News / USA

NSA Spies on People With Internet and Fake Rocks

NSA Spies on People With Internet and Fake Rocksi
X
January 16, 2014 1:43 AM
As President Barack Obama prepares to unveil reforms to the U.S. National Security Agency's intelligence gathering programs, there is renewed attention on how the NSA actually hacks into computers. VOA's Brian Allen spoke with an expert on the subject and has this report.
Brian Allen
As President Barack Obama prepares to unveil reforms to the U.S. National Security Agency's intelligence gathering programs, there is renewed attention on how the NSA actually hacks into computers. 
 
Some of the NSA's techniques were described in a New York Times article Wednesday, detailing how the agency implanted malicious software in nearly 100,000 computers worldwide.  

According to the article, the agency 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.

These techniques are far different than the way the NSA used to gather information, says James Andrew Lewis a cyber security expert in Washington

“The NSA had a problem about 15 years ago: the way they collected intelligence changed almost overnight. It went from being a microwave, long distance phone calls and very old, telecom-based approach…to the Internet," said Lewis.

The Internet, he says, has never been secure.  

“There are some programs that take advantage of the fact that the Internet is not secured and may not be secured in our lifetimes.  So a lot of places, including the U.S., have decided the way to make yourself secure is not to connect your most vital networks, your most vital processes," he said.

Lewis says the NSA has developed such complex tecniques to hack into targets that are off the grid, they sound like they were ripped from the pages of a science-fiction novel.

“ When you type on a keyboard, it emits a little electronic signal; very faint. It’s possible to collect that signal. We do it, the Russians do it. Lots of countries can do this. One of the things that is surprising is that you don’t have to be that close. I know, for example, in the Russian case, they at one point were collecting the radiation of the keyboard off of the windows of the American embassy," he said.

“A lot of people are familiar with the fake rock they keep their house-key in. For decades, intelligence agencies have been using fake rocks. Suppose you could build a really sensitive receptor, it would be about this big, suppose you put it in a fake rock, and you threw it in front of, say, an Iranian nuclear weapons facility that was not connected to the Internet. Guess what! You’re in.”

This spy game, Lewis says, has been going on for more than a hundred years - and it’s not just the United States doing it.

“One of the solutions people came up with when they found out they were being listened to was to encrypt their messages," he said. "Then you get into a race: can I break the encryption? Can I make the encryption stronger? This has been going on for a century.This is just too important for nations - not just the U.S. - it’s too important for any major power to say, 'I will give up on signals intelligence.'"

As the technology gets more and more advanced, Lewis says he does not expect the spy game to stop.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More