Below is are simplified explanations of NSA ‘products’ used to spy:
- TYPHON HX: Fake cell towers – You think your cell has connected to a typical provider (Bell, AT&T, Orange…) but for just $175,000 each the NSA has developed fake mobile cell towers.
…this type of hacking was spotted in action by the Ecuadorian embassy shortly after Julian Assange arrived as a house guest. The embassy’s staff started getting welcome messages from Uganda Telecom on their mobile because the British intelligence services hadn’t reconfigured their data slurping base-station correctly from a previous operation…
- QUANTUMINSERT: Fake duplicate websites – You THINK you signing into Yahoo.com or CNN.com, but you are really signing into an NSA managed clones of Yahoo or CNN (or other sites…)
- COTTONMOUTH: Wireless transmitter in an USB cable – For just $4000 each the NSA apparently developed these cables to broadcast data being sent through a USB cable to an NSA truck, just down the road.
- RAGEMASTER: Wireless transmitter in a Monitr (VGA) cable – The NSA can watch what is happening on the screen in their monitoring truck parked just down the road.
- HOWLERMONKEY: a tiny unit that sits in your network (Ethernet) port – This can be used to inject data into your network traffic, monitor the network traffic or disrupt network traffic
- BULLDOZER: A wireless network card – You may say what good it that, well, if you have your WiFi turned off, this one is always on, and always broadcasting to… you guessed it… the NSA monitoring truck just down the street
- IRATEMONK: Firmware for your Hard Drive – Yes, this is BELOW the operating system right in the physical workings of the Disk. Apparently it works on Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and Samsung disks (98% of the disks) and more to track what the computer is doing. It will stay even if the disk is wiped out, repartitioned and/or reformatted
- TURBINE – The active surveillance of a wiretap on the cable between North America and the rest of the world – The vast majority of international communication runs through a single cable SEA-ME-WE-4 in the Atlantic Oceans floor between New York and the UK and then on to Pakistan, India and far east.
- DROPOUTJEEP: An Apple iPhone software hack – With a claimed 100% success rate leading some notable security analysts to speculate that Apple was involved in developing the hack. Apple, of course, denies this.
…The leaked catalog is roughly six years old; new technologies developed in the mean time by the NSA (estimated annual budget: $10bn) are anyone’s guess, or worst nightmares.
Readers may find some cheer, or not, from the suggestion that most of these techniques are used against highly targeted individuals rather than everyone en mass: NSA analysts need the help of the FBI and CIA to install the hidden hardware snoopers, for example, either by intercepting shipments or by carrying out a so-called black bag job…
Personally, I am not shocked at these and with limited use these are all likely very good things however, secret information gathering has a long history of becoming abused in the medium and long runs.
…sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Read the full store with more complex hacks and tricks at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/31/nsa_weapons_catalogue_promises_pwnage_at_the_speed_of_light/