NSA Taps Into Offline Computers with Radio Waves, Special Hardware
January 15, 2014 1:01 PM
Transceivers send radio signals to relay stations operated by field agents, who can be miles away from the target
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has become a watchful eye behind many of our electronic devices, and a new report shows that it can continue watching even without an internet connection.
The New York Times
, the NSA used top secret radio technology to monitor offline computers, servers, smartphones, and other machines made by companies like Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, and Huawei.
The Times cited documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked NSA secrets to the media during the course of last year.
The NSA program -- codenamed
-- aimed to install spy software on machines shipped globally in an effort to monitor their activity and launch cyberattacks. The NSA reportedly placed the software on nearly 100,000 machines worldwide.
While the agency was able to use the internet to spy on many of the devices, it also found a way to keep an eye on those offline as well. It did so by using a covert channel of radio waves and special hardware, such as tiny circuit boards inside the machines or modified USB ports.
From there, the transceivers send radio signals to relay stations operated by field agents, who can be miles away from the target.
The report further said that the NSA has been using the covert radio technology since at least 2008 in an effort to gain access to difficult targets.
Some of these tough targets are the Chinese military, Russian military networks, trade institutions inside the European Union, and Mexican police and drug cartels.
There is currently no evidence that the agency used the surveillance software or radio wave technology inside the U.S.
The NSA denied accusations that said it could use such technology to help U.S. companies compete in international markets.
"NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against -- and only against -- valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements," the NSA said in a statement. "In addition, we do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of -- or give intelligence we collect to -- U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."
The NSA has been under the microscope ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details about the NSA's secret spy programs to the media early last year. It was later revealed that Snowden conned between 20 to 25 NSA employees to
give him their login credentials and passwords
while working at the NSA regional operations center for a month in Hawaii last spring. Snowden reportedly told the NSA employees that he needed their passwords in order to do his job, and after downloading secret NSA documents, he leaked the information to the media.
Snowden told the media last month that his
mission is complete
after spending the last year leaking secret NSA documents.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the changes planned for the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs this week. According to
The Washington Post
, Obama will announce the changes Friday, January 17. Many expect that more stringent rules will be placed on the NSA, more clearly spelling out what it can and cannot do.
The New York Times
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