The Most Evil And Disturbing NSA Spy Practices To-Date Have Just Been Revealed

Tyler Durden's picture




 

Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

 

The man-in-the-middle tactic can be used, for instance, to covertly change the content of a message as it is being sent between two people, without either knowing that any change has been made by a third party.

 

- From Glenn Greenwald’s latest article: How the NSA Plans to Infect Millions of Computers with Malware

 

The latest piece from Greenwald and company on the unconstitutional spy practices of the NSA may represent the most dangerous and disturbing revelations yet. It’s hard for shadiness at the NSA to surprise me these days, but there was only one word that kept repeating over and over in my head as I read this: EVIL.

As a quick aside, Greenwald points out in the quote above how spam emails are used by the NSA to bait you into clicking dangerous links. This is a timely revelation considering I received one such email yesterday from a friend of mine. The email was sent to a wide list of let’s say “liberty-minded people” and webmasters associated with very popular sites. The link seemed shady so I texted him to ask if he had sent it. He hadn’t.

Earlier this week, during a talk at SXSW, Edward Snowden pleaded with people to use encryption. While he admitted if the NSA targeted you individually they could almost certainly “own your computer,” he stated that if people use encryption on a massive scale it makes the NSA’s attempts to monitor everyone at the same time much more difficult.

Apparently, the NSA is well aware of this threat. Which is why we now know that the agency has been dedicating significant amounts of taxpayer dollars toward an attempt to infect millions of computers with malware in an attempt at “industrial-scale exploitation,” which would lead to them “owning the net.”

As Mikko Hypponen, an expert in malware stated:

“The NSA’s surveillance techniques could inadvertently be undermining the security of the Internet.”

Move along serfs, nothing to see here.

From The Intercept:

Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process. 

 

The classified files – provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware “implants.” The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.

 

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

 

The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”

 

Mikko Hypponen, an expert in malware who serves as chief research officer at the Finnish security firm F-Secure, calls the revelations “disturbing.” The NSA’s surveillance techniques, he warns, could inadvertently be undermining the security of the Internet.

 

It sounds like that is precisely their intent…

The NSA began rapidly escalating its hacking efforts a decade ago. In 2004, according to securet internal records, the agency was managing a small network of only 100 to 150 implants. But over the next six to eight years, as an elite unit called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) recruited new hackers and developed new malware tools, the number of implants soared to tens of thousands. 

 

The agency’s solution was TURBINE. Developed as part of TAO unit, it is described in the leaked documents as an “intelligent command and control capability” that enables “industrial-scale exploitation.”

 

Earlier reports based on the Snowden files indicate that the NSA has already deployed between 85,000 and 100,000 of its implants against computers and networks across the world, with plans to keep on scaling up those numbers.

 

The intelligence community’s top-secret “Black Budget” for 2013, obtained by Snowden, lists TURBINE as part of a broader NSA surveillance initiative named “Owning the Net.” 

 

The agency sought $67.6 million in taxpayer funding for its Owning the Net program last year. Some of the money was earmarked for TURBINE, expanding the system to encompass “a wider variety” of networks and “enabling greater automation of computer network exploitation.”

Your tax dollars at works slaves.

One implant, codenamed UNITEDRAKE, can be used with a variety of “plug-ins” that enable the agency to gain total control of an infected computer.

 

An implant plug-in named CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, for example, is used to take over a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations taking place near the device. Another, GUMFISH, can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs. FOGGYBOTTOM records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords used to access websites and email accounts. GROK is used to log keystrokes. And SALVAGERABBIT exfiltrates data from removable flash drives that connect to an infected computer.

 

The implants can enable the NSA to circumvent privacy-enhancing encryption tools that are used to browse the Internet anonymously or scramble the contents of emails as they are being sent across networks. That’s because the NSA’s malware gives the agency unfettered access to a target’s computer before the user protects their communications with encryption.

 

According to the Snowden files, the technology has been used to seek out terror suspects as well as individuals regarded by the NSA as “extremist.” But the mandate of the NSA’s hackers is not limited to invading the systems of those who pose a threat to national security.

