NSA reportedly compromised more than 50,000 networks worldwide

Leaked top secret presentation slide shows over 50,000 Computer Network Exploitation implants

The U.S. National Security Agency reportedly hacked into over 50,000 computer networks around the world as part of its global intelligence gathering efforts, and also taps into large fiber optic cables that transport Internet traffic between continents at 20 different major points.

The agency installed specialized malware referred to as "implants" on over 50,000 devices in order to perform Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported Saturday based on documents it said were leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The information is reportedly taken from a 2012 top secret presentation about the NSA's worldwide signals intelligence gathering capabilities that was shared with the intelligence services of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand that form the Five Eyes partnership.

CNE is one of three types of Computer Network Operations that NSA computer specialists perform. It "includes enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks," the NSA says on its careers website.

According to a presentation slide published by NRC, the NSA deployed over 50,000 CNE "implants" world-wide.

The Washington Post reported in August that the attack tools used for these implants are developed by a specialized NSA team called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) and are designed to compromise routers, switches and firewalls to monitor entire networks.

The implants persist through software and equipment upgrades and can be used to harvest communications, copy stored data and tunnel into the compromised networks from outside, according to the Washington Post. Their number is expected to reach over 85,000 by the end of 2013.

The slide leaked by NRC also reveals that, aside from CNEs, NSA has access to large Internet cables at 20 different locations, most of them outside the U.S.; runs over 80 regional Special Collection Service (SCS) installations that are part of a joint CIA-NSA program used for close surveillance operations and wiretapping; maintains liaison with 30 third-party countries outside of the Five Eyes; and has access to 52 regional facilities dedicated to intercepting foreign satellite communications (FORNSAT).

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Government use of ITsecurityU.S. National Security AgencyspywaregovernmentExploits / vulnerabilitiesdata protectionmalwareprivacyintrusion

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?