The US National Security Agency has embedded spying software in 100,000 computers around the world to carry out surveillance on friend and foe alike, according to the New York Times.
It is claimed the NSA has developed new technology that allows it to enter and attack databases, even if the computers involved are not connected to the internet.
The New York Times, quoting a range of security sources, says:
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 NSA says its main aim in developing and deploying the Quantam spyware is to counter potential cyber attack against US corporate and military interests. China is reported to have used similar technology against intelligence systems used by American companies or government agencies.
However, the Pentagon has taken it a step further. “What’s new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency’s ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before,” James Andrew Lewis, cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told the NYT. “Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the U.S. a window it’s never had before”
An NSA spokesman declined to comment on the scale of its Quantam activities but said it was only deployed against “valid foreign intelligence targets,”
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