 

In one secret post on an internal message board, an operative from the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate describes using malware attacks against systems administrators who work at foreign phone and Internet service providers. By hacking an administrator’s computer, the agency can gain covert access to communications that are processed by his company. “Sys admins are a means to an end,” the NSA operative writes.

But not all of the NSA’s implants are used to gather intelligence, the secret files show. Sometimes, the agency’s aim is disruption rather than surveillance. QUANTUMSKY, a piece of NSA malware developed in 2004, is used to block targets from accessing certain websites.

 

QUANTUMCOPPER, first tested in 2008, corrupts a target’s file downloads. These two “attack” techniques are revealed on a classified list that features nine NSA hacking tools, six of which are used for intelligence gathering. Just one is used for “defensive” purposes – to protect U.S. government networks against intrusions.

 

Before it can extract data from an implant or use it to attack a system, the NSA must first install the malware on a targeted computer or network.

 

According to one top-secret document from 2012, the agency can deploy malware by sending out spam emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link. Once activated, a “back-door implant” infects their computers within eight seconds.

 

Consequently, the NSA has turned to new and more advanced hacking techniques. These include performing so-called “man-in-the-middle” and “man-on-the-side” attacks, which covertly force a user’s internet browser to route to NSA computer servers that try to infect them with an implant.

 

In one man-on-the-side technique, codenamed QUANTUMHAND, the agency disguises itself as a fake Facebook server. When a target attempts to log in to the social media site, the NSA transmits malicious data packets that trick the target’s computer into thinking they are being sent from the real Facebook. By concealing its malware within what looks like an ordinary Facebook page, the NSA is able to hack into the targeted computer and covertly siphon out data from its hard drive. A top-secret animation demonstrates the tactic in action.

 

The man-in-the-middle tactic can be used, for instance, to covertly change the content of a message as it is being sent between two people, without either knowing that any change has been made by a third party. The same technique is sometimes used by criminal hackers to defraud people.

 

“The thing that raises a red flag for me is the reference to ‘network choke points,’” he says. “That’s the last place that we should be allowing intelligence agencies to compromise the infrastructure – because that is by definition a mass surveillance technique.”

 

In many cases, firewalls and other security measures do not appear to pose much of an obstacle to the NSA. Indeed, the agency’s hackers appear confident in their ability to circumvent any security mechanism that stands between them and compromising a computer or network. “If we can get the target to visit us in some sort of web browser, we can probably own them,” an agency hacker boasts in one secret document. “The only limitation is the ‘how.’”

 

GCHQ cooperated with the hacking attacks despite having reservations about their legality. One of the Snowden files, previously disclosed by Swedish broadcaster SVT, revealed that as recently as April 2013, GCHQ was apparently reluctant to get involved in deploying the QUANTUM malware due to “legal/policy restrictions.” A representative from a unit of the British surveillance agency, meeting with an obscure telecommunications standards committee in 2010, separately voiced concerns that performing “active” hacking attacks for surveillance “may be illegal” under British law.

 

When even the GCHQ is questioning the legality of a surveillance program you know you’ve gone too far. Way too far.

Full article here.

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Wed, 03/12/2014 - 22:47 | 4541543 NOTW777
NOTW777's picture

and just think Mike voted for obama

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 22:57 | 4541583 firstdivision
firstdivision's picture

Awww. Thats cute that you think voting matters.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:01 | 4541596 Mister Kitty
Mister Kitty's picture

I want Obama to be my BFF.  Bitches.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:06 | 4541606 Ralph Spoilsport
Ralph Spoilsport's picture

How many sock puppet accounts do you have on ZH so you can pimp your sorry-ass blog? If the Tylers find out, yer outta here.

http://www.zerohedge.com/users/dunce-0

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:14 | 4541634 NoDebt
NoDebt's picture

When they want to take over the internet it won't be by infected emails.  It will be by infected Windows Updates, take over of all major internet "choke points" in and out of the country and implanted code that's probably already in most commercial routers.  In short, they'll nuke it from orbit.  It's the only way to be sure.

