British spies have the ability to turn people’s mobile phones off and on and switch on the handset microphone on to listen to what is happening around them, US whistleblower Edward Snowden has claimed.
The former National Security Agency analyst, a fugitive in Russia since he revealed many of the NSA’s secrets, said that Government Security Headquarters (GCHQ) has a programme called “the Smurfs”, after the popular Belgian cartoon characters. Its existence has also previously been reported on by Amnesty International. As well as turning a phone on and listening in, it also allows agents to track a subject’s movements with greater than usual accuracy, Mr Snowden said in an interview with the BBC’s Panorama. Mr Snowden, who now lives in Moscow, told the programme: “Dreamy Smurf is the power management tool which means turning your phone on and off without you knowing.
“Nosey Smurf is the hot mic-ing tool, so, for example, if it’s in your pocket they can turn the microphone on and listen to everything that’s going on around you.”
He said a third tool, called Tracker Smurf, allows the phone to be tracked closely, adding: “They want to own your phone instead of you.”
In the programme he describes GCHQ as “for most intents and purposes a subsidiary of the NSA”, using its technology and following its guidance. In the programme, Mr Snowden denied claims by Mark Giuliano, the deputy director of the FBI, that he is a “traitor” and said he would be willing to return to the US and go to prison.
“The question is, if I was a traitor, who did I betray? I gave all of my information to American journalists and free society generally.”
The UK Government claimed in June that Britain had been forced to withdraw intelligence agents from operations because Russia and China had obtained access to secret information in files stolen by Mr Snowden
He triggered a wave of controversy when he leaked tens of thousands of documents about surveillance programmes run by the NSA and foreign counterparts, including GCHQ, in 2013. He fled to Hong Kong where he met journalists to co-ordinate a series of articles that exposed mass surveillance programmes such as the NSA’s Prism and GCHQ’s Tempora, which involve “hoovering up” vast volumes of private communications.
Once his identity was revealed he fled to Russia, and he remains wanted by US authorities.
Asked if he would be prepared to do a deal with US prosecutors he said: “Of course, I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times. What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”
He added: “I regret that I didn’t come forward sooner because the longer you wait with programmes like this, the more deeply entrenched they become.
“I have paid a price but I feel comfortable with the decisions I’ve made. If I’m gone tomorrow, I’m happy with what I had, I feel blessed.”
A GCHQ spokeswoman said: “It is long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.
“Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.
“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Panorama – Edward Snowden: Spies And The Law, is being shown on BBC One at 8.30pm tonight.
A search team trying to locate a plane missing in Indonesia have detected a signal from the pilot’s mobile phone giving hope to relatives of those on board.
Aviastar Airline1 said contact was lost on Friday morning when the aircraft – carrying 10 people – was travelling over Sulawesi island. The DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, which had three child passengers including two babies, disappeared 11-minutes after take off.
The search is focusing on the location where the signal was detected, Aviastar chairman Sugeng Triyono told the detik.com news website2 . The search – focusing on a beach in Luwu, South Sulawesi – will resume tomorrow.
The airline has named the seven passengers and three crew members on board the plane on Twitter:
No distress signal was received from the plane which was bound for the provincial capital Makassar. The aircraft was between Masamba and Makassar6 when it disappeared from radar. Four aircraft were deployed in the search, said Petrus Budi Prasetyo, the airline’s commercial general manager.
Ahmad Munir, head of the airport authority in Makassar, said satellite data showed the aircraft s last known position was about 32 kilometres from Masamba.
According to Aviation-safety.net7 , Aviastar has had four fatal incidents, including the crash of a British Aerospace 146-300 aircraft in the eastern province of Papua in 2009, killing all six crew on board.
Google Maps Search area: Map shows area where plane went missing
On Twitter, the Aviastar which flies domestic routes shared what it called the “last image” of the plane. Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has had three major air crashes over the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the sea on a flight from Bali to Singapore in late December, killing all 162 people aboard8 . In August an Indonesian flight went missing over Papua.
The Trigana Air Service jet was carrying more than 50 passengers – including five children – and five crew members.
- ^ Aviastar Airline (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ told the detik.com news website (news.detik.com)
- ^ Missing Indonesia plane: Aviastar airline loses contact with passenger flight on Sulawesi island (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ pic.twitter.com/s9yMetEpsA (t.co)
- ^ October 3, 2015 (twitter.com)
- ^ Masamba and Makassar (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ Aviation-safety.net (aviation-safety.net)
- ^ killing all 162 people aboard (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ rescuers found 53 bodies. (www.mirror.co.uk)
- ^ Trigana flight TGN267 goes missing over Papua with 53 passengers and crew on board (www.mirror.co.uk)
A stun gun disguised as a mobile phone has been recovered during a police raid in north Manchester. The weapon was seized from a property on Ridgway Street in Miles Platting1 on Friday morning, October 2. The device does not work as a phone, but has two prongs which deliver an electric shock to their victim.
During the warrant in Miles Platting, two men were arrested on suspicion of drugs offences and taken into custody for questioning.
The first suspect, 30, was held on suspicion of possession of crack cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply, while the second man, 37, was detained on suspicion of possessing crack and heroin with intent to supply.
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Revealed: Best places to raise a family
Dell’s Inspiron laptops has always been hard to beat in terms of pure value, thanks to their mid-range processors and modest dedicated graphics cards at reasonable prices. Last year’s Dell Inspiron 5000 won a Best Buy award, thanks to its bargain price, great performance and decent battery life, so I was keen to have a look at this year’s model. Dell has gone back to the drawing board with this general-purpose laptop, keeping similarly powerful components but completely redesigning the chassis and installing a new screen. There are several Inspiron 15 5000-series models available; our review unit is the second-most powerful model, with an Intel Core i5 processor and dedicated graphics. A Core i7-powered version with dedicated graphics tops the range. There are two less powerful machines, with Core i5 and Core i3 variants, both without dedicated graphics.
