Snowden Says NSA, GCHQ Spy Agencies “Own Your Phone”

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Snowden Says NSA, GCHQ Spy Agencies “Own Your Phone”
Photo by AK Rockefeller

In an interview with the BBC from his home in exile in Moscow, Edward Snowden said that U.S. and UK intelligence agencies have developed several tools to hack smartphones. The Snowden interview was broadcast on the BBC’s “Panorama” on Monday night.

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Snowden went on to note that for the most part intelligence agencies are not really looking to monitor private phone communications. They are actually taking over full control of the phone to take photos or record ongoing conversations within earshot.

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“They want to own your phone instead of you,” Snowden commented.

NSA / GCHQ “Smurfs” can own your smartphone

According to Snowden, the UK’s spy agency the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has used NSA technology to develop software tools to control almost anyone’s smartphone.

In the interview he notes that all it takes is sending an encrypted text message to get into virtually any smartphone. Moreover, the message will not be seen by the user, making it almost impossible to stop the attack.

In an appalling choiced of code names, apparently the GCHQ is calling these smartphone hacking tools the “Smurf Suite” after the famous Dutch blue-skinned  cartoon characters.

“Dreamy Smurf is the power management tool which means turning your phone on and off with you knowing,” Snowden pointed out.

“Nosey Smurf is the ‘hot mic’ tool,” he explained. “For example if it’s in your pocket, [GCHQ] can turn the microphone on and listen to everything that’s going on around you — even if your phone is switched off because they’ve got the other tools for turning it on. Tracker Smurf is a geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ] to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.”

Snowden also highlighted that one tool, Paranoid Smurf, is actually a defensive mechanism designed to make the other tools installed on the phone undetectable.

The tools Snowden described in the interview were GCHQ jargon, but Snowden said the UK intelligence agency was “to all intents and purposes a subsidiary of the NSA. They [the NSA] provide technology, they provide tasking and direction as to what they [GCHQ] should go after.”

He also noted that the NSA has spent close to $1 billion to develop a similar smartphone hacking program.

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52 COMMENTS

  1. There’s nothing new here. The only thing I find hysterically ironic is how much the government is strangling us – Snowden is just revealing all this in drops – he still has millions of pages of documents with information – yet he is crying the blues to come back home. Can’t be all that bad now, can it, if the guy condemning this government wants to return to living with it.

  2. The evil government paid trolls here hard at work trying to smear Snowden by calling him a ‘traitor’ and giving people who point out their corruption thumbs down while forgetting that if the corrupt treasonous government had not been committing crimes against the constitution in the first place none of this blowback would have ever happened. This just shows it does not pay to be corrupt. In a new article by mint press titled: Former NSA Tech Director Says US Has Become Totalitarian State he is only stated the obvious. One tactic they use which I’ll mention again later is as follows:

    -Pretend to be incredibly naive by saying they have nothing to hide while pretending a police state would never resort taking advantage of its technology for corrupt purposes against innocent citizens despite most or all major corrupt governments having done so in the past. (including unethical experimentation remember CIA MK-Ultra and FBI Cointelpro against Martin Luther King?)

    Here are six rules the evil government trolls try use to manipulate and control the citizens:

    The rules can be separate or combined:

    – Present lies as facts while ignoring real facts and hopefully people don’t have enough time to do their own research. For example one tactic is to shift focus to corporate internet spying while ignoring the corrupt corporations work with the corrupt government. See: ‘Netflix, Facebook — and the NSA: They’re all in it together’ by Leonard 2013 published by Salon News website ( the articles notes it’s many more companies than just netflix or facebook it’s all the major players that work with the NSA)

    -Attack, discredit or blame good people who are supporters of freedom and ignore or downplay the unconstitutional corrupt government activities. Make the government look like the victim if possible. Pretend to be incredibly naive by saying they have nothing to hide while pretending a police state would never resort taking advantage of its technology for corrupt purposes against innocent citizens despite most or all major corrupt governments having done so in the past.

    -Create distractions by attacking and blaming other people unrelated to the main subject, manipulatively joke to make light of the situation so as to control and downplay public reaction (damage control) or give thumbs down to people exposing their corruption. Pretend to say ‘everyone knew it all along’ but ignore that that same attitude was attacked as ‘crazy conspiracy theory’ by trolls as well. Snowden made it fact.

    – Promote the message of fear and that the government corruption is for the people’s own protection. If people object to this call them paranoid or resort to name calling and call freedom outdated. Ignore that technology is just a tool and it depends on how ethical, moral, and respectful a society is for how it is used.

    – Use amorality to justify illegal unconstitutional actions. If the government says it’s ‘legal’ then it’s ‘good’ If the government says it’s ‘not legal’ then it’s ‘bad’. Morals, Ethics, and the Constitution be damned. Show hypocrisy by calling people who support the constitution ‘traitors’ while committing the ultimate treason and being the ultimate traitors by doing things against the constitution which the government swore to uphold and which is the supreme law of the land. Be evil by encouraging cowardice by trying to make examples of people who have morals and ethics and who do the right trying.

    – arrogantly assme to know that the framers of the constitution would go against everything they fought for and embrace a corrupt military industrial complex due to terrorist attacks while forgetting they had their own terrorist attack by the redcoats during the boston massacre of 1770. In reality the attack only made the desire for freedom and limited government stronger with the American people at that time not weaker.

    Corrupt governments tend to hope for a demoralized immoral populace constantly arguing with each other so they stay weak and divided. Divide and conquer is another of their tactics. (Remember the FBI’s COINTELPRO and the CIA’s Project MERRIMAC) in our current times they have even created evil Gestapo style surveillance tactics as seen from the NPR news article titled FBI Reveals Tricks of Trade by Dina Temple-Raston July 05, 2008. So the government not only trolls on-line but they troll and stalk physcially in person with their Gestapo tactics out in the field. The military and CIA have also done things of pure evil by even using implants in innocent American citizens (including children) in attempt to control people through torture or experiments for behavior modification. (Please see the book The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists by Colon Ross MD)

    (On a side note: A former CIA and DEA whistleblower Schlund was preparing a lawsuit against the corrupt government for recruiting politicians, media and use of implants to tourture whistleblowers. The general use of CIA manipulation of media is true see for example Operation Mockingbird and the possibility of use of implants is true as the CIA have been already documented to have used implants to torture for behavior modification or experimentation in the book CIA Medical Doctors by Ross MD. So it is possible he was telling the truth.)

    The CIA even unethically experimented on their own agents without the consent of said agents. (See: Frank Olsen)

    What is our weapon against their immorality and evil? We have our will power, ethics and morality.

    To counter the actions of the corrupt governments try promoting values of freedom, morals, honesty and friendliness. Try to give thumbs up to others comments supporting freedom and maybe support by donating some money (of what you can afford ) to organizations like EPIC or Jonathan Corbett who have lawsuits against the corrupt government. A populace with high morale with strong values of freedom, morals, and friendliness by supporting each other in comments and in our own personal lives and families makes it very hard for corrupt governments to win over the populace with their lies and it makes it harder for them to create their ‘sheeple‘. (their evil ‘fearful slaves’ who lost the ability to critically think)

    “The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body.” Thomas Jefferson

  3. Actually this is not news! When it became possible to load software on cellphones this is what people were warned about!

  4. I am waiting with anticipation for the day when Edward Snowden reveals the security problems with paper and pencils! He will probably declare them threats to privacy because somebody can stand behind you while you write and read what you have written! And from this he will move to the risks for privacy caused be eyes and ears. Somebody can misuse their eyes and read your secrets you have put to paper and, GASP, use their ears to listen to what you and your friends talk about in for example in a restaurant or in lift!

  5. Snowden is not a traitor. In fact, since his revelations, new laws have been introduced to stop what the NSA, even though they probably are still doing it. Its remarkable how you can’t get your limited brain around the implications of this kind of spying.
    Business conversations between overseas corporations are now vulnerable to getting their plans and new inventions stolen and sold. If you think the NSA is not above that chicanery you’re proof that Americans have been dumbed down.
    The NSA was also listening into the conversations of the Heads of State of other countries which speaks to the distrust in which America is held. But that I guess is okay with your limited scope of thinking.
    ” Cybereyes”. What a joke. You’re laughable.

  6. Wow, you people are truly deranged. Im thinking maybe you do need to be monitored lol. You sound like a danger to someone eventually. Hold on, let me adjust your computers camera. OMG, why are you wearing womens underwear?

  7. Jason, do the world a favor and drown yourself in a toilet. The world is counting on you Jason. This message will self destruct in 3….2…..OMG, we have been compromised, the government intercepted my message before it self destructed and halted the procedure with their powers. Hurry Jason, no time to waste, find a toilet.

  8. Shh, reality is not what these whack jobs want to hear. They couldn’t comprehend it anyway. They need to think that the government is out there spending millions of dollars, if not billions, to follow them around all day, and a billion other people.

  9. shhhh, don’t ruin it for the morons and their pointy tin foil hats. They need something to believe in. It actually helps them to believe that there is a room full of people from the “guvment” all waiting patiently for them to pick up their phone so that they can track their every movement. ” Someone call the president, he just went into Starbucks” “OMG, he ordered a latte and phoned his friends to join him”

  10. Only in your deranged little mind. Most Americans I know would like to see him hanging from a tree, but I spent most of my life as a soldier and not sipping coffee in Starbucks blogging about stuff I know nothing about, so what would I know.

  11. So I guess if you had a brain you could possibly tell the difference from looking into someones bedroom and thinking that the government may want to listen to your phone calls about ordering pizza. You really think they are spending millions of dollars to listen to you on your phone don’t you……. Yeah, because you might say something important huh……

  12. Yeah, no one cares. Love it all you want, you are an idiot. The reason why no one cares is because 99.999999999999999% of the population aren’t working in espionage or terrorism and have nothing to say on their phone that anyone within the government would spend time, money, and resources on to listen to. So get on back to your bunker and leave the rest of us alone.

