Big Brother Is Watching You

Why Using Popular Communication Apps Is Not a Good Idea In Terms of Security

Browse through your PC and mobile devices. Certainly, you have one of those most popular communication services used by millions of people all over the world. What’sApp, Viber, Telegram – if you don’t use one of those, you’re definitely acquainted with Skype. All of the mentioned above services claim they have high protection from hacking, wiretapping, etc. But should we take it for granted? Let’s investigate.

 

Too Many People to Stay Uncontrolled

This is a fundamental truth that every government wants to control its citizens. We won’t talk about reasons and motivations, let’s just accept this fact. Telecommunication laws of different countries oblige operators to preserve calls, emails, and websites visited by their users, together with location data, for the period from half a year to several years (depending on country). This information is generally known.

Unfortunately, the situation with popular communication apps doesn’t differ much, and this can be simply explained.

There are about 3 billion active Internet users. Around 300 million of them use Skype, 600 million users have Viber, 100 million uses Telegram and BBM, and 1 billion goes to What’s App. These are huge numbers of people that use “secure” services. And do you really believe that governments will let so many people stay uncontrolled?.. No chances, the investment is worth it.

 

Cooperate or Go Away

Let’s be more argumentative. This is a well-known fact that Microsoft cooperates with intelligence agencies. Since it has bought Skype in 2011, this service must comply with the general corporation’s Privacy Policy. So yes, your Skype calls and messages can be easily read and wiretapped, because the corporation shared the decryption codes with power structures.

As it is stated in Skype Privacy Policy: Skype… may provide personal data, communications content and/or traffic data to an appropriate judicial, law enforcement or government authority lawfully requesting such information. Skype will provide reasonable assistance and information to fulfill this request and you hereby consent to such disclosure.”

This refers to other messengers as well: governments make owners cooperate, or they won’t be allowed in the country otherwise. The good example is China, where the Internet censorship is widely known. Popular communication apps are not an exclusion, as you may guess, and are censored as well.

Similar situation is in Russia, UAE, and some other countries. Governments, explaining their actions by the antiterrorism protection, or struggle for clear cyberspace, or pornoindustry restrictions, or whatever else, try to control communication services and therefore all those millions of people, using them. And if they are hard to control, they must be forbidden.

 

Engaging a Third Party for Help

Still, hard doesn’t mean impossible, and if the security agencies do not have their own units to solve this problem, they always can engage a third party. The world leader on creating systems for analysis and data processing for security agencies is American company Palantir Technologies. The software of this company is used by both American and Russian governments (and probably some more) for “hacking” such apps like Viber and others.

In addition, no one abolishes the black market. And it is really huge, with multiple products and professionals offering their services. One should understand that every app, even the most secure one, has a soft spot, and it is only the matter of price, would it be hacked or not. If the game is worth the candle, the contractor will be found. And if we talk about millions of, say, Viber users, government has a great motivation to reach their conversations.

 

Spy Programs for Everyone

Also one should mention such spy programs as FlexiSpy, which “read” What’s App, Viber, Telegram, BBM, and many other “secure” messengers. These programs are easily found and can be bought by anyone on the Internet. So if an ordinary person can “get” your conversations for, say, $100 per month, would you believe that governments have less possibilities and money to reach all your secrets?

 

Conclusion. If They Want It, They Get It

A good illustration of the mentioned above is the scandal between Apple and FBI. In a few words, the FBI asked Apple to unlock an IPhone of thedetained terrorist. Apple refused. After some time FBI managed to access the data on the IPhone by founding a third-party that was able to unlock the phone.

One more example is the case in the Netherlands, where the police managed to hack into “uncrackable” Blackberry. It was reported that even deleted emails could “largely” be recovered.

To sum up, one should understand that using popular communication apps means agreeing for wiretapping and hacking.

If the service is not secure enough – it would be “tapped”. If it is encrypted enough – the government will make the owners cooperate, or forbid. And if it is popular, it will be hacked anyway like Apple and Blackberry. This is how things work these days.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_data_retention

http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-issues-new-restrictions-on-messaging-apps-1407405666

http://phys.org/news/2016-01-dutch-police-hack-uncrackable-blackberry.html

https://www.znak.com/2013-08-19/kto_kak_i_zachem_proslushivaet_vashi_razgovory_i_chitaet_perepisku_issledovanie_znak_com

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/29/apple-vs-fbi-all-you-need-to-know.html

http://www.dailydot.com/politics/encryption-backdoor-russia-fsb/