Snowden Leak Reveals NSA’s Plans of Malware Attack on App Stores

A new report uncovered from a new set of documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveals the National Security Agency’s (NSA) app store hijacking plans.

NSA, under its program ‘Irritant Horn’, aimed to hack and hijack direct users to spyware and connections to app stores from Google and Samsung, so that spyware would collect data and send it back to NSA without the knowledge of the user.

The Android smartphones with spyware came under the radar of the Global intelligence agencies a few years ago, in an attempt to boost the data collection efforts, amidst concerns sparked by the Arab Spring in late 2010.

As reported by CBC News and The Intercept, the newly-released document published on Wednesday, explains the plot of NSA and its partner agencies in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, collectively called the ‘Five Eyes’.

These global intelligence agencies wanted to exploit the smartphone operating system for surveillance by installing a spyware implant into the connection between a user and their app marketplace servers. The NSA planned to secretly collect data in this manner, and sought to send misleading information to the targets for propaganda or confusion purposes.

The Spying scheme has been a game plan of several intelligence agencies for some time now.
The NSA and its allies seem to have followed an earlier effort that targeted the UC Browser, a widely popular app in China and India, in late 2011. This program was reportedly leaking phone numbers, SIM card numbers, and other device details to its servers in China, enabling a close monitoring by the spying agencies, until a human rights group, Citizen Lab alerted the Alibaba Group, the UC Browser’s parent company.

Another stint at scouting was made by GCHQ, the UK spying agency that developed tools called ‘The Smurfs’, to target iPhones and Android devices.

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