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NSA compromising the technology and products of American companies

alexd

Administrator
Staff member
A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."

Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalogue of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

The NSA doesn't just rely on James Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world's leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc. and China's Huawei Technologies Ltd., the magazine reported.

Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalogue-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp. or Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. The magazine said that suggested the agency was "compromising the technology and products of American companies."

Old-fashioned methods get a mention too. Der Spiegel said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be discretely fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way.

Intercepting computer equipment in such a way is among the NSA's "most productive operations,
" and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited by Der Spiegel stated.

One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA's alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.'s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies.

The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows.

One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft's expense, replacing the software giant's standard error report message with the words: "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint [signals intelligence] system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine."

Microsoft said that information sent by customers about technical issues in such a manner is limited.

"Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer's data," a company representative said in an email Sunday. "We would have significant concerns if the allegations about government actions are true."

Microsoft is one of several U.S. firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA — and worked to bolster their security — in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance.

Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden's key contacts — American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras — was listed among the article's six authors.

No one was immediately available at Der Spiegel to clarify whether Snowden was the source for the latest story.

Another company mentioned by Der Spiegel, though not directly linked with any NSA activity, was Juniper Networks Inc., a computer network equipment maker in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"Juniper Networks recently became aware of, and is currently investigating, alleged security compromises of technology products made by a number of companies, including Juniper," the company said in an email. "We take allegations of this nature very seriously and are working actively to address any possible exploit paths."

If necessary, Juniper said, it would, "work closely with customers to ensure they take any mitigation steps."

NSA intercepts computer deliveries, says report - World - CBC News
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
I cannot wait to see what happens 10 years from now. I'm sure people will by that point accuse the american gov't of setting them up or planting information on their machines to implicate the users.

It's a shame people are so easily willing to give up their rights and fail to realize what's coming on the horizon. I've listened to enough people say that they've got nothing to hide, really? that's your argument for surrendering your rights? what about when accusations start flying about things only you thought you knew ie drug use, mistresses, surfing pron etc... they will have access to everything and data is so easily manipulated that one can paint a picture and nobody will care if it is true or not.

or lets say they find photos of kids on your hard drive and then pursue you for being a Pedo, you know nothing of any of this but it is being used to set you up in a way that leaves you defenseless, imposes guilt on you in the court of public opinion and can bankrupt you.

The entire thing is out of a fiction novel, I would be an idiot even 2 years ago if I wrote the above. Now, it is very well possible and will eventually happen to someone somewhere
 
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djfear

TRIBE Member
I hate that argument "I've got nothing to hide." Really??? Give me your fucking wallet, I'm going to start copying down your credit card numbers + expiration & security code on the back. I have shopping to do!
 
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