Hack this: Researchers turn Verizon device into ‘mobile spy station’

As Florida Verizon customers are just recovering from the revelation that their phone records are being shared with the National Security Agency a new wrinkle appears. Verizon phones may be used as spying devices.

Verizon Florida is the largest cell phone carrier in the state. According to the Verizon Florida website, “Verizon’s powerful networks continue to meet the growing broadband, communications and information needs of Florida and Tampa Bay area consumers and businesses, as the company invested more than $347 million in its Florida wireline networks and information technology infrastructure in 2012.”

GEO Intelligence reports:

Security experts said they have managed to spy on Verizon Wireless mobile phone customers by hacking into devices sold by the US carrier, further fueling the controversy over privacy issues in the wake of the NSA leaks.

Tom Ritter and Doug DePerry demonstrated for Reuters how it is technically possible to eavesdrop on text messages, photos and phone calls made with an Android phone and an iPhone by using compromised Verizon products.

The hacking requires nothing more than a femtocell, which serves as a small cellphone tower to boost signal reception, which Verizon sells for $250; dozens of other carriers also offer the same technology.

The finding comes at a time of intense international debate about privacy after former NSA analyst Edward Snowden last month blew the whistle on a top-secret US surveillance program, known as PRISM, which has the capability to collect and store records on telephone and internet communications around the world.

The Verizon discovery, however, would put the power of spying into the hands of ordinary citizens, according to the researchers.

“This is not about how the NSA would attack ordinary people. This is about how ordinary people would attack ordinary people,” said Tom Ritter, a senior consultant with the security firm iSEC Partners.

Verizon announced it has updated the software on its femtocells to thwart hackers from carrying out a similar attack on its system.

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