'Spying Birds': Angry Birds website hacked after GCHQ revelations over 'leaky apps'

App maker Rovio's website hacked after documents released by Edward Snowden suggested spy services had targeted game's users to extract data

James Vincent
Thursday 30 January 2014 10:20

The website of game developer Rovio has been hacked, with a picture of the company’s best-selling Angry Birds game replaced with one entitled Spying Birds and featuring the logo of the National Security Agency (NSA).

"The defacement was caught in minutes and corrected immediately," said Saara Bergstrom, a spokeswoman for the company. "The end-user data was in no risk at any point."

The attack comes days after documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggested that the American spy agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, used the game and other “leaky apps” to collect information on smartphone users.

The Finnish company said that they do not “share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies such as NSA or GCHQ anywhere in the world,” and suggested that “the alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks.”

Rovio CEO Mikael Hed suggested that “the most important conversation to be had is how to ensure user privacy is protected while preventing the negative impact on the whole advertising industry and the countless mobile apps that rely on ad networks.”

"In order to protect our end users, we will, like all other companies using third-party advertising networks, have to re-evaluate working with these networks if they are being used for spying purposes," he said.

The latest leaks provided by Snowden referenced a GCHQ report from 2012 that had referred specifically to siphoning data from Android smartphones with Angry Birds installed. Information about the user could include age, sex, location and details about how they used their phone.

Another slide from the British spy agency titled “Golden Nugget” set out a “perfect scenario” where the target was caught “uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device.” This would allow GCHQ to take a “possible image”, email as well as “a host of other social working data”.

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