Industry News

NSA Agents Physically Infiltrated Communication Companies from China, Germany and South Korea

The latest Snowden leaked documents revealed that the NSA has physically infiltrated and compromised devices and networks from communication companies within China, Germany and South Korea during their “physical subversion” programs.

The Intercept reported that the National Security Agency used “under cover” agents to access important systems and data from the communication industry.

“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,” the article said.

Photo Credit: The Intercept

So far there have been reports about NSA having partnerships with other vendors who provided them with sensitive or classified information, but this is the first time a leaked documents suggest physical infiltration in order to compromise or access sensitive information from communication vendors.

“Core secrets” are the tip of the pyramid in NSA’s Sentry Eagle programs which included working with various US and foreign vendors to have weaker or no encryption systems.

“Many of the NSA’s core secrets concern its relationships to domestic and foreign corporations.”

Sentry Eagle is made out of six programs: Sentry Hawk (computer network exploitation or spying), Sentry Falcon (computer network defense), Sentry Osprey (cooperation with the CIA and other intelligence agencies), Sentry Raven (encryption systems breaking), Sentry Condor (computer network ops and attacks), and Sentry Owl (collaborations with private companies) according to the leaked documents presented by The Intercept.

Photo Credit: The Intercept

“The facts contained in this program constitute a combination of the greatest number of highly sensitive facts related to NSA/CSS’s overall cryptologic mission,” states the briefing document.

“Unauthorized disclosure…will cause exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. The loss of this information could critically compromise highly sensitive cryptologic U.S. and foreign relationships, multi-year past and future NSA investments, and the ability to exploit foreign adversary cyberspace while protecting U.S. cyberspace.”

Now the most interesting part is TAREX, a program which involves a large array of clandestine physical operations of NSA in cooperation with the CIA, FBI and Pentagon.

As one brief Sentry Osprey document states in its description, the NSA has its own HUMINT assets (Target Exploitation – TAREX) who are supposed to support SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) operations.

This report comes just one month after the same Snowden leaked documents reported that the NSA and UK GCHQ snooped into Deutsche Telekom’s networks via NSA’s Treasure Map program that was designed to be some kind of “Google Earth for global data traffic.”

About the author

Lucian Ciolacu

Still the youngest Bitdefender News writer, Lucian is constantly after flash news in the security industry, especially when something is vulnerable or exploited. Besides digging for 'hacker' scoops and data leaks, he enjoys sports, such as football and tennis.
He has also combined an interest for social and political sciences, as a graduate of the Political Science Faculty, with a passion for guitar and computer games.