  13. Who keeps making all these Snowden says articles? That is the only question I want to know. Why should anyone in America care what Edward Snowden says? He is an American Traitor living in Russia. The only thing anyone should care about him saying is what he says about being behind bars.

  14. I’m going to try and mod my phone to accomplish some of these changes, possibly videos on YouTube of others doing it too. Google working on modular next gen phones which would make those parts removable and interchangeable so it may be widely available in medium term

  15. The tools are avavailabe to anyone. I used them with my phone I loaned my girlfriend. I was able to turn it on off. Monitor calls and her through the mic among other things. So the tools are there and its software online like mobil spy stuff that will do this, but I don’t think the GOV spies everyone phone like that unless they have a reason

  16. It’s now time for soundproofed smart phone carrying cases. Let the government hackers listen to the inside of the case all they want.

  17. You’re right, it’s lame. It’s just a knee jerk remark in response to the “he’s a traitor”and the “I have nothing to hide” responses that always seem to follow his name. Plus a little frustration that my once private life is now an open book to anyone who wants access, but I still get the bill for the “privilege”

  18. Surprise, surprise! The American government “already had corruption and criminality within it”? Show me a government that doesn’t!!!

    The entirety of D.C. is full of lying, traitorous snakes that have long ago sold us all down the river.

    Why people still buy into the system is a continual surprise to me.

  19. One always wants to keep the government guessing what one will do…otherwise one simply becomes a pawn in their game of highly unethical charades.

  20. So I guess if I am looking in your bedroom window and you cant see me but I can see you, its ok as long as your not doing anything except watching football game?

  21. Exactly.

    Just like the Secret Service just got caught illegally accessing the files of a Congressman to sabotage him.

    His “crime” ??

    He was investigating two Secret Service agents who were driving drunk, DUI, and who not only crashed their government car but crashed it right through an active crime scene being investigated…. so the SS staff used electronics to try and go after him… because they could. And they got caught. About a week ago.

  22. There isn’t anything “absurd” about the potential for NSA employees to be monitoring mere innocent citizens.

    You think male employees would pass up an opportunity to listen in on two 18 year old girls talking about sexual relations with their boyfriends? In Los Angeles, a cop was caught about four years ago using video cameras to view women’s breasts and legs as they walked through the airport. His “job” was to monitor the crowd for dangerous characters… And he was just one perfect example.

    Your post is shallow and lame.

  23. Yes. Think about it. Obviously, you haven’t. Try harder. Your lame example of two 14 year olds means nothing. The danger is that the NSA is monitoring everyone older than that.

  24. I believe a former member of the NSA …. a 30 year employee who was a Director or Asst Director… just gave testimony in Germany that he views the American government today as “totalitarian.” That says a lot. He said when he worked for the agency, it already had corruption and criminality within it. So imagine how dangerous it is now that they have us all at the touch of an electronic button.

  25. In California, several California Highway Patrol (State Troopers) were caught and convicted of handcuffing female victims and browsing through their personal smart phones only to look for nude photos.. then sending those photos between one another and laughing and whatever else male cops do inside their patrol cars parked in the shadows.

    That happened about year 2014 or year 2013. Google it. The one cop admitted what he had done and implicated his criminal buddies…. victimizing girls like your daughters or nieces.

  26. I’m surprised there isn’t a smartphone (that I know of anyway) that has a toggle switch that physically disconnects the connections to the camera and mic when activated, and effectively unplugs the GPS chip on these devices. Seems like a device like that might find a market.

  27. They have every interest in every private citizen.
    The USA is notorious for manipulationg elections. Finding out who you’re going to vote for and if they don’t like it dis-enfranchise you / make it difficult for you to vote is pretty standard in that country.

    Micheal Brown got shot , only 30% of the blacks showed up to vote, and now they’re sueing Fergusan missiour complaining their right to vote has been sabataged.

    It isn’t just criminals who need to worry about their privacy.
    Now it’s everyone.

  28. I don’t understand how he says he wants to come home so badly that he is willing to spend the rest of his life in a US jail (a US jail is preferable to living free in Russia?) and then he comes out with spilling more secrets, making his situation worse for coming home. Something does not compute.

  29. The day information technology went to commerce department under Clinton was day any protection systems for citizens left including western private sector. NAFTA ensured every nation in the world could develop tools to hack everything. Than patriot act let every person including Snowden and Robert Hanssen have access to these tools.

  30. We rely on technology to save the day, they rely on human intelligence, and action. Just a waste of money and supports the police state.

  31. Think about it, everyone has a smartphone today. How would the NSA monitor every call, txt, voice, email 24/7? What posssible value would two 14 year olds txt or conversations have to the NSA?

  32. I don’t doubt they use such tools to get into phones being carried by persons of interest and known operatives. But it is absurd to think that everyday citizens are all being monitored to this level. That just is not happening and the NSA would have no interest in that and would not be able to deploy the kind of computing and networking horsepower required to monitor hundreds of millions of cell phones simultaneously in real time.

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