In place of the 1,366×768 screen used on last year’s model, the new Inspiron now has a 1,920×1,080 panel, which finally suits the high-spec components you’ll find elsewhere on the laptop. Overall image quality is acceptable, although you shouldn’t expect accurate colours from an sRGB coverage figure of just 58%. I’d much rather have a slightly-drab Full HD screen than a better but cramped 1,366×768 panel, though, although some buyers may disagree.
It’s not a particularly bright display, with our calibrator only measuring a maximum 210cd/m2 white level at the screen’s brightest setting. This is offset slightly by the screen’s matt coating, which means bright overhead lighting and sunlight don’t affect the panel as badly as they would a glossy display. The laptop doesn t feel quite as solid as last year’s. The new model is a couple of millimetres thicker at 22mm with the lid closed, which bucks the trend of laptops getting thinner. This makes room for the DVD drive, which was omitted from last year’s model. The whole device weighs around 60g less, though, at a little over 2.3kg. It’s not light then, so you might want to look elsewhere if you tout your laptop about everyday.
The laptop’s lid will divide opinion, with a textured silver plastic that gives the effect of a robust build, but it doesn’t look as good as last year’s smooth, faux metal coating. The silver plastic used for the rest of the chassis doesn’t feel like quality stuff, either, and there’s a small gap between the palm rest and the keyboard tray, making a happy home for crumbs and hair. All in all, last year’s model felt a lot better built, which is a surprising change in form for Dell.
- ^ Not for you? See our full list of the best laptops you can buy today (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
When Emma Franks mobile phone stopped working she assumed there was a technical problem and called her provider, Vodafone. To her surprise she was told that her sim card had been changed. She was promised the mistake would be reversed and that her service would resume within two hours. It was two days later that Vodafone1 realised that sim card changes can t be reversed and gave her a new card. Service resumed for three days, then stopped. Franks discovered that for the second time her sim had been changed without her knowledge. The following day, 1,500 vanished from her bank account.
Franks had fallen victim to sim swap fraud , a new and little-reported scam which overrides the additional security introduced by banks to protect customer transactions. Fraudsters can complete cash transfers from a stranger s account by accessing one-time pin codes and SMS notifications. Criminal gangs obtain an individual s bank details by bamboozling them with a phishing email, or by purchasing them from organised crime networks. They then open a parallel business account with the same bank, in the customer s name, since this involves fewer security checks if the account holder is already a customer.
Having worked out possible answers to security questions from the victim s social media accounts, they call the victim s mobile phone provider, posing as the customer, to report that their phone is lost or damaged. Provided they can answer basic security questions, the old sim is cancelled and a new one activated. From then on they can commandeer their victim s mobile account, intercepting or initiating calls, texts and authorisations such as those used for cash transfers. They can also request that security settings are changed to stop the victim gaining access to their account. The first the victim will know of a problem is when their mobile stops working and they report it to their provider. In the meantime, their bank account may have been emptied.
Vodafone has really let me down, says Franks, whose bank, Intelligent Finance, has since reimbursed the stolen money. After the first sim swap two of the call centre staff told me they had opened fraud cases against my account, yet a second swap was actioned without question.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by City of London Police, has posted a warning of sim swap fraud on the Action Fraud website, but few outside the banking and telecoms industry are aware of it. My bank told me that they deal with cases like mine every week, Franks says. Intelligent Finance, part of the Lloyds Banking Group, refuses to comment on whether incidents are on the rise, but says that it is working with network providers on the issue. Santander, meanwhile, has installed computer software designed to detect and prevent this scam, and Financial Fraud Action UK says it is liaising with banks to improve security.
However, Franks experience suggests that telephone service providers still have inadequate security when a customer phones to make changes to their account.
I was told that Vodafone call handlers merely ask for the full name, date of birth and address information that is publicly available, she says.
After the second fraud I was promised that a pin and password would be set up on my account, but the following day when I rang I wasn t asked for these. I was advised to change my phone number but that would cost 25. I want to end my contract since I am clearly at risk, but Vodafone insists I pay for the remaining months of service. Providers are responsible for their own security and account authentication processes
Vodafone claims extra security questions were imposed, but the fraudster managed to bypass them. It says it has placed an alert on Franks account that warns call centre staff to contact her if any future request is made to change her account. It has also credited her with 50 in goodwill, and agreed to change her number or cancel her contract without charge. Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, says it is a matter for the banking industry and individual network providers, and it has no plans to make mobile phone companies tighten up their security. Providers are responsible for their own security and account authentication processes, a spokesperson says.
Franks feels that until the mobile phone industry raises security levels to reflect the rise in telephone banking, customers are at risk. I waited a month without word from Vodafone after sending a letter of complaint about my experience, she says. I can t help feeling it s only since the Guardian started asking questions that they decided to take my complaint seriously.
How top protect against sim swap
Beware unsolicited calls, texts or emails asking for personal or financial information even if they appear to be from your bank or reputable company.
Do not open or forward emails that you suspect might be spam and never enter your details in a link.
Ensure you have the most up-to-date software installed on your computer, including anti-virus protection. Some banks offer free security software: check your bank s website for details.
Don t turn your handset off in response to a flurry of nuisance calls. This can be a ploy used by fraudsters to delay victims noticing a loss of service when a sim is swapped.
Be careful what personal details you share on social media since fraudsters can use these to anticipate likely answers to security questions.
Check with your mobile or landline provider about what additional security they can put in place to prevent your number being diverted without your permission.
If your mobile phone service stops unexpectedly, notify your bank.