Not only does the NSA snoop your personal communications, the agency also excels at infecting computer networks with malicious software.
Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst roundly excoriated by government as a dangerous leaker, has revealed that more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide have been infected.
A management presentation shows how the surveillance agency uses “Computer Network Exploitation” (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. “CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software,” reports the Dutch website, NRC.nl.
The NSA has a special department dedicated to malicious hacking. Tailored Access Operation, or TAO, has more than a thousand hackers hired to go after targeted networks.
In August, the Washington Post reported that TAO had installed an estimated 20,000 “implants” beginning in 2008 and by the middle of last year the number had jumped to 50,000. The implants act as “sleeper cells” that are controlled at will.
“Computer hacks are relatively inexpensive and provide the NSA with opportunities to obtain information that they otherwise would not have access to,” write Floor Boon, Steven Derix and Huib Modderkolk. “The NSA-presentation shows their CNE-operations in countries such as Venezuela and Brazil. The malware installed in these countries can remain active for years without being detected.”
NSA referred inquiries about the revelations to the U.S. government. A government spokesperson said the disclosure of classified information endangers U.S. national security.