Latest leak suggests NSA can spy on offline computers

The latest documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirms that up to 100,000 machines were fitted with small devices that emitted radio waves; the Russian and Chinese military along with the Mexican drug cartels were among the targets of this spying effort.

The leak alleges the NSA inserted small circuit boards or USB devices into machines; this allowed the machine to broadcast radio waves which could then be picked up by operatives nearby. This negated the need for the computer in question to be connected to a network at all. The devices are not new technology but this does seem to be the first time they have been used by the US intelligence agencies.

A spokeswoman with the NSA confirmed with the New York Times that the targets were all foreign, none were based on US Soil and that the NSA's activities are only targeted against valid targets in response to intelligence requirements. She went on to say "We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of - or give intelligence we collect to - US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."

The US President is expected to address concerns surrounding the NSA at a conference on Friday, quoting sources "briefed" on Barack Obama's plans, the Times reported that restrictions on the scope of collecting bulk telephone data will feature, and that a person will be appointed to represent the views of the public in secret intelligence meetings.

Source: BBC | Image courtesy of komputerswiat

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You have to ask yourself...

All this stuff that just keeps leaking out that the NSA is doing...would any of it be leaking and continuing to leak if a "temp" didn't say anything when he was working for the NSA?

Meh thats one heck of allot of porn they might find on my PC... TBH they could come check out my PC anytime if they just asked i have nothing to hide (except maybe a bad taste in music and movies).

Kinda wrong not trusting people and all tho.

"The US President is expected to address concerns surrounding the NSA at a conference on Friday"

'There is no scandal. Now drink your Kool-aid.' He's the one behind it all, why should be take his word?

Is it just me that thinks that so long as the whole article is correct (including the statement from the NSA), then this is a non issue? I mean the NSA is technically a spy agency, and this is what they are supposed to do.

don't misunderstand me though, any of the stuff they were doing against private citizens of their own country is very bad, but the rest is kind of what spy agencies are made for!

So first they have to gain physical access to your computer; if that happens you're already in big trouble for something. Also how would you not notice a strange device installed inside your PC? This really seems like a non-story. They've been planting bugs since what, the 1950s?

If you watch the videos from 30C3 they are embedding boards inside the USB plug so there is nothing so see or even building cases with boards as the casing then covered in plastic.

I do not believe that USB dongles, even installed internally, weren't discovered by the computer users a long time ago as they would be easy to spot by any competent technician. The information supposedly coming out now from Snowden may not be accurate as USB dongles are incredibly obvious and easy to unplug. Installed on up to 100,000 machines, really? Remember, Snowden is in Russia where he agreed to no more leaks. Where are these new leaks coming from then? This story fails the smell test. If anything, it would make more sense to insert a tiny low power transmitter into the power supply. Who ever checks their power supply for post-manufactured circuits?

seeprime said,
I do not believe that USB dongles, even installed internally, weren't discovered by the computer users a long time ago as they would be easy to spot by any competent technician. The information supposedly coming out now from Snowden may not be accurate as USB dongles are incredibly obvious and easy to unplug. Installed on up to 100,000 machines, really? Remember, Snowden is in Russia where he agreed to no more leaks. Where are these new leaks coming from then? This story fails the smell test. If anything, it would make more sense to insert a tiny low power transmitter into the power supply. Who ever checks their power supply for post-manufactured circuits?

It was reported that, prior to going to Russia, Snowden gave several reporters a ton of files. It is reasonable to assume they're still going through things.

So... Assuming these things don't have a rather tell-tale antenna poking out of the case, just how do they get around the whole faraday cage effect of being inside a metal frigging box?

Did the NSA manage to repeal the laws of physics too!?

I don't understand peoples reaction to this sort of news?!

Spying has been going on since the first 2 tribes were formed thousands of years ago and will continue into the far, far future.

In an ideal world it would not be necessary, but this is not an ideal world and never will be. There will always be an 'enemy' and thus spying.

60 years ago it was listening into foreign radio signals and decoding secret messages, today it is hacking computers, one day it will probably be hacking brain waves.

The article states that it is foreign countries who were targeted, and criminals, that's fine with me... even though I'm not in the USA but the UK and we are probably spied on by the USA. It is a vital part of keeping the citizens of a country safe.

Ultimately, if you are doing nothing wrong then you've nothing to worry about! They don't care what you're buying (unless it's guns and bombs) and they don't care whether your watching porn (unless it's snuff or paedo stuff). If you're breaking the law, or plotting terrorism then you've only got yourself to blame if you get hacked and arrested so stop whinging about it!

Welcome to the real world (conspiracy nuts, criminals and terrorists need not apply)....

thehootyowl said,
Spying has been going on since the first 2 tribes were formed thousands of years ago
Why do you put that number "2" in there? Are you that naïve?

Even if there's only one tribe, anyone with power will want to collect information to make sure he keeps that power,

thehootyowl said,
Ultimately, if you are doing nothing wrong then you've nothing to worry about!

