It seems that government officials can’t begin to justify one public relations disaster before falling head first into the next one. In the latest batch of damning revelations from the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) spy program, PRISM, it certainly seems as though things are going to keep getting worse before anything gets better. In fact, the newest leaks show that there aren’t many differences between the NSA and the late East German Stasi.
Based on recently leaked NSA documents, it has come to be known that the spy agency was (and likely still is) rerouting laptops bought online, in order for them to install spyware and other malicious hardware on the machines before their arrival. In fact, laptops are only one device that the agency has been targeting. The department which has been tasked with the operation of reallocating (stealing) the various property is the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The intelligence service seeks to identify and track its targets based on their digital footprints; identifiers could include certain email addresses or website cookies. The spy agency has backdoor access to numerous hardware and software systems from prominent tech companies such as Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, and Microsoft, among others.
This is unfortunately no longer very surprising: the agency’s actions have been repeatedly disingenuous toward its stated claim of operating for “national security purposes.” The majority of the individuals being spied on are innocent individuals, and standard of law is not respectively followed when questionable warrants are obtained through the FISA court or without any warrant at all.
The U.S. NSA disturbingly has the ability to snoop on nearly every communication sent from an Apple iPhone, not to mention all of our e-mails and other communications. A newly exposed NSA program titled “DRPOOUTJEEP”, allows the agency to intercept text messages, locate a phone using a cell tower, access the contact list, and even activate the microphone or camera on the device itself. All of this without necessarily any grounded suspicion.
“DROPOUT JEEP is a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted.”
They may not operate with 100 percent efficiency when it comes to following the law or respecting civil liberties, but the NSA claims a 100 percent success rate with regard to the operation of implanting iOS devices with spyware, proving that it’s not that difficult to spy on every one and every thing when you have seemingly unlimited money and resources.
Although not the only Smartphone maker that has been targeted by the NSA, Apple has responded to concerns from users over recent spying allegations by insisting that it was unaware of the NSA hacking program, and that it was looking to terminate such an initiative. In a statement, Apple officials said:
“We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.”
Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum, also recently revealed some discomforting revelations about spying tools used by the National Security Agency. One in particular, known as a portable continuous wave generator, is a remote-controlled device which strategically bounces invisible waves of energy off keyboards, and monitors in order to see and display what is being typed. The method works even if the target computer is not connected to the internet.
In yet another valuable revelation from an apparently bottomless trove of leaked NSA files, we regrettably reaffirm our notion that government spying has gotten a little out of hand. The fight against the NSA is heating up as activists such as Julian Assange and others, call for a global and united front in resisting overreaching government surveillance, along with other intrusions to internet freedom and privacy.