The US National Security Agency (NSA) had plans to hack links to the Google Play and Samsung's app store in order to plant spyware on smartphones, according to a media report. The Intercept said that NSA, together with intelligence agencies from Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, intented to initiate the sping plan aimed to step up surveillance efforts on smartphones. The report was based on a document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The plan appeared to have been discussed at meetings involving the intelligence services in 2011 and 2012, according to the classified document.
The "Irritant Horn" project dwould allow the agencies to hijack data connections to app stores and implant software on smartphones to improve information-gathering capabilities.
The agencies were able to discern how smartphone traffic moved across internet cables between the device itself and the servers run by Google's and Samsung's app stores - in a so-called "man-in-the-middle attack".
The agencies could use a weaknesses in UC Browser, an app owned by Alibaba Group which is popular in China and India to browse the Internet. The specific app is vulnerable and could be used to stelthy send information, according to a recent report from Canadian researchers at Citizen Lab.
The agencies hoped to target users in select nations in Africa, such as Tunisia, Senegal, Sudan, and the Congo, where unrest was common at the time. The agencies were also positioned to use the methodology in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas.