Computer Offline? NSA Can Spy on It Anyway

Secret technology only deployed overseas

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 15, 2014 2:23 AM CST | Updated Jan 15, 2014 7:28 AM CST

(Newser) – Anybody who thinks disconnecting their computer from the Internet will keep them safe from the prying eyes of the National Security Agency needs to think again, according to the New York Times. The agency has inserted software into around 100,000 computers worldwide that allows it to spy on those machines, even entering and altering data when they are offline, NSA documents and interviews with security experts reveal. Surveillance targets include the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as Mexican drug targets and even European Union trade bodies.

The surveillance program uses secret radio frequency technology that usually requires hardware to be physically inserted into the targeted computer. Chinese cyberspies have been known to use similar technology, though the NSA insists its activities are very different. The NSA only targets "valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements," an agency spokeswoman said in a statement. "We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."

The new NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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What’s new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency’s ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before. - Cybersecurity expert James Lewis

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