NSA devises radio pathway into computers

The New York Times reports: The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

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.

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “NSA devises radio pathway into computers

  1. rackstraw

    Now that this technique has been revealed, it can probably be stymied by correct use of the Faraday Cage – an enveloping conductive screen, electrically grounded; it blocks the transmission of any and all electromagnetic radiation attempting to pass though it.

    But the real lesson of these scandals is to build countermeasures against hacking into every system from the ground up. That is, a technological and not a legal fix; because matter what make-believe “reforms” are passed they will not be enforced – except against whistle blowers and other “enemies of the state”.

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