In an explainer on the latest NSA revelations, Glenn Greenwald appears on “Democracy Now!” on Monday to comment on Tailored Access Operations, reported in Der Spiegel on Sunday; the agency’s unintended shutdown of homeowners’ garage door devices in 2010; and the “lies” of “hardened felon,” former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden.
Of Tailored Access Operations, the NSA’s elite global hacking unit, Greenwald said:
What the Der Spiegel article details is that one of the things that the NSA is really adept at doing is implanting in various machines—computers, laptops, even cellphones and the like—malware. And malware is essentially a program that allows the NSA, in the terminology that hackers use, to own the machine. So, no matter how much encryption you use, no matter how much you safeguard your communication with passwords and other things, this malware allows the NSA to literally watch every keystroke that you make, to get screen captures of what it is that you’re doing, to circumvent all forms of encryption and other barriers to your communications.
And one of the ways that they’re doing it is that they intercept products in transit, such as if you order a laptop or other forms of Internet routers or servers and the like, they intercept it in transit, open the box, implant the malware, factory-seal it and then send it back to the user. They also exploit weaknesses in Google and YouTube and Yahoo and other services, as well, in order to implant these devices. It’s unclear to what extent, if at all, the companies even know about it, let alone cooperate in it. But what is clear is that they’ve been able to compromise the physical machines themselves, so that it makes no difference what precautions you take in terms of safeguarding the sanctity of your online activity.