- The National Security Agency, the US’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency, has reportedly been hacked, robbed, mocked, and deeply infiltrated by anonymous hackers.
- The NSA’s cyberweapons, which cost taxpayers a fortune, are now for sale to the US’s enemies and have already been used in cyber attacks against the public.
- Now doubt surrounds the NSA, and experts wonder if the agency can do its job at all.
The former director of the CIA and the NSA said on Monday that President Donald Trump’s “tough but imprecise” talk on the issue of North Korea is leading to an escalation that’s putting people in “great danger.”
In room-size metal boxes secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.
A former head of MI6 says that, though the White House commands our attention, Europe is the greater worry.
Richard Dearlove frowned at the coffee pot on the table before him, as he pondered the phenomenon of Donald Trump. “I think he’s very strongly nationalist,” he said, pouring himself a small cup. The room, at a discreet location in central London, was large and empty of other people, its walls lined with 19th-century portraits. Is Trump the start of something worrying, I asked. “I think it depends on how fundamental this shift in politics in the US and other countries is,” he replied, speaking slowly. “I think the jury’s out on how far it is going to go.”
According to a report in the Austrian news daily Der Standard, Möchel had made extensive use of the documents revealed by Edward Snowden, the former systems administrator and defense contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton who allegedly leaked NSA and CIA secret archives.
The documents show that the American National Security Agency operates a robust presence in the Austrian capital, and with good reason. Despite Vienna having a population of only 1.75 million people, the city is home to more than 17,000 accredited diplomats, many of whom work in the various international organizations, including the United Nations, IAEA, UNIDO, CTBTO, OSCE and OPEC.
That means nearly 1 percent of Vienna’s population have diplomatic status – and a significant portion of those are likely to be spies, according to Austrian investigative journalist Emil Bobi, who estimates that there are more than 7,000 spooks living in the city.
As a result, the NSA has plenty of monitoring to do in Austria’s capital, especially considering that the oil-rich Arab states meet regularly in OPEC, and Vienna has long been the centre for East-West spy activities.
According Möchel there are currently three major NSA stations in Vienna. The most obvious one is the US Embassy in Vienna’s 9th district, with its roof-based monitoring antennas, similar to many other embassies around the world, according to Snowden’s revelations.
The second major station is positioned on upper floors of the Internationales Zentrum Donaustadt (IZD) tower, overlooking the Vienna International Centre, which is the third-largest home for United Nations-affiliated organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. It’s responsible for electronic surveillance of important UN-related activities, as well as coordinating SigInt from other foreign embassies.
The third location is the so-called “NSA Villa” in Pötzleinsdorf. According to Möchel, the villa was previously tasked with collecting more analog forms of intel, based on older technologies, but this is largely being phased out, and staff are being relocated to the IZD tower.
Each of the three stations are connected by a secure broadband network, with a radio tower in Exelberg serving as a relay station. Much of the operational processing takes place in the IZD tower, says Möchel.
According to Möchel, the NSA’s Special Collection Service EINSTEIN/CASTANET is located on the top floor of the U.S. embassy in Berlin and elsewhere (Special Collection Service). This is not a transmitting antenna system, though it can be used for transmitting/illumination/RF flooding/etc. This is a wideband microwave SIGINT (bug repeater, telco microwave backbones, WiFi, GSM/cellular, satellite up/downlinks, GBPPR, etc.) collection system.
He added that the tower recently added more air-conditioning plants, indicating that additional computers were probably installed, and mobile phones often fail to operate there, suggesting that localized jamming or other security measures may be employed.
Möchel doubts that the NSA has much interest in Austrian internet traffic, since most such traffic flows through Frankfurt, where a joint US-German operation searches through it for anything of relevance. However, the Snowden documents strongly suggest that the NSA has successfully infiltrated the mobile and data networks of Telekom Austria on occasion.
Siegfried Beer, director of the Austrian Centre for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies, at the University of Graz, agrees that there are at least 7,000 agents based in Vienna, working in embassies and international organizations.
Bobi says that one reason spies feel so comfortable in Vienna is that “the so-called real Viennese operate in the private sector in the same way as intelligence agencies do.” Former police officers and politicians, as well as cabaret artists and psychoanalysts are employed as agents, Bobi claims.
“Spies love being sent to work in Vienna, because of the high quality of life, and its geographical location. Some even return here once they retire,” he added.
The National Security Agency (NSA) may have used Austrian networks “to map the internet”, including those of Telecom Austria (TA) and the University of Vienna.
According to a report in Der Standard, which cites documents leaked by former US intelligence employee, Edward Snowden, Austrian telecommunications networks may also have been used by the US secret service for espionage activities.
Through the use of the spy program “Treasure Map”, the NSA is attempting to fend off cyber espionage and computer attacks on any device connected to the internet, in any place and at any time.
For this the NSA has the data lines of Telecom Austria and Vienna University in their sights. However speakers from both institutions told Der Standard they had found no suspicious devices or data traffic.
Documents released by the NSA, which referred to the use of telecommunications network, TA, appeared in the German news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday.
According to TA spokesman Peter Schiefer, the NSA might use their data lines to screen the entire network.
A Vienna University network, part of the scientific ACOnet and internet switching node Vienna Internet exchange (ViX), were also explicitly mentioned in the secret service documents.
The node used by the University’s Central Information Service (ZID) was mentioned as a possible listening post in Austria shortly after the NSA surveillance scandal broke.
Over 100 companies, including Facebook, have set up their own technology. Michaela Bociurko from the Central Information Service says however that the University of Vienna has no evidence “of a secret service misusing their equipment” for their purposes.
Back in July it was revealed that the NSA had targeted an employee of the University of Salzburg. The internet address of a server operated by the man was found in the source code of the NSA surveillance program “XKeyscore”, with the user and network administrators of an anonymization network “gateway” being spied upon.
Leaked documents purport to show that NSA wiretapped current leader Francois Hollande as well as two former presidents.
The United States wiretapped France’s former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as current leader Francois Hollande, according to documents released by WikiLeaks.
The spying spanned 2006 to 2012, French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website, said on Tuesday, quoting documents classed as “Top Secret” which include five reports from the US National Security Agency based on intercepted communications.
The most recent document is dated May 22, 2012, just days before Hollande took office, and reveals that the French leader “approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone”.
Another document dated 2008 was titled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve world financial crisis”.
Hollande called a meeting of his defence council to discuss the reports on Wednesday.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the US had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians.
Still, the new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans, even though allies have been spying on allies for thousands of years.
Hollande said last year that he discussed his concerns about NSA surveillance with President Barack Obama during a visit to the US, and they patched up their differences.
Spy scheme reviewed
After the Merkel disclosures, Obama ordered a review of NSA spying on allies, after officials suggested that senior White House officials had not approved many operations that were largely on auto-pilot.
After the review, American officials said Obama had ordered a halt to spying on the leaders of allied countries, if not their aides.
Neither Hollande’s office nor Washington would comment on the new leaks. Contacted Tuesday by AFP, Hollande’s aide said:
“We will see what it is about.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby meanwhile said: “We do not comment on the veracity or content of leaked documents.”
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks previous mass disclosures have proven to be accurate.