The National Security Agency (NSA) has an elite team of hackers that crack code and exploit loopholes in software.
Unnamed officials at the NSA were quoted in response to the report, stating: “Tailored Access Operations is a unique national asset that is on the front lines of enabling NSA to defend the nation and its allies. [TAO's] work is centered on computer network exploitation in support of foreign intelligence collection.”
The documents provided to media discussed the NSA TAO who has been tasked with “getting the ungettable” by using:
• Monitoring cables
• Record typing in real time
• USB thumb drives containing radio transmitters to broadcast data over airwaves
• Intercept laptop signals before emails are sent to their destination
• Set up fake stations to intercept phone calls
TAO is located in San Antonio, Texas “at a former Sony computer chip factory, not far from another NSA team housed alongside ordinary military personnel at Lackland Air Force Base.”
The report accounts how the NSA was able to spy on Microsoft crash reports; the Windows operating system box that pops up to dialogue with Microsoft users.
The NSA used these reports to break into computers running Windows software.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked with the NSA by transporting NSA agents to locations in order to inset USB thumb drives into machines so that the malware could be downloaded properly.
According to the report: “This gets them to their destination at the right time and can help them to disappear again undetected after even as little as a half hour’s work.”
Since the creation of TAO in 1997, an estimated 258 targets have been hacked worldwide with data being stolen and exploited by individuals and corporations such as:
• Huawei Technologies
• Western Digital Corp
TAO has shown the NSA that the “most productive operations” involve using intercepting computer equipment which could facilitate discreet espionage tactics.
Media has stated that “technology and computer hardware firms are reporting they have never worked with the NSA or permitted the agency to bug any of their products.”
Documents outlining surveillance programs called DeityBounce also show just how encompassing “spyware catalogue” of the NSA. The tricks at the NSA’s disposal are vast, as more documents are leaked to the public.
Back in 2012, the NSA began a comprehensive program to search out our schools into scouting grounds for a team of American grown hacker community.
The NSA is focusing on colleges and universities within the US.
Four schools have already been singled out as official Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.
The NSA used this program to collect an elite team of “computer geniuses” that are trained in hacking before they obtain their college degree.
The students selected to train under this program will not be privy to the impact their work will have on cyber intelligence, military capabilities and law enforcement’s expansion of spying on Americans.
In concert, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has revealed plans to combine resources with the NSA to create a digital militia that will come to the aid of the US government to protect against cyberthreats.
Their focus will be all digital government infrastructures, industry, academia and any cyber “emergencies” that may manifest without warning.
Recently Microsoft and Google have funded the HackerOne project (HOP) to hire hackers who can identify software vulnerabilities for programmers to learn to overcome.
First a hacker must crack Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 EPM, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash.
Programs of interest include:
• Open SSL
Google’s bounty program has been running for several years and paid out an estimated $2 million to hackers under the Chromium and Google Web Vulnerability Reward Programs (CGW-VRP).
Microsoft has their own bounty program that has poured out $128,000 to hackers for uncovering issues with Windows 8.1.