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New docs suggest NSA can sieze iPhone, BlackBerry and Android smartphone data

A new report from the German newspaper Der Spiegel — citing unnamed, confidential documents from both the National Security Agency and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — indicates that the NSA has uncovered methods for tapping into smartphone users' data.

Worse, no specific smartphone seems immune from the NSA's techniques: The agency can allegedly access contacts, caller histories, and SMS messages (to name a few) on iPhones, BlackBerry, and Android smartphones.

According to Der Spiegel, the NSA allegedly organised working groups to tackle information gathering on each kind of device. Especially concerning, given the level of security promoted by BlackBerry, the team responsible for cracking into BlackBerry devices allegedly managed to break into BlackBerry data as early as May 2009.

A new compression method for BlackBerry data temporarily stymied the NSA's efforts until March 2010, when Britain's GCHQ managed to break back in once again and regain the ability to read users' SMS messages.

Additionally, the NSA has also managed to dig its way into BlackBerry's seemingly secure, encrypted email system.

"This could mark a huge setback for the company, which has always claimed that its mail system is uncrackable," reads Der Spiegel's report.

BlackBerry is staying quiet about the entire ordeal, although the company still touts the security of its mobile services.

"It is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic," said a BlackBerry representative in an interview with Mashable.

"However, we remain confident in the superiority of BlackBerry's mobile security platform for customers using our integrated device and enterprise server technology. Our public statements and principles have long underscored that there is no 'back door' pipeline to our platform. Our customers can rest assured that BlackBerry mobile security remains the best available solution to protect their mobile communications."

The data mining — or at least, the ability for the NSA to do so — was seemingly done so without the various companies' knowledge. Der Spiegel's early report hints at the techniques the NSA uses to access smartphone data: Infiltrating a user's computer and gaining access to his or her smartphone's information when said user goes to synchronise the device.

If that all sounds a bit scary, there's a silver lining to Der Spiegel's revelation — it's likely that you're not in some kind of massive security dragnet.

"The material viewed by SPIEGEL suggests that the spying on smart phones has not been a mass phenomenon. It has been targeted, in some cases in an individually tailored manner and without the knowledge of the smart phone companies," reads the paper's report.