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United States Privacy

NYT: NSA Put 100,000 Radio Pathway "Backdoors" In PCs 324

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the do-you-trust-your-data-center? dept.
retroworks writes "The New York Times has an interesting story on how NSA put transmitters into the USB input devices of PCs, allowing computers unplugged from the Internet to still be monitored, via radio, from up to 8 miles away. The article mainly reports NSA's use of the technology to monitor Chinese military, and minor headline reads 'No Domestic Use Seen.' The source of the data was evidently the leak from Edward J. Snowden."
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NYT: NSA Put 100,000 Radio Pathway "Backdoors" In PCs

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  • Where are they? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RMH101 (636144) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:51AM (#45964289)
    Genuine question - where are these devices? Has any physical evidence of them been detected? Has anyone found one? I'm not sceptical that they did it, I think it's entirely possible. I'm just curious if there's any physical evidence that's been found yet...?
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @10:07AM (#45964481) Journal

    The NSA claims that it doesn't steal trade secrets from foreign companies in order to give US businesses a competitive edge. I suspect they are lying, given that it seems like they lie about everything, and that we already have reason to suspect they are lying about this in particular. [bbc.co.uk]

    However, the implication is that it would be wrong or immoral for them to do so (unlike the French or Chinese who have no such qualms). E.g., in the article, we read:

    At that session, Mr. Obama tried to differentiate between conducting surveillance for national security — which the United States argues is legitimate — and conducting it to steal intellectual property.

    It goes on to quote Peter Singer saying that for the Chinese, economic advantage is part of national security.

    Maybe the Chinese are right. And here's the thing - the U.S. already behaves as if securing economic advantages for our domestic industry is a critical interest. In trade negotiations, we ram our IP laws down the throats of every other country while dangling our domestic market in front of them, all the while never actually liberalizing agriculture at home. I don't understand why it's acceptable for us to promote our domestic businesses through trade diplomacy, but somehow it becomes unacceptable to do so through spying.

    In my mind, we are trying to accomplish the same thing as the Chinese, just via a different means (or probably, via both means). Yet we criticize them as if we are somehow morally superior in the way we do it.

  • Re:Where are they? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @10:17AM (#45964585)

    " mainly because a simple frequency scanner would allow one to detect the presence of transmissions by the device"

    Burst transmission. Buffer data for days, then send it all in a burst of under a minute. Nothing to detect unless the counterintelligence people are monitoring continually or get very lucky. It's old tech, dating back to the pre-IC days. Bugs back then did it by recording onto a magnetic tape. When the tape reached the end it turned on the transmitter and re-wound at high speed. The listeners then just had to play it back slowed-down and backwards to recover the original audio.

  • Americans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @10:35AM (#45964797)

    Ok, so I get the whole whistle blower thing but isn't this what the NSA is supposed to be doing? Spying on Americans is ok to get fussy about

    As an European, I don't care if US authorities spy on US citizens, that would be their own internal business. But I find it quite offensive that US spies on Europeans, in order to protect US interests. EU should really stand up and announce that such spying is totally unacceptable, any person caught to be part of such will serve serious jail time, diplomatic immunity or not. And any country caught doing so shall loose all diplomatic privileges inside EU, and have their embassies searched for more evidence (with a proper search warrant, of course).

    I wouldn't mind if EU would also ground all flights and money transfers to/from the US for a few days. It would underline how seriously we view the matter, and make it clear for all Americans that we can no longer trust their government.

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