Jan 15, 2014

How can the NSA monitor computers that are offline?

The latest NSA revelations concern the agency physically installing backdoors that allow them to monitor machines even when they are not connected to the internet. How would this work? How can they monitor something that isn’t online?

N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers


"The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials."
You can pour out a little chianti in thanks to Guglielmo Marconi for this NSA ability. Radio waves, my friend, radio waves, zipping through thin air straight to the all-seeing eyes of the NSA. Transmitters are installed inside the case, and apparently they are small enough to be concealed in USB cards (or possibly even cables according to some news reports). Of course, the transmitter has to be physically installed, which might seem difficult at first glance, but apparently manufacturers are willing to help the NSA with that when asked so your shiny new machine may come with an express connection to The Brave New World.
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