Frankly, it's probably already happened.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:26 | 4541661 Ralph Spoilsport
Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:53 | 4541753 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

Just one more in a list of hundreds of reasons to avoid FaceFuk & other "Social Networking" sites like it.

FACE-FUKKED

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:12 | 4541803 Skateboarder
Skateboarder's picture

I keep seeing these Google Shopping Express cars and vans around. Next up, the Google Milkman.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:16 | 4541812 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Bend over, it's time for your google milking.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:33 | 4541850 Skateboarder
Skateboarder's picture

Isn't it nasty how the aggregation, analytics-building, and selling of your information works kind of the same way milk, milk products, dairy, and the infamous "dairy products" (lololol) are made and sold?

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 05:46 | 4542131 Occident Mortal
Occident Mortal's picture

I think by now we get it.

 

They can blackmail anyone.

 

They can target anyone or anyone close to anyone and control them with blackmail.

Even if you are squeeky clean, they can blackmail your kids, your partner, your siblings, your parents, anyone. Or they can control people with power over those close to you. This is why privacy is important.

 

Creating a sprawling centralised database of everybodies secrets is a very bad thing to do, it is an insane weakness in national security especially when you can only assume that the NSA is crawling with Russian and Chinese spies. Every intelligence agency in the world is staffed with at least some double agents. To assume your agency staff are 100% loyal and are who they say they are is incredibly naive. That's why you avoid having a centralised system where a mere infanty private is able to download millions of diplomatic cables.

 

The funniest thing about Bradly Manning's wikileaks case was that the US appeared to think their cables were secure. and evenwent around apologising for the security leak. Every country in the world must have been laughing hard after that call as everyone has double agent of at least private rank in the US army and therefore free access to all this "secure" material.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 09:32 | 4542510 simplejustice
simplejustice's picture

Yeah, just like child porn showing up on your computer right after you make a political contribution to the wrong party.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:20 | 4541818 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

I remember being subtly mocked by some "really smart people" (but having others agree with me) when I first hypothesized that Facebook, Google & other search engines & social networking sites were essentially the ultimate data aggregator tools & efficient invaders of privacy ever developed, that intelligence agencies would never be able to resist commandeering for their ultimate purposes (and with an "ends justifies the means" mentality, with little'regard for due process, the constitution, etc.).

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:28 | 4541838 silverserfer
silverserfer's picture

I thought facebook's NSA, spy feature that perpetuated the arab spring and other popular uprisings was one of the main income prodcers that made facebook a fundamentaly sound investment choice? :/

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 09:20 | 4542457 SamAdams
SamAdams's picture

End the Fed, you are obviously a tin-foil KUKOO...  Darpa had nothing to do with MyFace, and Zuckerberg is an unconnected prodigy that invented it all by himself, said the average USSA citizen.

Silver-smurf, your sarcasm is appalling... Thank G_d Facebook and Twitter were there to ring freedom in the Arab world.  It worked very well, as intended, said the Crown, Rockefeller, Bush and Saudi families.

 

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:28 | 4541839 Grande Tetons
Grande Tetons's picture

...would never be able to resist commandeering for their ultimate purposes. 

Ms. Jones, we love your resume. We see you have been to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and Yale. However, we found a picture of you blowing a donkey in Tijuana on your Facebook page. Do not worry, this does not preclude that you do not get the internship...no, no, no....I would just like you to...give me a reason..why you are the best candidate for the JOB. 

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 03:46 | 4546845 o2sd
o2sd's picture

Ms Jones: Picture yourself as the donkey.

 

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 05:06 | 4542102 Perfecthedge
Perfecthedge's picture

Ooooh, noooo....the NSA will read all the comments made by my fake 18 year old girl on Fukbook!!! Are you serious? And what about my other 10 fake personas? Will they all go to Gitmo for selling web cam shows?

