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Police State Alert: NSA Has Probably Intercepted Your Laptop and Illegally Planted Spyware Before You Bought It!

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The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency. The first use was in September 1966, replacing an older seal which was used briefly. For more information, see here and here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May God help us all when you consider the amount of kafka-esque monitoring of citizens being done in the name of protecting our “freedoms.” As Orwell warned us, Big Brother will tell us that War is Peace. As with spyware illegally planted on computers before they make it to stores, there is a political “malware” planted on our government called the Shadow Government, and it’s “hackers” are special interests, working for a foreign interests, whose main goal is to monitor citizens to identify those who are potential “enemies of the state” and those who will offer no resistance. Which one are you?

When agents with the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division want to infiltrate a network or a computer, they turn to their technical experts. This particular unit of the United States intelligence service is known internally as ANT. The acronym presumably stands for Advanced Network Technology, because that’s what the division produces — tools for penetrating network equipment and monitoring mobile phones and computers. ANT’s products help TAO agents infiltrate networks and divert or even modify data wherever the NSA’s usual methods won’t suffice. You can read more about the TAO division, its strengths and tricks in a SPIEGEL feature that was published in English on Sunday.

SPIEGEL has obtained an internal NSA catalog describing ANT’s various products, along with their prices. A rigged monitor cable, for example, which allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor,” goes for $30 (€22). An “active GSM base station” that makes it possible to mimic the cell phone tower of a target network and thus monitor mobile phones, is available for $40,000. Computer bugging devices disguised as normal USB plugs, capable of sending and receiving data undetected via radio link, are available in packs of 50, for over $1 million.

Intelligence agencies, incidentally, are not the only ones using these types of devices. The same kind of modified USB plug played a role, for example, in a recent high-tech drug-smuggling case uncovered at the port of Antwerp, Belgium.

NSA malware has also been used against international telecommunications companies, such as partially state-owned Belgian company Belgacom and mobile phone billing service provider MACH. One internal NSA document dating from 2004 describes a spyware program called “VALIDATOR” by saying that it provides “unique backdoor access to personal computers of targets of national interest, including but not limited to terrorist targets.”

The NSA has also targeted products made by well-known American manufacturers and found ways to break into professional-grade routers and hardware firewalls, such as those used by Internet and mobile phone operators. ANT [used by NSA hackers] offers malware and hardware for use on computers made by Cisco, Dell, Juniper, Hewlett-Packard and Chinese company Huawei.

TAO’s implants, in place around the world, have played a significant role in the NSA’s ability to establish a global covert network consisting partly of the agency’s own hardware, but also of other computers subverted to serve its purposes.

Intercepting Packages and Manipulating Computers

ANT’s developers often seek to place their malicious code in BIOS, software located directly on a computer’s motherboard that is the first thing to load when the computer is turned on. Even if the hard drive is wiped and a new operating system installed, ANT’s malware continues to function, making it possible to later add other spyware back onto the computer.

Along with the BIOS software of computers and servers, the NSA’s hackers also attack firmware on computer hard drives, essentially the software that makes the hardware work. The ANT catalog includes, for example, spyware capable of embedding itself unnoticed into hard drives manufactured by Western Digital, Seagate and Samsung. The first two of these are American companies.

Many of these digital tools are “remotely installable,” meaning they can be put in place over the Internet. Others, however, require direct intervention, known in NSA jargon as “interdiction.” This means that brand new products being delivered by mail are secretly intercepted, and hardware or software implants installed on them. The package is forwarded to its intended destination only after this has been done.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nsa-secret-toolbox-ant-unit-offers-spy-gadgets-for-every-need-a-941006.html

In January 2010, numerous homeowners in San Antonio, Texas, stood baffled in front of their closed garage doors. They wanted to drive to work or head off to do their grocery shopping, but their garage door openers had gone dead, leaving them stranded. No matter how many times they pressed the buttons, the doors didn’t budge. The problem primarily affected residents in the western part of the city, around Military Drive and the interstate highway known as Loop 410.

In the United States, a country of cars and commuters, the mysterious garage door problem quickly became an issue for local politicians. Ultimately, the municipal government solved the riddle. Fault for the error lay with the United States’ foreign intelligence service, the National Security Agency, which has offices in San Antonio. Officials at the agency were forced to admit that one of the NSA’s radio antennas was broadcasting at the same frequency as the garage door openers. Embarrassed officials at the intelligence agency promised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and soon the doors began opening again.

Workers at NSA’s target selection office, which also had Angela Merkel in its sights in 2002 before she became chancellor, sent TAO a list of officials within the Mexican Secretariat they thought might make interesting targets. As a first step, TAO penetrated the target officials’ email accounts, a relatively simple job. Next, they infiltrated the entire network and began capturing data.

Soon the NSA spies had knowledge of the agency’s servers, including IP addresses, computers used for email traffic and individual addresses of diverse employees. They also obtained diagrams of the security agencies’ structures, including video surveillance. It appears the operation continued for years until SPIEGEL first reported on it in October.

The technical term for this type of activity is “Computer Network Exploitation” (CNE). The goal here is to “subvert endpoint devices,” according to an internal NSA presentation that SPIEGEL has viewed. The presentation goes on to list nearly all the types of devices that run our digital lives — “servers, workstations, firewalls, routers, handsets, phone switches, SCADA systems, etc.” SCADAs are industrial control systems used in factories, as well as in power plants. Anyone who can bring these systems under their control has the potential to knock out parts of a country’s critical infrastructure.

The most well-known and notorious use of this type of attack was the development of Stuxnet, the computer worm whose existence was discovered in June 2010. The virus was developed jointly by American and Israeli intelligence agencies to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, and successfully so. The country’s nuclear program was set back by years after Stuxnet manipulated the SCADA control technology used at Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz, rendering up to 1,000 centrifuges unusable.

Once TAO teams have gathered sufficient data on their targets’ habits, they can shift into attack mode, programming the QUANTUM systems to perform this work in a largely automated way. If a data packet featuring the email address or cookie of a target passes through a cable or router monitored by the NSA, the system sounds the alarm. It determines what website the target person is trying to access and then activates one of the intelligence service’s covert servers, known by the codename FOXACID.

One document labeled “top secret” and “not for foreigners” describes the NSA’s success in spying on the “SEA-ME-WE-4” cable system. This massive underwater cable bundle connects Europe with North Africa and the Gulf states and then continues on through Pakistan and India, all the way to Malaysia and Thailand. The cable system originates in southern France, near Marseille. Among the companies that hold ownership stakes in it are France Telecom, now known as Orange and still partly government-owned, and Telecom Italia Sparkle.

The document proudly announces that, on Feb. 13, 2013, TAO “successfully collected network management information for the SEA-Me-We Undersea Cable Systems (SMW-4).” With the help of a “website masquerade operation,” the agency was able to “gain access to the consortium’s management website and collected Layer 2 network information that shows the circuit mapping for significant portions of the network.”

To conduct those types of operations, the NSA works together with other intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, which in turn maintain informants on location who are available to help with sensitive missions. This enables TAO to attack even isolated networks that aren’t connected to the Internet. If necessary, the FBI can even make an agency-owned jet available to ferry the high-tech plumbers to their target. This gets them to their destination at the right time and can help them to disappear again undetected after as little as a half hour’s work.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/the-nsa-uses-powerful-toolbox-in-effort-to-spy-on-global-networks-a-940969.html

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Written by voiceoftruthusa

December 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm

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