WSJ: FBI able to remotely turn-on Android and laptop microphones

WSJ: FBI able to remotely turn-on Android and laptop microphones
Using tactics and techniques that are commonly attributed to hackers, the FBI and other federal agencies tap into Android powered smartphones and computers.

The effort has grown to respond to the increased use of new technology and services by those that venture on the wrong side of the law, such as various online chats and the myriad of encryption products available to all consumers.

The methodology is familiar to many of us who read about technology in the mobile sector and the feds either develop the solution in-house, or buy products from third party vendors. The FBI in particular also “hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things. When you do, it’s because you don’t have any other choice.”

In an era where we are not likely to escape such news in the wake of the NSA surveillance program, programs like this are going to be under increased scrutiny, even though the FBI focuses its efforts on the use of this technology in the investigations of organized crime, child pornography and counterterrorism. Perhaps not ironically, the FBI tries not to use these techniques when investigating other hackers out of fear that its tactics, techniques and procedures might be revealed by said hackers to the world.

There are advocates and opponents on the issue as you might expect. However, using common sense makes some of the methods ineffective, as one of them involves sending an email to a suspect’s computer with an attachment that would install software (malware) to gather information. Take it for what it is, but this kind of discrete surveillance is reportedly used very sparingly and with a warrant, not like a dragnet of bulk data that the NSA farms through.

source: The Wall Street Journal



27. Rayvelynn

Posts: 124; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

problem solved I won't use a smartphone anymore. I barely use it now. Going back to flip phones.

26. drnggaj

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 07, 2010

they can do it any phone not just andriod because iphone has bulit in battery even if your phone is powered off i like to take my battery once it charged

24. goojman

Posts: 59; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

@Potdragon: You pretty much summed it up.

23. jamesedward318 unregistered

Nothing suprieses me anymore espcially after seeing Enemy of the State a few years ago.

21. gazmatic

Posts: 822; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

this is not news they have been doing this since 1995 only now because of snowden has it been given that much scrutiny nothing you post online. absolutely nothing online is private the british version of the NSA records EVERY SINGLE WEB TRAFFIC for at least a month before they delete it(if they delete it)

19. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

"First they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Martin Niemoller

18. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Anyone else find it odd at all that this is coming the WSJ? I know they do more than just financial news, but the information (or lack thereof) doesn't seem to really be of Wall Street Journal caliber journalism.

22. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Page views pay the bills. Not only that, every newspaper is a business (usually owned by a bigger business like NewsCorp or Fox or Disney), and every business has at least one agenda: make money by selling product. In this case, the product is fear, conspiracy, scaremongering, anger and outrage, with the spin of trying to reveal what the "big bad government" is doing behind closed doors.

28. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Exactly. Wiser words were never spoken. Okay, wiser words may have been spoken, but these are definitely in the running for tops of the day.

9. bparkerson unregistered

Advice...Best not to do things that would cause a need for them to put you under surveillance. live your life right and it tends to be worry free!

12. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

lets just say you happen to have a small firearm for domestic protection , or happen to talk some thing against authority or local government , then you automatically become a marked man

13. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

No. This is so wrong, it's laughable. What part do you not understand about "inalienable rights"? I would personally rather have two terrorists living on my block than go down this path. THIS is not the U.S.A. I put on a uniform for, and this certainly falls within the military oath to "protect the Constitution from ALL enemies, foreign or domestic." Are you going yo be a good little citizen when they decide what your children need to do for a living, what and where you need to worship, and what you can watch and listen to on a daily basis?

15. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

the states is slowly becoming the new U.s.s.r

8. khaledmhawesh

Posts: 38; Member since: Mar 14, 2013

I really dont care im not gonna kill any one so it doesnt mind I dont care if they'll know me at home our at my grandparents house :p

10. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

they dont want you , they want your freedom ,

16. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Freedom has been an illusion since Man first picked up pointy sticks and heavy rocks.

5. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

I fail to see how wp an iOS are not vulnerable to the same type of attack and call scaremongering on WSJ against android.

3. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Scared of the FBI? No worries! #switchtowindowsphone lol JK! But they can't hack it right away, they need a warrant right?

4. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Their supposed to have a warrant before invading your privacy but that doesn't mean their going to listen to the law.

25. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Are we talking about the FBI versus the US only or the FBI versus the world?

29. johnbftl

Posts: 283; Member since: Jun 09, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation only has jurisdiction in legal matters pertaining to crimes occurring within U.S. boundaries. Anything occurring outside of the U.S. has to be turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency. As is with the FBI, the CIA only has jurisdiction to operate outside of U.S. borders.

2. ZeroCide

Posts: 819; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

This reminds me of that stupid FBI moneygram virus.

1. nobelset

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

Well they do need a warrant... But these kinds of things are starting to freak me out.

6. PotDragon

Posts: 214; Member since: Jul 22, 2011

Wake up. Seriously. You think ANY device passes FCC approval in 2013 without a backdoor for the government BUILT IN? They target you, then you can be tracked. It has been PUBLIC INFORMATION for years that they can use a cell phone as a listening device if the battery is installed; no need for device to be turned on. To pretend they need hackers is beyond foolish. To think they don't employ the best already is naive. To believe you have any warent protections is ludicrous. Those targeted carry dumb phones with the battery removed or they are caught. Period. Wake up.

7. nobelset

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

And to think a country with 300 million+ people is doing nothing to stop it. :-)

17. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

300 million+ people need to do this.

11. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

As Pot says, " believe you have any warent [sic] protections is ludicrous." As I have been commenting since the Snowden leaks broke, there is no 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If you want to not be tracked, remove the battery from your device. Is anyone wondering why more and more phones are being built with non-removable batteries?

14. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

i think the best solution is to go for some older hardware , eg - g nexus instead of the nexus 4 , as they say , old is gold ..........but sad to say , tablets have no removeable battery option

20. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2578; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Obtaining a warrant is about as easy these days as getting a ticket to Disneyland. FISA courts give out warrants pretty readily these days, and also they don't have to notify you immediately about a warrant taken out against you until days after they've already collected the necessary data from you.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless