The U.S. National Security Agency has compromised multiple makes of switches and routers manufactured by market leaders Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Huawei, according to documents leaked to Der Speigel magazine.
The NSA’s crack hacking unit, Tailored Access Operations, routinely refers to a 50-page list of hardware and software products for which the NSA has tools to gain unauthorised and covert access when looking to tap a target. These include industry standard switches and routers and the firmware of most major makes of hard drives.
The report, filed by TOR contributor Jacob Applebaum - known to be a confidant of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden - reveals that most of the hacking tools used by the NSA targeted devices that were several years old and that many of them were available at a price - some up to $250,000.
While SC Magazine has not seen the list directly, this would suggest that the backdoors are gained without the cooperation of the manufacturers. Further, while the NSA employs its own hackers to build some of these tools, the price tags might suggest that it purchases some from online malware markets.
The Der Spiegel story was published as the world’s information security experts met at the 30th congress of the Chaos Computer Club conference in Hamburg.
The keynote speech for the 2013 conference was provided by journalist Glenn Greenwald, a second figure that has gained access to Edward Snowden’s trove of documents.
Among the most recent NSA revelations:
- The NSA has, among other feats, compromised the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) software trusted by business executives and government officials for the secure transmission of email over mobile networks.
- The NSA’s toolbox includes a device that mimics a mobile phone tower for the tapping of mobile calls and data.
- Most of the malware used by the NSA targets the BIOS of a device such that it runs as soon as the machine is turned on.
- The NSA can intercept Windows crash reports sent by a user’s machine to Microsoft.
- The NSA is able to intercept physical computing devices ordered for home delivery by its targets, installing its malware prior to the computers being shipped to the target’s door.
- The NSA has targeted in-flight WiFi as a means of further interception.
- The NSA paid RSA Security a $10 million fee to install its software into RSA's security products.