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Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs In China and Germany 228

Advocatus Diaboli writes with this snippet from The Intercept: The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use "physical subversion" to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used under cover operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency's "core secrets" when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.
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Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs In China and Germany

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  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @08:32AM (#48119065)

    ... so he'll not feel inspired to keep leaking.

    I'm all for the leaks when it concerns stuff the NSA does against civilians. But against foreign governments? The point of the NSA is to do that sort of thing. And anyone that thinks these other governments aren't doing the same thing back are kidding themselves. The US is just walking around with their fly down until they get Snowden home. And he can be brought back at any time for the low low price of just pardoning him. Do that, admit fault, have a national/international discussion about it, and then as part of that he stops.

    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Saturday October 11, 2014 @08:36AM (#48119083) Journal

      Snowden is a whistleblower. He deserves our thanks, and an apology from everyone who's demanded that he be prosecuted.

      Using classification to cover up billions of felonies is something the American people should never tolerate again.

      -jcr

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ebno-10db ( 1459097 )

        Snowden is a whistleblower. He deserves our thanks, and an apology from everyone who's demanded that he be prosecuted.

        I agree, but now he's gone too far. The crimes were spying on the American people without warrants. But this sort of interception of information is exactly what the NSA is supposed to do. There has never been any secret about that, and I support it as useful intelligence. If Snowden keeps this up, he's going to alienate his supporters, or at the very least give a lot of ammo to his detractors.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 11, 2014 @09:16AM (#48119243)

          Physical subversion of foreign intelligence assets is CIA territory, not NSA. While that certainly IS a way to perform Signal Interception, I'm cautiously optimistic that is outside the scope of their charter.

          There's a reason these powers were supposed to have been segregated between multiple branches of the government/military and not just consolidated all under one roof. One of those reasons was accountability to their constituents, the other being so they couldn't use this to subvert the rule of law.

          Now that neither is true, we need to look long and hard at what steps to take to suitable resolve this dilemma while not letting outside forces dominate our internal and international landscapes.

          • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @06:32PM (#48121581) Homepage Journal

            SIGINT is the NSA's bailiwick and nothing in the mission statement of the NSA precludes using physical intrusion to obtain it.

            What's more NSA is part of the DoD, and the DoD has been conducting physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT for years. In the Cold War American subs tapped undersea cables believed by the Soviets to be impervious. That was a joint NSA, Navy, CIA program, which makes sense.

            It also makes sense that physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT would be a joint NSA/CIA operation, which means that someone with access to the NSA family jewels can also compromise CIA "assets" overseas.

        • I agree, but now he's gone too far. The crimes were spying on the American people without warrants. But this sort of interception of information is exactly what the NSA is supposed to do. There has never been any secret about that, and I support it as useful intelligence. If Snowden keeps this up, he's going to alienate his supporters, or at the very least give a lot of ammo to his detractors.

          This leak covers NSA actions both domestically and abroad. Expecting Snowden to leak only a pound of flesh and not

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Karmashock ( 2415832 )

          Exactly. He needs to keep his leaks to what the NSA does wrong... not what they do right.

          • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @10:57AM (#48119625)

            Exactly. He needs to keep his leaks to what the NSA does wrong... not what they do right.

            1. If the government doesn't want broad unofficial leaks, then they should have a functional and safe channel for internal whistleblowing.
            2. Snowden offered the NSA a chance to vet the material. They refused. So it is silly to now complain that it wasn't vetted.
            3. Loyalty is a two way street. Citizens should be loyal to their country. But countries should also be loyal to their citizens.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          No government agency is supposed to criminalise and corrupt the citizens of another state. This is in essence the core of organised crime. Where does it end, how about assassination to keep secrets, random murders to hide activities or hiding criminal activities behind innocent people so they get blamed and imprisoned. So white collar crimes are acceptable when governments are involved, economic warfare, currency forgery, forging electronic bank transactions emptying accounts and shifting the money to more

      • by F34nor ( 321515 )

        You are right but this is espionage so he shouldn't have leaked THIS information.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Using classification to cover up billions of felonies is something the American people should never tolerate again.

        Again? As in it stoped and should not restart? When did it stop? Why was I not informed of this?

        It has never stopped. There was a temporary relaps in the disagreement in what governement wants and what the people want in around 1776, but it went downhill from then on.

        But don't worry. This is not the first country where this has happend and it won't be the last. On the downside, histrory has

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @08:42AM (#48119111)
      With respect - Snowden dumped the documents with journalists so "The US is just walking around with their fly down until they get Snowden home" doesn't apply. The fly is down until there's nothing left in the pile worth releasing as news whether anything happens with Snowden or not.
    • But foreigners themselves are loving this stuff, as they can use this against their own governments, often "sharing" (actually: just handing it over, but that paints too much a picture the actual situation) intercepted data with the NSA. Did you hear any arrest warrants being issued against UK citizens by Belgian authorities regarding the Belgacom hack by GCHQ? What DID the Belgian government/intelligence services know?

      I say it's time to pull their pants down. You won't see any balls, but you will see how t

      • Foreign powers hand over their intelligence because that is the price of US intelligence which is highly desired by all allied powers. US intel is extensive. But it is a pay to play system. You want intel? You have to give intel.

        And even then... there are rules.

        The concept is valid and I don't have a problem with it.

        The issue is that the data being collected is often something the intelligence services shouldn't have. Intel on you and me for one thing. The dragnet intel gathering is not acceptable. If they

    • ... so he'll not feel inspired to keep leaking.

      I'm all for the leaks when it concerns stuff the NSA does against civilians. But against foreign governments? The point of the NSA is to do that sort of thing. And anyone that thinks these other governments aren't doing the same thing back are kidding themselves. The US is just walking around with their fly down until they get Snowden home. And he can be brought back at any time for the low low price of just pardoning him. Do that, admit fault, have a national/international discussion about it, and then as part of that he stops.

      Because 2 wrongs make a right? Is that how it goes?

      We're talking about deliberate sabotage of our allies telecommunications networks. It'd be one thing if this were with countries we're at war with, but it's not.

      • by jopsen ( 885607 )

        We're talking about deliberate sabotage of our allies telecommunications networks. It'd be one thing if this were with countries we're at war with, but it's not.

        Thank you!

        Because 2 wrongs make a right? Is that how it goes?

        But let's not kid our selves... Most countries don't have offensive intelligence capabilities.
        Just because the US intelligence community has a history of murdering and selling drugs to fund illegal wars, doesn't mean other civilized countries do...

      • Have these allies sign an agreement to never spy on the US and I'll support the US signing a similar agreement. Short of that... we all spy on each other.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Hilariously, you can blame Russians for this one.

      See, when they took in Snowden, they had a list of terms for him. One was that he would not leak anything while he was in their country.

      Snowden agreed, and before accepting asylum he sent everything he had to a few responsible outlets, who are now doing the staggered release of information.

    • Most of you have it wrong. Its not is he a whistleblower or is he a traitor? Is the situation white or black? The simple truth is that he is now beyond debate **both** a whistleblower and a traitor. The two are not mutually exclusive. The whistleblower actions do not negate the traitorous actions.

      Revealing mass surveillance of US citizens is obviously whistleblowing.

      However revealing clandestine cyber operations against China, a country that routinely conduct cyber espionage against US commercial, gov
      • I am prepared to forgive it to end this nonsense. Nothing is gained by keeping him out of the country. Bring him in, give him amnesty... and then tell him if he keeps going then he'll be back on the list.

        its the best option we have left.

        • by drnb ( 2434720 )

          I am prepared to forgive it to end this nonsense. Nothing is gained by keeping him out of the country. Bring him in, give him amnesty... and then tell him if he keeps going then he'll be back on the list. its the best option we have left.

          The disclosures will most likely continue though. He seems not to be the lone holder of the data nor the keys.

          Plus it is very likely Chinese and Russian security services have the info. As I said, he had to pay the rent somehow. The leaks will continue to strategically undermine US efforts. The US and Germany need to cooperate in order to address the crisis in Ukraine, coincidentally its leaked that the US conducted cyber operations against Germany?

          It probably as coincidental as the mass surveillance

          • The US says that hypocritical crap the chinese every other day of the week. Its nothing special.

            As to leaks being done to drive a wedge between the US and germany... maybe... rather doubt it.

            As to paying rent, he doesn't need to pay more. Simply causing problems for the US intelligence services for any reason is payment in full.

            • by drnb ( 2434720 )

              The US says that hypocritical crap the chinese every other day of the week. Its nothing special.

              It is quite special when the Presidents of the US and China are going to meet at a face-to-face summit and the President of the US is going to formally complain about cyber attacks at such a high publicity event.

              As to leaks being done to drive a wedge between the US and germany... maybe... rather doubt it.

              Whether highly effective or not isn't the important part, the timing itself that can be incriminating. If releases continue to appear strategically timed then coincidental seems less likely and the planned more likely.

              As to paying rent, he doesn't need to pay more. Simply causing problems for the US intelligence services for any reason is payment in full.

              For intelligence agencies payment in full has not been met until **every** piece o

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      I'm all for the leaks when it concerns stuff the NSA does against civilians. But against foreign governments? The point of the NSA is to do that sort of thing.

      Spying on allies? really? This borderlines to act of war...
      By the way, foreign governments holds a lot of information about their citizens, social security numbers, medical records, tax records, etc. The NSA has no business doing mass surveillance on on civilians just because they aren't American!

      And anyone that thinks these other governments aren't doing the same thing back are kidding themselves.

      I'm fairly confident my government doesn't. In fact most intelligence gathering isn't necessarily illegal at all. Mostly you gather intelligence about political issues in foreign countries, but watching the news,

      • If it bordered war then we've all been guilty for it for as long as we've been allies.

        It doesn't. You just weren't aware of it. Countries spy on each other all the time. The only thing that stops them is resources and inclination.

        As to you saying you wouldn't do such a thing... I believe you... just sign an agreement not to do it that has penalties if you're caught doing it. Then I'll be happy to sign the same agreement and we can both stop spying.

        If you are unwilling to sign such an agreement then I'll ass

        • If it bordered war then we've all been guilty for it for as long as we've been allies.

          It doesn't. You just weren't aware of it. Countries spy on each other all the time.

          Repeating that lie does not make it true. The German Government declared the US off limits. They accidently taped Ms. Clinton while she flew across fucking Afghanistan. They did not delete her conversations immediately and YOUR government used that as an example that Germany spied on the US too. Look it up for fuck's sake.

          You think that Mass Surveillance on this level is OK?

          F..k you! F..k you! F..k you!

          Our human rights include privacy too. And we are no second class humans just because we happen to be Germa

          • What do you think the Germans and English are trading for US intelligence? Their own intelligence.

            • Yes. Sadly, this is true. Our secret services traded intelligence for US intelligence and collaborated in the mass surveillance on my country. I can only hope they did not collaborate in the manipulation of our infrastructure.

              But your original lie was that my government spies on the US. And that is simply that: A lie to deflect the fact that the USA are overstepping every bound. And that is not OK.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @08:38AM (#48119093)
    Does look like they need adult supervision - sentry hawk, owl, raven etc it's so fucking comic book that you wonder if they spend all their time dreaming up James Bond plot lines instead of actually getting some work down. Get rid of these toy soldiers and replace them with real ones.
  • well duh (Score:2, Informative)

    by thesazi ( 1245210 )
    Isn't this EXACTLY what the NSA's job is?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ebno-10db ( 1459097 )

      Yes, which is why he's gone too far. I think the people wiping their asses with the 4th Amendment should be prosecuted (note that may include high office), but this is the NSA's job, and like most people I support it as necessary and useful.

      • Re:well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by krigat ( 1253674 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @09:09AM (#48119211)
        Rethink what you are saying. "It's against the constiution, but it's their job, so it's OK."

        So if, let's say, a hired assassin would kill someone from you family, would you say "well, it's against the law, but it was his job, so it's OK"? I doubt it...

        If the NSA's job is to sabotage allies, then they've a wrong job. Period.

        • Rethink what you are saying. "It's against the constiution, but it's their job, so it's OK.

          An unclear antecedent, not unclear thinking. Warrantless wiretapping is against the 4th Amendment, but foreign SIGINT (what the latest news is about) is their job.

          • Let me requote the grandparent post to you so you can read it again:

            If the NSA's job is to sabotage allies, then they've a wrong job. Period.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually it is insulting and horrifying when these tactics are used against foreign nations considered to be allies.

        Not only does it do that but it also isolates the USA from the rest of the world, it is not without reason that we Europeans look bleakly on the US and have a feeling of distrust while as allies we should have a different outlook.

        The same goes for this when corporations are concerned, corporate espionage especially when done by a government agency is just plain wrong.

        • Re:well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Skarjak ( 3492305 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @10:08AM (#48119415)
          Precisely. I am appalled by the number of Americans in this discussion who seem to think this is fine. I can understand doing this to China cause they're pretty brazen about their espionage, but Germany? Added to the leaks about the surveyance of the Chancellor, this clearly shows the profound lack of trust the Americans have in their allies. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      Isn't this EXACTLY what the NSA's job is?

      Cooperate espionage?
      Acts of war against allies?

      Gathering intelligence is about reading records from parliament than anything else. Especially when dealing with democracies more transparent than your own.

    • Mass surveillance on every German citizen? Very nice.

    • Isn't this EXACTLY what the NSA's job is?

      It probably is - what I am worried about is not spying, in the sense of gathering intelligence, or even stealing industrial secrets - it's the complete lack of transparency and real oversight. And the very real and likely possibility, that agencies lie NSA and CIA instigate civil unrest in other countries. Take the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre - there has been persistent rumours ever since, that this was largely a CIA operation that blew up. It may or may not have been the case, but the point is: we j

  • Not Snowden (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Snowden doesn't leak these reports anymore. He doesn't even have access to the files. It's all reporters doing it now.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      And its entirely possible that there are other leakers inside the NSA feeding this info out. And Snowden is just the codeword for an ingenious parallel construction program that the press is using.

  • You don't say.

  • The NSA is a spy agency. Its job is to spy, which involves secretly doing illegal things in other countries. The problem with the NSA is secretly doing illegal things in this country.

    And if you think that's hypocritical, think again I expect European and Asian countries to spy on us too. It's part of international relations, and it's good for countries to be able to check up on each other, instead of having to rely merely on official statements.

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      You're saying the US does not treat its friends any better than it treats its (sometimes imaginary) enemies.

      Interestingly, the US's friends have also noticed this.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Interestingly, the US's friends have also noticed this.

        Uh, they've known it all along. Stuff like being "shocked, shocked I tell you" when they find out the German Chancellor's phone is monitored is to reassure the public that they are indeed appropriately shocked about finding out what they've probably known all along.

        The NSA spies on everybody. The allies probably even help them with it in exchange for getting access to some of the juicy tidbits. Heck, if there was a place to sign up I'd gladly let the NSA stick an appliance on my home LAN if it meant that

      • by silfen ( 3720385 )

        You're saying the US does not treat its friends any better than it treats its (sometimes imaginary) enemies.

        Europeans are our allies: we have some shared goals. We aren't militarily hostile to each other. But they certainly also compete with us, and they pull no punches. Their governments engage in anticompetitive behavior and protectionism, make secret agreements, and sell weapons across the globe. European leaders also widely use anti-Americanism for their domestic political gain, and European populations

        • by Livius ( 318358 )

          Regarding your friends as mere tactical allies is exactly the point.

          • by silfen ( 3720385 )

            Regarding your friends as mere tactical allies is exactly the point.

            I'm not "regarding" them that way, I'm telling you: they have never been anything more than tactical allies.

            Europeans call us their "friends" when they want something; it's propaganda, nothing more. Stop falling for it.

        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          Europeans are our allies: we have some shared goals. We aren't militarily hostile to each other. But they certainly also compete with us, and they pull no punches. Their governments engage in anticompetitive behavior and protectionism, make secret agreements, and sell weapons across the globe. European leaders also widely use anti-Americanism for their domestic political gain, and European populations have been predominantly anti-American for most of the past two centuries.

          By that reasoning, the Vatican gua

      • Interestingly, the US's friends have also noticed this.

        I don't think the US has any "friends" any more.

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      The NSA is a spy agency. Its job is to spy, which involves secretly doing illegal things in other countries.

      Really? Intelligence gathering is more about reading records from parliament (the ones nobody reads). Or showing up at political meets to hear what people say. In transparent democracies (unlike the US), you don't really need to do anything illegal to find out what is going on.

      And if you think that's hypocritical, think again I expect European and Asian countries to spy on us too.

      Thief thinks every man steals. Most countries don't have offensive intelligence capabilities.
      And they certainly don't conduct mass surveillance of civilians, just because you're not an American citizen, doesn't mean you're not civili

  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @09:21AM (#48119255) Journal

    This is a classic way technical intelligence specialists operate. Lets analyze practical example: the target is a database. The potential attack vectors are following (but obviously not limited to): a)compromised hardware which allows to download data from the server b) compromised software which allows to download data from the server c) compromised specialist (s) which download the data d) intercepted communications,

    Rule #1: any gathered data is verified by comparing it to independent source. Rule #2: the sources cannot know about each other. Only if these two rules are met the data can be considered as data which has passed basic verification. "Physical subversion", "blackmail", "infiltration" are day to day activities, the bread and butter, for all those agencies.

