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US 'accesses smartphone data'

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The US spy agency NSA has boasted internally of being able to unlock encrypted data on smartphones by leading manufacturers, a German news magazine reported Sunday. 


Acitivists protest with posters during the demonstra-tion in Berlin, Germany on Saturday. German news weekly Der Spiegel reports Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency can access users' data on all major smartphones.(AP Photo/ dpa, Rainer Jensen)

Der Spiegel said it obtained National Security Agency (NSA) documents in which the agency states it accessed data from Apple iPhones, BlackBerry devices and phones that use Google's Android operating system.

Spiegel said most smartphone data could be extracted, including users' contact lists, text messages logs and information on geographical locations.

The NSA had set up working parties to ensure that each of the main operating systems had a "back door" accessible to spies, the magazine said. Critics warn that hackers may some day discover the NSA's "back doors" and exploit them for crime.

Information leaked this year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that shed light on the extent of US electronic surveillance has sparked international outrage.

In Germany it has stirred memories of totalitarianism, still raw 68 years after the Nazis and the communist era.

Canada-based BlackBerry, which has sold its devices to many governments, advertising that the encryption is too strong for anyone to crack, could be commercially affected if it is proved that a weakness does exist. 

Spiegel said the NSA was able to penetrate iPhone data via the owner's personal computer after their data had been synchronised.

On Saturday, the latest protest against US spying in Germany drew at least 10,000 participants to Berlin.

It came after reports that software companies using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology, employed worldwide in browsers for online commerce and in corporate networks, had been induced to install "back doors," sometimes knowingly and sometimes without realizing it.

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