NSA has 'industrial scale' malware for spying

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, as seen from the air, January 29, 2010
The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, as seen from the air, January 29, 2010

The National Security Agency has developed malware that allows it to collect data automatically from millions of computers worldwide, a report based on leaked documents showed Wednesday.

The report co-authored by former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald for the online news site The Intercept said the program has dramatically expanded the US 's ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale.

The report is based on classified provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

It said the surveillance technology allows the NSA to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with "implants" which can help the agency extract data from overseas Internet and phone networks.

The report by Greenwald and reporter Ryan Gallagher said these implants were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps but that the NSA has expanded this to "industrial scale," according to the documents.

The automated system codenamed TURBINE expands the ability to gather intelligence with less human oversight, according to the report.

The report was the first by Greenwald based on leaked documents since he joined First Look Media, an organization backed by tech entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar that includes The Intercept.

Greenwald was among the first journalists to publish documents leaked by Snowden describing the vast surveillance programs of the NSA and other intelligence services, sparking a massive outcry.

Wednesday's report said the covert infrastructure that supports TURBINE operates from the NSA headquarters in Maryland, and from eavesdropping bases in Britain and Japan and that the British intelligence agency GCHQ appears to have played an important role in the effort.

The report said that in some cases the NSA has used a decoy Facebook server to infect a target's computer and exfiltrate files.

It said the malware can also covertly record audio from a computer's microphone and take snapshots with its webcam.

The Intercept said the malware has been in existence since 2004 but that the automated program expanding its use appears to have begun in 2010.

The malware can be installed in as little as eight seconds, according to the documents.

Because people have become suspicious of email attachments, the report said the NSA has had to resort to new tools to install the malware such as "man-in-the-middle" and "man-on-the-side" attacks through Internet browsers.

The NSA, queried by AFP, did not directly respond to the report. But an NSA official reiterated policy that its operations are conducted "exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose to support national and departmental missions, and not for any other purposes."

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© 2014 AFP

Citation: NSA has 'industrial scale' malware for spying (2014, March 12) retrieved 15 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-03-nsa-industrial-scale-malware-spying.html
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Mar 12, 2014
I think its funny. No doubt the NSA needs this capability to do its job, but it makes it very clear to the rest of us that they WILL get access to your devices if they want to, and they will spend as much time and energy as it takes to get this done.

Mar 12, 2014
Perfect. Embedded in a Windows update or anti-virus provider.

Mar 13, 2014
NSA has 'industrial scale' malware

Weird. The industry doesn't have 'industrial standard' malware. Shouldn't that be 'NSA has government scale malware' (or 'hacker scale malware')?

You guys have given your freedom away to a bunch of fear mongers

Unfortunately the NSA isn't content with just trashing the civil rights of US citizens.

I for one, have lost my faith in America

Not so much in america but in anything that the government (and those few who control it) do.

Mar 13, 2014
The commies has mandatory ID cards. The capitalists have Facebook, Twitter and Google Accounts, all free. It would be criminally negligent not to mine those goldmines who users have put there out of their own free will! TANSTAAFL.

Mar 13, 2014
Unfortunately the NSA isn't content with just trashing the civil rights of US citizens.
Thankfully not all germans live in eurodisneyland.

"Angela Merkel: Russia 'will not get away' with annexation of Crimea

"The German Chancellor's tough message underlines how America and the EU have agreed a joint response to Ukraine crisis"

-Without agencies like the NSA and a strong military we would be helpless when gangster regimes wanted to steal their neighbors in bits and pieces...

"The government in Kiev has linked Internet and phone service disruptions in recent days to cyberwar attacks. Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council reported a "massive denial-of-service attack"... The cyber attacks in Ukraine pale by comparison with what happened in Georgia during Russia's military intervention in South Ossetia in 2008..."
lost my faith in America
Well put your faith in its enemies then. Without the US they WILL take what you have.

Mar 15, 2014
NSA's software is "Spyware" not "malware". This software does not harm the computer or inconvenience innocent users of of the internet. The purpose of this spyware is to protect innocent people from terrorists, and I am thankful that NSA has implemented this program.

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