Leaked Snowden documents detail NSA’s plans for ‘millions’ of malware attacks

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Adi Robertson
March 12, 2014

Over the past months, leaked documents from the NSA, GCHQ, and other agencies have shed light on efforts to dramatically scale the process of putting malware on targets’ computers. At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher have published more details about how these programs work, and what tools operatives use to compromise security — whether that’s by hacking routers or impersonating Facebook. A program known as TURBINE, first revealed last year, is meant to dramatically speed the process: one document says it will “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”

The group behind TURBINE, known as the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division, gathers information on specific targets, but Greenwald and security experts worry that a large, automated system makes the surveillance process too painless and open to abuse. The scaling process, according to Greenwald, started in 2004, when the NSA operated only 100 to 150 software implants. The number of implants used in the years between 2010 to 2012, by contrast, is described as numbering in the tens of thousands. The documents revealed in this report appear to be mostly from 2009.

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