NYT reveals details of spyware for surveillance of the population
Representatives for Telegram, WhatsApp and Signal say they are powerless against the new tracking technology.
The NYT claims that technology exists in Russia that taps into the telecommunications infrastructure and provides a wide range of spying capabilities on daily phone and website usage.
With the help of special tools, you can track certain types of activity in whatsapp and Signal, locate phones, identify anonymous social media users, and hack other people’s accounts. This is evidenced by documents from Russian suppliers of surveillance technologies, received by The New York Times .
New technologies allow you to get a “detailed view of the Internet.” For example, one of the programs displays information about the subscribers of the object, as well as statistical data about Internet traffic on a specialized control panel for use by law enforcement officers.
According to the documents, another tool displays the locations of the two phones throughout the day to find out if the callers were together at any time, indicating a potential meeting between people.
Another feature that uses location tracking to check if multiple phones are often in the same area is inferring whether someone might be using two or more phones. With full access to information about the subscribers of the telecommunications network, the system can also accurately determine the region of a particular user in Russia.
One of the program’s features uses a technique known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), which is used by telecommunications service providers to analyze the route of their traffic. The program cannot intercept the content of messages, but it can determine what data is being sent where. This means the software can accurately detect when someone is sending a file or joining a voice call on the WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram.
This technology gives access to important metadata, which is general information about the message, such as who is talking to whom, when and where, and whether a file is attached to the message.
The creators of Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp have no means of protecting against such tracking, since the data is collected from ISPs. Encryption can mask certain messages, but cannot block the recording of the exchange.
A spokesperson for Signal stated that “the app was not designed to hide from your own ISP that you are using Signal. The spokesperson urged users to use a feature that sends traffic through a different server to hide its source and destination.
Telegram, which does not use end-to-end encryption for messages by default, also said in a statement that nothing can be done to mask the traffic, but users can use the app’s built-in features to make Telegram’s traffic harder to identify and track.
WhatsApp only stated that surveillance tools pose a “serious threat to the privacy of people around the world” and the WhatsApp team will continue to protect users’ private conversations.
The new tools have alarmed security experts and creators of encrypted services. According to them, many knew that such products were theoretically possible, but no one knew that they were now being produced by Russian contractors.