Business Technology

Saturday 20 September 2014

NSA can eavesdrop on your PC even if it is not on internet

Matthew Sparkes

Published 15/01/2014 | 13:57

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FILE - This Thursday, June 6, 2013, file photo, shows a sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world ó but not in the United States ó that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines, The New York Times reported Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. ((AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - This Thursday, June 6, 2013, file photo, shows a sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world ó but not in the United States ó that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines, The New York Times reported Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. ((AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The NSA has created devices which allow it to eavesdrop on computers even if they are not connected to the internet, and from a distance of eight miles, according to reports.

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The New York Times claims that the technology has been in use in a project called Quantum since as early as 2008, and relies on small radio transmitters which can be placed inside computers or peripherals.

The documents reveal that covert transceivers can be placed inside USB cables which send data back to a briefcase-sized machine. The chip can also receive information, potentially allowing malware to be installed on to the computer.

The information reportedly comes from documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Files describe a device called Cottonmouth I which sends information through “covert channels” and appears to be a normal USB cable. Another device is a small computer chip which can be fitted inside computers at the factory or after purchase.

The devices communicate with a briefcase-sized base station called Nightstand from a distance of up to eight miles in “ideal environmental conditions”. Other base stations can act as a relay and connect the target’s computer with other machines at NSA headquarters.

But these machines and their code names are at least five years old, according to reports, meaning that their capabilities may now be far more advanced.

According to the newspaper, documents show that “computer network exploitation” has spread as far as the Chinese and Russian military, Mexican police and drugs cartels, the European Union and targets in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India.

“NSA'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 to the Wall Street Journal.

“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.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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