August 3, 2013 - 11:51 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The FBI has developed the capability to remotely switch on the microphones in Android handsets and record user’s conversations, according to Daily Mail.
The same technology also enables investigators to do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, an anonymous former U.S. official said.
The claims, made in a Wall Street Journal report on the FBI’s use of hacking tools, come hot on the heels of revelations that the National Security Agency gathers data on millions of American citizens.
Unlike the NSA, the FBI claims it only uses surveillance and hacking in specific cases.
The use of sophisticated technology has grown as agents seek to keep up when tackling organized crime, counter-terrorism and child pornography suspects who use cutting-edge technology.
The bureau is investing heavily in recruiting hackers in order to improve its surveillance capabilities to catch terrorists and criminals in the act.
The FBI is supposed to have a warrant in order to carry out such surveillance techniques, but sources familiar with the FBI say these new methods are increasingly seen as a way of getting round having to apply for a warrant in some cases.
However the ex-FBI official told the WSJ that the tools are only used when other surveillance methods won't work. ‘When you do, it's because you don't have any other choice,’ they said. The concept of remotely forcing a cellular mic to eavesdrop isn't entirely new.
The FBI's so-called ‘roving bugs’ were used against alleged mobsters in 2004, and in 2002 the FBI kept tabs on supposed criminals using the microphone in a vehicle's emergency call system.
What is new is that the FBI now has a dedicated hacking group - the Remote Operations Unit.
“[The FBI] hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things,” said the former FBI official.
Neither the FBI nor Google, the tech giant behind Android, has commented on the allegations.