Revealed: NSA plans to hack potentially millions of computers

Snowden leaks reveal agency has tools to infect computers with malware on a mass scale with little human oversight

Topics: The Intercept, NSA, Hacking, Malware, Surveillance, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Whistle-blower, Facebook, , ,

Reporting for the Intercept Wednesday on the latest revelations from Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher expose the spy agency’s plans to hack millions of computers.

According to classified documents, the NSA has developed new technologies with which to reduce reliance on human work and oversight and to enable the automatic infection of potentially millions of computers with malware.  Via the Intercept:

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans.



The newly released documents not only reflect the agency’s shift in the post-9/11 era toward mass surveillance in place of specific targeting, but a decrease in oversight in favor of powerful automated processing. As such, the story is one of increasingly totalized surveillance (or at least the potential for it) and increasing machine above human labor in advanced technocapitalism. The new leaks also provide further examples of how, in the interest of maximizing surveillance potential, the NSA has made vulnerable the very structure and security of the Internet. As malware expert Mikko Hypponen told the Intercept, “When they deploy malware on systems,” Hypponen says, “they potentially create new vulnerabilities in these systems, making them more vulnerable for attacks by third parties.”

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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