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Appelbaum: ‘Scary’ NSA will spy on you – every which way they can

Appelbaum used his allotted time to help shine light on exactly how the NSA compromises computers and cell phones to infect the devices of not just targeted users, but the entire infrastructure that those systems run on.

Controlling the Herd

Appelbaum: ‘Scary’ NSA will spy on you – every which way they can


Jacob Appelbaum

Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum revealed what he calls “wrist-slitting depressing” details about the National Security Agency’s spy programs at a computer conference in Germany on Monday where he presented previously unpublished NSA files.

Appelbaum is among the small group of experts, activists and journalists who have seen classified United States intelligence documents taken earlier this year by former contractor Edward Snowden, and previously he represented transparency group WikiLeaks at an American hacker conference in 2010. Those conditions alone should suffice in proving to most anybody that Appelbaum has been around more than his fair share of sensitive information, and during his presentation at the thirtieth annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg on Monday he spilled his guts about some of the shadiest spy tactics seen yet through leaked documents.

Presenting in-tandem with the publishing of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Appelbaum explained to the audience of his hour-long “To Protect and Infect” address early Monday that the NSA has secretly sabotaged US businesses by covertly — and perhaps sometimes with the cooperation of the tech industry — coming up with ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the products sold by major American companies, including Dell and Apple, among others.

That was only the main theme of many covered throughout the presentation, during which Appelbaum repeatedly revealed previously unpublished top-secret NSA documents detailing the tactics and techniques used by the NSA to intercept the communications of seemingly anyone on Earth.

“Basically the NSA, they want to be able to spy on you. And if they have ten different options for spying on you that you know about, they have 13 ways of doing it, and they do all 13. So that’s a pretty scary thing,” he said.

While nearly seven months’ worth of stories made possible by leaked files pilfered by Snowden have helped explain the extent of the spy agency’s surveillance operations, Appelbaum used his allotted time to help shine light on exactly how the NSA compromises computers and cell phones to infect the devices of not just targeted users, but the entire infrastructure that those systems run on.

“Basically their goal is to have total surveillance of everything that they are interested in,” he said. “There really is no boundary to what they want to do. There is only sometimes a boundary of what they are funded to be able to do, and the amount of things they are able to do at scale they seem to just do those things without thinking too much without it.”

“They would be able to break into this phone, almost certainly, and turn on the microphone,” Appelbaum said at one point as he re-inserted the battery into his mobile device. “All without a court, and that to me is really scary.”Indeed, classified files shown later during his presentation revealed a device that for $175,800 allows the NSA or another license client to construct a fake cell tower than can allow officials to eavesdrop on texts and talks alike.

“They replace the infrastructure they connect to. It’s like replacing the road that we would walk on and adding tons of spy gear,” he said. “And they do that too!”

Writer Glenn Greenwald — who has also worked closely with the Snowden files as well — had similar words earlier this month when he told the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs that he believed the ultimate goal of the NSA is to“eliminate individual privacy worldwide.”

To do as much, Appelbaum added, the intelligence agency has deployed an intricate system of tools and tactics which could eavesdrop not just by hacking into computers with viruses, but by outfitting machines with miniature, remote-controlled bugs and in some instances by relying on beams of radio waves to help identify sensitive information sent across systems. Routinely, he explained, the NSA takes advantage of flaws in computer code. Otherwise, however, documents suggest they’ve opened shipping containers and installed their own, stealthy spy chips into the computers of targets.

Stories based on leaked Snowden files have previously linked the US agency and its British counterpart — the GCHQ — with an array of nefarious activity, including operations that sucked up signals intelligence, or SIGINT, from foreign citizens and leaders alike, including Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel. By using a program codenamed TURMOIL and another TURBINE, Appelbaum said, the NSA and GCHQ can inspect the packets being sent anywhere across the web and then insert its own code when it wants to not just eavesdrop, but infiltrate, respectively.

The NSA says the routine collection of data isn’t illegal, Appelbaum said, because the government relies on perverse language to justify scooping the intelligence — and not necessarily scouring it.

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Contributed by Contributing Author of RT.


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