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Report: FBI Can Remotely Turn on Phone Microphones for Spying


"It is loath to use these tools..."

In the wake of the NSA domestic spying scandal that broke in early June, TheBlaze got security tips from Gregg Smith, CEO of the mobile encryption company Koolspan, who mentioned cellphone microphones being turned on remotely if they've been compromised, allowing hackers to listen in on your calls.

cellphone microphone Those familiar with some of the FBI's investigation tactics have said some are similar to those used by hackers. One involves remotely turning on a phone's microphone to listen in. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

It turns out for some criminal suspects, the Federal Bureau of Investigation might be this hacker.

The Wall Street Journal reported those familiar with the FBI's tactics said one of them includes being able to turn on a phone's microphone remotely if it is running Google's Android software. The unnamed U.S. official told WSJ that the same can be done with laptops to listen in to conversations.

TheBlaze previously reported that some apps too have turned on microphones to listen to ambient noise in order to gain information that could be used for better marketing. And of course there are those techniques hackers can use to turn on webcams and essentially take control of your whole computer.

Here's more from WSJ about how the FBI would put such tools to use in order to gain information about suspects:

Officers often install surveillance tools on computers remotely, using a document or link that loads software when the person clicks or views it. In some cases, the government has secretly gained physical access to suspects' machines and installed malicious software using a thumb drive, a former U.S. official said.

The bureau has controls to ensure only "relevant data" are scooped up, the person said. A screening team goes through all of the data pulled from the hack to determine what is relevant, then hands off that material to the case team and stops working on the case.

But the FBI doesn't necessarily want to use such tactics like those employed by hackers. As WSJ put it, "It is loath to use these tools when investigating hackers, out of fear the suspect will discover and publicize the technique, the person said."

In recent months, the FBI's General Council Andrew Weissmann said the bureau wished to gain the ability to access emails and online chats in real-time. As of right now, law enforcement is restricted in the types of historical content it can receive from a suspect's Internet activity, something that it calls "going dark" as it can't "tap" into some new technologies like it can phones. But new documents recently released by the Guardian showed the NSA has a program able to collect such information from the Web in real time.

Be sure to check out the Wall Street Journal's full report for more details on the FBI's tactics.

Featured image via Shutterstock.com.



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