. This happens in basically EVERY country in the world. What they don't do is give the NSA their encryption keys to Outlook or Skydrive, nor do they spy on you.

Except they don't need to hand over the keys, when the backdoor is wide open. For decades, the government has been forcing backdoors into everything they can get their hands on, in the name of protection and security. This is common knowledge throughout the world at this point, yet glossed over.

When you have direct access to the main software and the base codes, etc... keys are a smokescreen.

Also, with regard to the other companies doing it... Companies throw their shield up and think of their profits and ties with the government by jumping in bed with their crazy harebrained most illegal schemes, but when it comes to the view from the citizen/consumer side... pfft, sorry, we don't know what you are talking about, and we cannot talk about it due to a gag order... /wink.

It is an easy win-win for them... don't blame us, we are innocent and protecting you, now give us money while we give your info to the government.

Again, let's focus on the government side. Regardless of what you think of companies, nothing changes unless the government is held in check.

They wield the power and pressure to force these companies to comply. You think MS or Google want any outside group to have access to their systems? No way, but they can't exactly refuse the government's access when there are laws and/or forms of pressure used against them

Also, with regard to the other companies doing it... Companies throw their shield up and think of their profits and ties with the government by jumping in bed with their crazy harebrained most illegal schemes, but when it comes to the view from the citizen/consumer side... pfft, sorry, we don't know what you are talking about, and we cannot talk about it due to a gag order... /wink.

What do you want the companies to do then? Say no to the secret order?

Well then say goodbye to doing business in the US but no problem they'll just move to the UK. Oh but wait the UK government does the same thing. K it's Germany then, oh wait Germany does the same. New Zealand? Yup same thing. Canada? Same thing. Russia? Probably the same thing. China? Same thing.

The companies in question have no choice but to go along with the order or to commit suicide. Because if they decline the order then they'd probably have to deal with a lot of governmental crap, and since its all in the secret court the public won't know about it.

-Razorfold said,

What do you want the companies to do then? Say no to the secret order?

Well then say goodbye to doing business in the US but no problem they'll just move to the UK. Oh but wait the UK government does the same thing. K it's Germany then, oh wait Germany does the same. New Zealand? Yup same thing. Canada? Same thing. Russia? Probably the same thing. China? Same thing.

The companies in question have no choice but to go along with the order or to commit suicide. Because if they decline the order then they'd probably have to deal with a lot of governmental crap, and since its all in the secret court the public won't know about it.

...and no one sees the problem with this? People talk like they just accept it and move on... not focusing on the fact it is totally intrusion, wrong, and illegal in some places, but hey, it happens and the companies have to do it.

bah.

Skin said,

...and no one sees the problem with this? People talk like they just accept it and move on... not focusing on the fact it is totally intrusion, wrong, and illegal in some places, but hey, it happens and the companies have to do it.

bah.


Is it wrong yes it is, but like you said people need to force the change.

Look at the American public, the NSA thing is like a month old and nobody gives a **** anymore. Its just oh we knew it was happening so oh well. That's the problem. People just dont care. That and they keep voting I'm ****ty democrats / Republicans because they believe they're different. No they aren't, they're just different sides of the same coin.

your comment is the same as the Old Vette v. Viper debate. Vette always keep up or beat the Viper with less. More reliable, faster and cheaper.

WHY?

Because Like Windows Phone the Vette is a fine tuned machine.

Torolol said,
is WP vulnerable to this 'malware' ?

In theory its not, since you can only get software/apps from the official marketplace. Same with iOS. Now, if it was jailbroken? I would imagine so.

This of course is ignoring the possibilities of back doors and such. But, er, that's getting a little tinfoil hat for me. If there was one, I'm pretty sure criminal malware writers would've found and used it by now, at least for iOS. I don't think WP has enough marketshare to be a viable malware platform yet (not sure how much it'd need to be "worthwhile").

Torolol said,
is WP vulnerable to this 'malware' ?

There can't be such thing as malware in Windows Phone. It may sound impossible, but the OS is so locked down that you can't run unsigned binaries. There are no jailbreaks for WP8 either.

i see,
so underpowered WP (which doesn't have 4 cores) are designed for criminals use because of its unworthiness market share and alleged security.

No one will change their behavior of carrying their "NSA phones" around with them, but they'll still avoid the Kinect.

Why? Because nobody is seriously worried about the chance that the FBI might observe them, but they want an excuse to bash the Xbox One.

This article is incorrect and out of date. As of 2005 the F.B.I. and N.S.A. has the ability to turn on your mic or camera remotely without the use of malware. The carriers can remotely install software on phones without the users knowledge by request from the F.B.I. or N.S.A. This had required a subpoena, but as we have all seen lately, they are not worth their weight in paper.

Related: http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029-6140191.html

magebleck said,
Oh, and did I mention the phone does not need to be powered on?

Of course not. I mean, the NSA and FBI can defy the laws of physics too.

adrynalyne said,

Of course not. I mean, the NSA and FBI can defy the laws of physics too.


As long as the battery is in there is no need to defy the laws of physics....

That isn't what I meant.

There has to be an operating system running at some level to be able to have a functioning device. Cameras require drivers, after all.

If they can access it, then your phone was never truly off to begin with.

Android is open source, you can check-out the code and see that no network access or camera driver access is possible if the device isn't on.

Enron said,
No one will change their behavior of carrying their "NSA phones" around with them, but they'll still avoid the Kinect.

Why? Because nobody is seriously worried about the chance that the FBI might observe them, but they want an excuse to bash the Xbox One.

That, and the fact that during the weekdays, the MAJORITY of the users are either are at work or school, so what is it there for the NSA or FBI to listen or look at, The sofa in your living room?

To me, it is starting to look like that Kinect will be the last thing that the government will try to access to spy on you. They would rather spy you on a device that you carry with you all the time.

"Android is open source". What a load of tosh. Can you show us one single company that ships with the downloadable open source version of Android? No, of course not. Meanwhile Google DEMANDS that in order to use the name Android, handset manufacturers MUST include a couple of dozen proprietary Google programs. These aren't open source either and Google has flatly refused to provide source code in court.

Google only claims Android is open source so weak minded people will believe they're the good guys. They aren't.