The US National Security Agency has denied claims it uses servers purportedly belonging to Facebook to spread malware for mass surveillance purposes.
In response to leaked documents detailing a ten-year long effort to infect worldwide computer systems and networks with malware - with help from fake Facebook servers - the NSA said it uses its technical capabilities only to support “lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations”.
“Technical capability must be understood within the legal, policy, and operational context within which the capability must be employed,” it said.
“Recent media reports that allege NSA has infected millions of computers around the world with malware, and that NSA is impersonating US social media or other websites, are inaccurate.”
It said it was required to support national security requirements and protect the legitimate private interests of citizens.
“NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate US company websites. Nor does NSA target any user of global internet services without appropriate legal authority,” it said.
“Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this morning reacted angrily to the documents, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In a post on the social network he said he could not understand why the US Government "tries to undermine Facebook’s effort to make its services and the wider internet safe and secure".
He said he had called US President Barack Obama personally to express his frustration over “the damage the government is creating for all our futures”.
According to the leaked documents, the NSA’s malware campaign aims to remotely control computers, capture their data and interrupt their operations through the use of an arsenal of malware deployed in network routers to enact “man in the middle” attacks.
The scale of the campaign is unknown. It is believed to have successfully compromised up to 100,000 systems around the world.