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 09:29 | 4542503 General Decline
General Decline's picture

Corrupt data is useless. Flood it all with trash, I say.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 08:24 | 4542301 sleigher
sleigher's picture

Time to batten down wireless?  Nah...   Get rid of it all together.  Only use an OS like debian, or even better Tails.  encrypt absolutely everything and only ever use TOR.  Even if you go through all that, they still own whatever they want.  They can still get in the PC, 3G in the CPU, and get your keys.  At least Tails covers your tracks when you shutdown.  Wipes memory.  It is something at least.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:29 | 4541684 ghengis86
ghengis86's picture

~12 years ago in my 'Murcia red team/blue team days, some 'tin foiler' told me the government could use your computer to spy on you with their microphones and webcams. I laughed and ridiculed them. Man, was I a douche.

Conspiracy theory, meet conspiracy fact yet again.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:38 | 4541707 Ralph Spoilsport
Ralph Spoilsport's picture

In the Windows 95/98 days, we were turning on the webcams and mics of any user who was on IRC and didn't know about things like Gold scripts. Good times.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 12:39 | 4543488 ultramaroon
ultramaroon's picture

Back Orifice made it so easy. And it, like the NSA QUANTUM plugins, had what CODC called "BUTTplugs": Butt Sniffer (protocol analyzer, natch), Butt Trumpet (e-mails the target's IP to the operator), and Saran Wrap and Silk Rope (which bundled BO with "legitimate" programs and installed BO when you ran the bundle).

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:26 | 4542725 Doubleguns
Doubleguns's picture

I hope your not laughing at those who say they can turn on your mic and camera on your cell phone too!!!

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 05:55 | 4542134 StandardDeviant
StandardDeviant's picture

Your point about Windows updates is a good one.  It'd be astonishing if the people in charge of this spyware program hadn't thought about those already.

It's not the whole solution, but surely anyone who cares about privacy should realize by now that the first step is: Don't use Windows!

Mac OS X, being Unix-based, is much more secure -- though you're still trusting that Apple themselves haven't been compromised, knowingly or otherwise.

Linux can be better still, though it requires a bit more technical skill.  It'd be great if a few of the main Linux distributions were to take advantage of the post-Snowden fallout: put some effort into making their systems' default settings as secure as possible, provide privacy tools that make strong cryptography reasonably easy to use, and then publicize the fact far and wide.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 06:43 | 4542152 Mad Muppet
Mad Muppet's picture

And how many damned anti-virus updates do you get? Seems like mine updates about twice a week. Pile on from .gov? Seriously, how many flaws can there be in an OS that it needs to be updated weekly, forever?

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:20 | 4542696 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

I'm guessing you're using a Windoze OS...

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:44 | 4542218 Yes We Can. But...
Yes We Can. But Lets Not.'s picture

I don't see changing operating systems as a viable long-term solution.

I think that changing/replacing the gubmint is the only potentially viable long-term solution.  Difficult to accomplish with a populace that is asleep.  I would think that it would then be necessary to liquidate the NSA and start from scratch.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 12:50 | 4543561 StandardDeviant
StandardDeviant's picture

Well, that'd be a preferable solution, certainly, but a bit harder to implement.  Changing your OS is entirely under your own control.

Snowden's comments about encryption were telling.  Basically, if the NSA/GCHQ/grey aliens are out to get you specifically, you're in trouble no matter what.  But if you're simply trying to preserve what little is left of your private data and communications, encryption at least keeps you out of the main dragnets.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 08:27 | 4542312 sleigher
sleigher's picture

Tails.  It is what you are talking about.  Maybe not exactly but I think it is as close as you are gonna get.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:29 | 4542741 StandardDeviant
StandardDeviant's picture

That's the idea, definitely.  Will have to try it out.  Thanks for the link!

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:16 | 4541644 One World Mafia
One World Mafia's picture

Write it in and skip the electronics.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:00 | 4541591 maskone909
maskone909's picture

Yep. They really betrayed our trust.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:57 | 4541765 JohnnyBriefcase
JohnnyBriefcase's picture

This would have required some intial trust.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 00:17 | 4541790 balolalo
balolalo's picture

ASSUME everything online or connected is compromised and under control/monitor or can be if "warranted" by "someone". 

