FBI turning to private sector to hack phones, exploit unknown security holes

Thanks to the NSA PRISM revelations we've all lost our innocence about government cyber-spying, but how far down that rabbit-hole has law-enforcement gone? Revelations from the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas show that such tactics are old hat for another US anti-crime department: the FBI. For instance, one ex-official said that the bureau's analysts (shown above) can routinely turn on the microphones in laptops and Android devices to record conversations without a person's knowledge. On top of such in-house expertise, a private sector cottage industry has sprung up around cyber surveillance, marketing programs that can also hack handheld devices and PCs. One company even markets "zero day" bugging software that exploits unknown security holes -- meaning crime lords can't just patch their browsers to avoid detection.

[Image credit: Wikimedia Commons]