It’s not just criminals (and their direct antagonists in the security industry); the FBI likes to hack, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI has been using hacking techniques and products to break into Android phones in order to perform surveillance on criminal suspects.
Allegedly, the FBI can hack a device and activate the microphone to surreptitiously record conversations; it can supposedly do the same with some laptop microphones, as well, according to the WSJ’s sources. The agency can’t perform the hacks without a court order, but of course, using a court order as a check and/or balance hasn’t been working out very well lately. (NSA, we’re looking to you.)
It would seem that the FBI also remotely hack and activate a phone’s camera, which is possibly an even more advantageous feature. There has also been word that the FBI can cull data such as a computer’s IP address and running programs, and it can gain access to a suspect’s machine by delivering a malware payload that grants access, and of course the opportunity to install such software directly is possible any time the agency can physically get its hands on someone’s device.
These techniques are supposedly only used in cases such as organized crime, child porn, and counterterrorism, and under those circumstances, we applaud the FBI for its ingenuity. However, trust in the government is quite low these days, so it’s unfortunate that most of us will hear this and wonder if the FBI is spying on the rest of us, too.