In the end, being afraid/paranoid is what they want you to be.  You are more profitable that way.  

TPTB know understand when the masses aren't afraid is when TSHTF, the jig is up, the bubble pops, and chaos follows.  And more often than not it ends as an opportunists bazaar.... at the expense of the people.  Money buying itself back in.  

Exhibit A: Egypt .... Exhibit B: Kiev .... Exhibit C: ???

The true way forward out of this dystopian police state is not let that faze you and still speak the truth and call them out on their BULLSHIT.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 01:25 | 4541930 Superdude
Superdude's picture

What if Sowden et. al., were just making this stuff up? They're not plants, Sowden really worked for the NSA and then quit or ate shit. Either way he proves cred to Greenwald with NSA tags, then starts talking all kinds of shit. Turns out, punk gets lucky and some shit is really going on. Sowden keeps spewing tales and Greenwald keeps reporting other parts. Thing is, this is such big news now NSA cannot confirm or deny that what Sowden is saying is actually true, and he's nail gun proof because NSA will be implicated in his death. If NSA couldn't do all this awesome shit, they'd look weak at a time when apperance is all Merica has. 

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:55 | 4542239 Landrew
Landrew's picture

So which part of the program do you work for? The trolling was last weeks info.

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:22 | 4542708 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

"He knows not the peace of Landrew!"

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 01:25 | 4541931 Superdude
Superdude's picture

What if Sowden et. al., were just making this stuff up? They're not plants, Sowden really worked for the NSA and then quit or ate shit. Either way he proves cred to Greenwald with NSA tags, then starts talking all kinds of shit. Turns out, punk gets lucky and some shit is really going on. Sowden keeps spewing tales and Greenwald keeps reporting other parts. Thing is, this is such big news now NSA cannot confirm or deny that what Sowden is saying is actually true, and he's nail gun proof because NSA will be implicated in his death. If NSA couldn't do all this awesome shit, they'd look weak at a time when apperance is all Merica has. 

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:36 | 4542205 the tower
the tower's picture

All this "awesome shit" is not only done by NSA but also by private firms. If you can cough up the money then the world is an open book...

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:33 | 4542202 BlindMonkey
BlindMonkey's picture

Protip: Never have a private conversation in the presence of a computer or cell phone.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:00 | 4541594 dexter_morgan
dexter_morgan's picture

Unfortunately, this didn't start with Obama, and won't end with him. I think the intelligence agencies have taken on a life of their own over the years. Ike warned us back in the '50's. They just didn't have the technology back then.

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:04 | 4541612 Luckhasit
Luckhasit's picture

Shit.  That never stopped Hoover and his fantastic warehouse of blackmail material. 

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 03:04 | 4542020 Cap Matifou
Cap Matifou's picture

Hoover also said:
"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists."

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 06:58 | 4542164 mvsjcl
mvsjcl's picture

What he should have said is:

"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a monstrous conspiracy so evil he cannot believe it exists."

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:10 | 4541627 Ralph Spoilsport
Ralph Spoilsport's picture

There used to be a joke about the CIA in the late 70s. It was something like "CIA is currently hiring operatives at all levels. If interested, pick up your phone and talk to the dial tone".

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:47 | 4541734 Radical Marijuana
Radical Marijuana's picture

LOL!

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:00 | 4542165 mvsjcl
mvsjcl's picture

Radical, is that your shortest Zerohedge posting ever?

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:41 | 4542212 pies_lancuchowy
pies_lancuchowy's picture

today you don't have to pick up the phone.. just talk

tomorrow, I'll be enough when you just THINK

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 23:21 | 4541658 TheReplacement
TheReplacement's picture

Supposing the information in the article is accurate then what would stop the NSA from owning, everyone.  We know politicians and judges can be purchased.  Big business seems to be vulnerable.  Why not bankers and generals too?  I think the only question is if someone at the top of the NSA has figured out just how much power they really have and if they are willing to exploit it to the fullest measure.

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