Security Advisor

NSA Allegedly Placed Backdoors in Domestic Routers Sent Overseas

A new book said that the compromised devices sent overseas did not have any specific targets in mind.

According to leaked documents by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the government agency has been actively placing surveillance tools in U.S.-manufactured Internet routers that are sold overseas.

The new allegations come from an upcoming book called "No Place to Hide" by reporter Glen Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper. Greenwald was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize based on his work with the NSA reveals coming out of the Snowden leaks.

In the excerpt posted online, Greenwald discussed that while a House Intelligence Committee suggested avoiding the use of Chinese routers due to the concern over implanted spy devices, the NSA was involved in the same exact practice.

"A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit," wrote Greenwald. "The NSA routinely receives -- or intercepts -- routers, servers, and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers."

Greenwald went on to say that the compromised devices would then connect back with the NSA servers, allowing backdoor access to connected computers and devices. Citing an internal NSA report, the devices would report back to NSA servers after a certain amount of time had passed. "In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure," read the report, according to Greenwald's book. "This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network."

This isn't the first time the NSA has been accused of placing surveillance tools inside manufactured routers. A report from the German news magazine Der Spiegel in January said the intelligence agency's National Security Agency's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit was actively placing backdoors in Cisco routers, BlackBerry and iPhone devices.

In a recent interview with NPR, Greenwald said the NSA practice of inserting spy devices in domestically made routers was not done with a single target in mind, but to provide the agency with as many open doors to networks and systems as possible.

"It's just simply the fact that they do not think anybody should be able to communicate anywhere on the Earth without they being able to invade it," Greenwald says.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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