Playing Offense: US Had 231 'Cyber-Operations' in 2011

Washington Post has details on growing cyberwar strategy, from Snowden documents

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 31, 2013 10:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Washington Post's latest reveal from documents provided by Edward Snowden puts the government's rapidly expanding cyberwar program in concrete terms: 231. As in, that's the number of "cyber-operations" conducted in 2011 by various government intelligence agencies. The vast majority of these were against targets such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The story reflects how the US has shifted strategy in recent years from defending against computer attacks to conducting far more offensive operations. Some odds and ends from the story:

  • Meet GENIE: It's the code name of a $652 million US program to plant malware on foreign networks so the US can gain control. GENIE is expected to have 85,000 such implants in place around the world by the end of this year, quadruple the figure in 2008.

  • Meet the ROC: Called "the Rock," this refers to the Remote Operations Center, where the government's most elite cyberwarriors work. “To the NSA as a whole, the ROC is where the hackers live,” says a former operator. "It’s basically the one-stop shop for any kind of active operation that’s not defensive.”
  • No money stuff: The US-built malware is similar to China's, but officials tell the Post there's one big difference: China goes after corporate secrets, but the US forbids its workers to do economic espionage.
  • Hands-on: The US cyberteams sometimes need CIA operatives to "physically place hardware implants or software modifications" on computers abroad.
Click for the full story. (Or click here for an earlier one about the $52.6 billion "black budget" for surveillance operations.)

A file photo of the National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md.
A file photo of the National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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