False. Do you think the Jews were doing something wrong during the Holocaust? What if someone happened to be working on a new type of encryption; should they be afraid that their government is going to come after them? What if someone had a business online running a secure and encrypted email service and the government ran them off? What if a journalist tried to get to the truth of these matters, only to be silenced or worse?

These things have already happened. Those victims weren't doing anything wrong.

The NSA is already shown to be guilty in numerous aspects of overreaching with its power. They are violating the 4th amendment to the constitution. They are not properly governed or regulated. They are spying on their own people without warrants or just cause. You might not care about those things in the UK, but I care deeply about them here.
It's abuse of power. It's a lack of freedom. This is NOT about safety; it's about control.

Anyone who things the NSA is the only agency applying these practices is delusional. This is old and has been going in some form of another for decades.. It's what many everyday applications and devices have their roots..

Thing is, as long as they target proper people that can actually be a threat to society one way or another. It wouldn't be an issue.

Problem is, they are tracking you and me, the average Joe. Or as we say it "Henk en Ingrid"

And that is a problem and surely not a task of the NSA or any spy agency in the world. The last 'ruler' with such a spying arsenal which used it against its own population and allies was who again? Oh yeah, Hitler.

Patently false. EVERY nation "spies" on its citizens. Just look at Britain and how out of control they are with their cameras. I have it on good authority they even put cameras in high school bathrooms over there.

I cannot believe the people who think the NSA spying on Mexican Drug Cartels is a bad thing.

Disgusting, such is a clear example why everyone tends to have a negative impression of the U.S of A. The NSA is literally out of control and must be stoppred, I wonder how it was even granted such rights by the congress.

Every country spies on every other country, it's not a new concept it's intelligence gathering. It's the fact that these 'revelations' have become public that has got everybody worried, they were perfectly happy being ignorant!

You're right, it you don't know about it, that makes it OK. And Johnny will jump off a bridge, why won't you?

BTW the NSA is more focused on spying on Americans, not just other countries.

yowanvista said,
Disgusting, such is a clear example why everyone tends to have a negative impression of the U.S of A. The NSA is literally out of control and must be stoppred, I wonder how it was even granted such rights by the congress.

It is almost cute that you think this only is done by the USA and that this level of monitoring is new.

1960 called, it wants you to read some history books.

Lord Method Man said,
A spy agency did was spy agencies have always done. Big deal.

A spy agency spying who is not supposed to spying... Different...
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

rr_dRock said,
No. Just the United States of America. Not everyone in what is actually America, is this ridiculous.

No, it is America, actually =). People don't go around calling Mexico the United Mexican States do they? Or call Canada the Dominion of Canada anymore right? No, its Mexico, Canada, and America =).

Scabrat said,

No, it is America, actually =). People don't go around calling Mexico the United Mexican States do they? Or call Canada the Dominion of Canada anymore right? No, its Mexico, Canada, and America =).

Up here in the Great White North it seems to be generally referred to as "The States".

"Dominion of Canada" was formally dropped over 30 years ago...so you're right...people wouldn't call it that...

ExplodingKnees said,
Up here in the Great White North it seems to be generally referred to as "The States".

"Dominion of Canada" was formally dropped over 30 years ago...so you're right...people wouldn't call it that...

Candinavian.

America is the continent: from the northernmost point in Canada to the southernmost point, in the Sandwich Islands. "The Americas" could be referred to North, Central or South America. But in any case America are the States.

Scabrat said,

No, it is America, actually =). People don't go around calling Mexico the United Mexican States do they? Or call Canada the Dominion of Canada anymore right? No, its Mexico, Canada, and America =).

What? Why would that make a difference, when the whole continent is "North America", and the entire region spanning North, South and Central AMERICA is called "The Americas"..... Or do they not teach the continents anymore in the US public schools?

rr_dRock said,

What? Why would that make a difference, when the whole continent is "North America", and the entire region spanning North, South and Central AMERICA is called "The Americas"..... Or do they not teach the continents anymore in the US public schools?

Whats a continent?

Kyle K. said,
America.

You might want to look up RF surveillance and all the countries it has been used in and by for the past 50 years.

Unless your computers are in a lead lined room, a van on the curb can monitor everything you do with electronic equipment.

"Ignorance of what is possible, does not diminish what is possible." - Mobius Enigma


deadonthefloor said,

To the ignorant 'Mericans maybe.

Some of us have even heard of this thing called South America.


Let's be honest here: when people use the term America, how many times are they actually referring to both the north and south continents as a whole? Serious question.

All I see here is an arguing of semantics over how the term is used, not "ignorance". Unless you somehow are implying that every discussion ever regarding the United States of America should always have the words "United States of..." preceding it, as if everyone else would be completely lost without that distinction in a conversation.

You're silly bro.

rr_dRock said,

What? Why would that make a difference, when the whole continent is "North America", and the entire region spanning North, South and Central AMERICA is called "The Americas"..... Or do they not teach the continents anymore in the US public schools?

The difference is calling the United State of America, America, is proper use of the name. I wasnt saying you couldnt call places by their regional name =). I am just saying that using America to name the USA is proper, accepted, and everyone knows what you are talking about. That is the difference.

Also, a little trolling as people get so riled up over America =). LOL!