Official: FBI Can Remotely Activate Your Android Phone, Laptops to Record Conversations

An ex-FBI official reports the agency can remotely activate the microphone in your android phone and record your conversations.  They can also do the same with your laptops.  The claims were made in a Wall Street Journal article publihed yesterday. 

With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.

The FBI uses these tools in certain cases, like child pornography, organized crime or counterterrorism, but not in the case of hackers– lest the hackers spill the beans about the spying method. 

Invasive methods like these have been used for years. “Since at least 2005, the FBI has been using “web bugs” that can gather a computer’s Internet address, lists of programs running and other data, according to documents disclosed in 2011. The FBI used that type of tool in 2007 to trace a person who was eventually convicted of emailing bomb threats in Washington state, for example.”

A small industry has cropped up to sell hacker-type software to the FBI and the FBI is hiring people with hacking skills. 

The FBI “hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things,” said a former official in the agency’s cyber division. The tools are used when other surveillance methods won’t work: “When you do, it’s because you don’t have any other choice,” the official said.

The trend of digital government sureveillance is growing and has come under scrutiny as the public learns more about snooping capabilities. Recently, Rep. Justin Amash attempted to defund the NSA, as the agency came underfire when Edward Snowden began leaking information about various domestic surveillance operations.