  • Snowden (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BringsApples ( 3418089 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @10:07AM (#48119411)
    Here goes me getting modded into slashdot hell...

    Am I the only one that is still wondering why these "snowden leaks" are still coming out in the way that they are? I mean, are we all going to be sitting around 30 years from now, still hearing about these leaks?

    The year is 2045: Snowden leaks - The NSA has been watching all of you guys' teleport activity since the early 1980's! They used physical hardware hacks that you could have never known about... and they're doing it to foreign countries too!

    Seriously, it all seems like the information that we're getting is being spooled in a prefabricated way, as to serve the fear propaganda more so than it should. I'm just waiting for the "NSA actually created the universe" leak.

    • When Snowden's material runs out, he becomes worthless, so it makes sense for him (and his masters) so string it out as long as possible.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        Snowden didn't have any material for about a year now. He surrendered everything before accepting asylum in Russia, as that was one of their terms for offering him asylum. It's all in hands of journalists now.

        Staggered release is done so that problem stays on the news, and people don't forget that his problem persists.

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      I'm just waiting for the "NSA actually created the universe" leak.

      I don't know about that one, but you might be living in a "the NSA actually created the leak" universe.

    • Re:Snowden (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @01:33PM (#48120235) Journal

      Am I the only one that is still wondering why these "snowden leaks" are still coming out in the way that they are?

      Yes.

      The rest of us remember the wikileaks document dump and how important stories got did not get appropriate attention because of the sheer volume that was getting reported at once.

      Another (perhaps unintended) aspect of the continuous reporting is that almost every time a denial is issued, the NSA is subsequently revealed as lying to the public and Congress.

      • but each time they are "revealed" after the first two or three just sounds like repetitive droning that no one pays attention to. If everyone let it slide as "the NSA need to be allowed to lie" after the first few, that isn't going to change after the thousandth muted bleat from the distant back-row of reported news 15 years later.
    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      Am I the only one that is still wondering why these "snowden leaks" are still coming out in the way that they are? I mean, are we all going to be sitting around 30 years from now, still hearing about these leaks?

      No, but you might get sued by some of the other concern trolls [youtube.com] for infringing on their conspiracy theories.

      Seriously, it all seems like the information that we're getting is being spooled in a prefabricated way

      Seriously, as another poster pointed out, it's because a massive dump will be ignored by t

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday October 11, 2014 @01:50PM (#48120305) Homepage Journal

    I'm from Germany. Ever since it was leaked that the NSA was spying so extensively on our government that by international standards it could reasonably be considered an act of war, I wonder what it'll take for our USA-lapdog chancellor to grow a spine and do more than giving Obama a stern talk.

    • Spying on the Government is one thing. But this is mass surveillance. Every system in our countries might be compromised. Every router might be sending the information to the NSA. How to flash a fritzbox so that everyting is deleted? How could this be done with a mandatory router from the ISP?

      The Chilling Effect is the problem here. Every second of every day is recorded and our Government conspires with the NSA to get the job (mass surveillance) done.

      Spying on our Government is bad enough, but it does not e

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      There is not much any nation can do anymore. All the top staff gov or mil crypto staff are of the same mind set going back to the 1950's. Thats generations that got cleared by the US and where educated into UK and US methods in West Germany. They then ensured like minded West German staff where selected to replace them years later.
      They all know how to keep the optical sites running data to the US and UK. They know how to pass crypto that is just good enough for German use but is open to the US and UK a
      • They know how to pass crypto that is just good enough for German use but is open to the US and UK as used and is kept degraded over decades.

        Crypto at an international and US domestic level seems to be favoured front companies, tame staff, turned staff or have staff trained to a mid or top level over years.

        It is difficult to compromise open source crypto. True Crypt works. PGP works. Snowdens leaks show us exactly that. Being angry is one thing. Freaking out or not using crypto is not the way to deal with the leaks. Even iMessage is safe. Or red phone. Or Signal. There are many options. If people simply use crypto mass surveillance would at least be more difficult.

        For example you could sign up to an voip-provider with nomadic use like easybell and use linphone with zrtp for everyday calls with friends. And fo

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          re 'It is difficult to compromise open source crypto."
          If the crypto is quality and correctly used every time, just follow the use down the tame network to the tame operating system or charm, make friends with the users.
          Over time the message entry and decryption side reverts to plain text, thanks to understood OS, tame network, turned staff, users with new friends, new staff, malware or physical access.
  • ... I'm quite certain 'elsewhere' a sniffing device is installed.

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