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Nokia is accused of leaking Finnish data to the US

Lumia phones and Windows Phone implicated
Tue Feb 25 2014, 12:30
Nokia Lumia 2520 in Red

NOKIA HAS BEEN ACCUSED of leaking data from Lumia phones that use the Windows Phone mobile operating system into overseas hands.

A report at the Helsinki Times cited sources who claimed that shortly after Nokia sold its Lumia smartphones to the Finnish government, it introduced its smartphones to someone else.

The leaks were uncovered by the newspaper and come on the heels of surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations last year.

The paper reports that after seeing the Lumia handsets the Finnish government, including the prime minister, embraced them. "At the same time, the data leak began," it explained.

"Nokia's top management has known since spring 2011 that Lumia's operating system transmits a great deal of information about the phone's user to Microsoft," Helsinki Times added. "The company, however, has kept quiet about it, because the matter is embarrassing."

Finnish eyebrows were not raised until last summer when Snowden's revelations surfaced. At the time, government insiders assumed that Finnish communications would be open, and pondered how they might have contributed to that.

"When we found out about the allegations, we were in contact with the Finnish Security Intelligence Service and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority," Juhapekka Ristola, director general of the Communications Policy Department at Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications told the Helsinki Times.

Nokia was approached about this last year, and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority repeatedly asked it for assurances that the government's communications were protected.

The newspaper reported that Nokia offered a careful response to the government's questions, and only delivered it once the extent of those inquiries had been scaled down.

"Nokia is not aware that those kinds of functionalities or components, which enable the revealing of the user's private information to outsiders without the knowledge of the user, would have intentionally been installed into its products sold in Finland," said a response from Ilkka Rahnasto, Nokia's VP of Legal and Intellectual Property, upon receipt of a third request.

In a test the newspaper looked to see how a Lumia phone might share information externally. It said that the phones constantly talk to base stations and servers, and not just the local ones that you might expect.

"According to information received from the base station, the phone continuously 'talks' with many servers located abroad, unbeknownst to the user. The user does not see any of this," the paper explained.

"In the test, it became clear that if the Nokia phone is using settings suggested by the operating system, the phone circulates the browser's data transfer through Microsoft's proxy server located in the United States. Only after that can the phone get connected to a Finnish web address. In other words, Microsoft can, when it wants to, monitor what pages the Finnish user visited."

It came out last year that Microsoft was the first large US information technology company to join the US National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM programme.

The newspaper report said that the only information not routed through American servers, and apparently thus the NSA, is banking information.

We have asked Nokia for comment. µ

 

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