Who says America has lost its innovation edge? Sure we have record poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and one of the most pathetic broadband systems in the developed world – but check out our spy gear!
According to a report in the New York Times the NSA has developed new radio wave technology to hack into people’s computers. The technology is believed to already be in use in about 100,000 computers around the world and is supposed to solve the air gap problem – hacking into computers not connected to a network or the internet – and other issues that have prevented the NSA from violating all the computer systems they wanted to.
While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.
The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.
Cue X-Files theme.
The one limitation on NSA’s global surveillance schemes – like TURMOIL, TURBINE, and QFIRE – is that because many of the targeted computers are not connected to the internet an agent must insert the hardware or have the manufacturer do it. Remember Stuxnet? The way the NSA overcame the air gap problem was to have hardware inserted into a computer which they then connected to in order to insert the Stuxnet virus.
The radio wave tech is the NSA’s workaround, a way to ensure that even those computers that are not connected to the internet are still in play. And it wouldn’t be a true NSA story until it was officially denied (or obfuscated).
“N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements,” Vanee Vines, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement. “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.”
Who determines if it’s valid again? Oh the NSA will, in secret.
What could go wrong?
Image from presentation by Jacob Applebaum.