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November 25, 2013

NSA Hacks 50,000-Plus Computer Networks in 2012: Report

National Security Agency photo
National Security Agency photo

The National Security Agency infected more than 50,000 computer networks across the globe with malware last year as part of an extensive spy operation, documents provided by NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed.

NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch newspaper to first break the story, reported the malware campaign, known as ‘Computer Network Exploitation,’ is deployed by Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a department within the NSA.

According to the report, TAO software engineers gain access to various routers, switches and firewalls so they can compromise networks to nab the data being transmitted by the devices connecting to them.

The malware, the report stated, can be manipulated remotely and “be turned on and off at will.” The “implants” are like “sleeper cells” that can be turned on by simply pressing a button.

The Washington Post reported this summer that the NSA had a similar program that had affected at least 20,000 computers as of 2008, so this, obviously, is something the NSA has been doing for some time.

And it is unlikely such programs will cease any time soon, In fact, they will become more extensive if the NSA has its way.

According to a February 2012 NSA document obtained by the New York Times, current U.S. law does not satisfy the needs of the agency to carry out extensive surveillance.

“The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on NSA’s mission,” the document stated.

The document revealed the NSA’s aspiration to conquer the cyber-security procedures of its foes which would allow it to get its hands on the data it needs from “anyone, anytime, anywhere.” The NSA also wants to decrypt or circumvent codes that protect communications by persuading “the global commercial encryption market through commercial relationships,” human spies and intelligence partners in other countries.

Another goal is to “revolutionize” analysis of its extensive data collection to “radically increase operational impact.”


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Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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