Over a decade ago, it was discovered that the NSA embedded backdoor access into Windows 95, and likely into virtually all other subsequent internet connected, desktop-based operating systems. However, with the passage of time, more and more people went “mobile”, and as a result the NSA had to adapt. And adapt they have: as Bloomberg reports, “The NSA is quietly writing code for Google’s Android OS.”
Is it ironic that the same “don’t be evil” Google which went to such great lengths in the aftermath of the Snowden scandal to wash its hands of snooping on its customers and even filed a request with the secretive FISA court asking permission to disclose more information about the government’s data requests, is embedding NSA code into its mobile operating system, which according to IDC runs on three-quarters of all smartphones shipped in the first quarter? Yes, yes it is.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirms that the company has already inserted some of the NSA’s programming in Android OS. “All Android code and contributors are publicly available for review at source.android.com.” Scigliano says, declining to comment further.
Through its open-source Android project, Google has agreed to incorporate code, first developed by the agency in 2011, into future versions of its mobile operating system, which according to market researcher IDC runs on three-quarters of the smartphones shipped globally in the first quarter. NSA officials say their code, known as Security Enhancements for Android, isolates apps to prevent hackers and marketers from gaining access to personal or corporate data stored on a device. Eventually all new phones, tablets, televisions, cars, and other devices that rely on Android will include NSA code, agency spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said in an e-mailed statement. NSA researcher Stephen Smalley, who works on the program, says, “Our goal is to raise the bar in the security of commodity mobile devices.”