Top-secret budget documents given to The Washington Post by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden show how Barack Obama’s growing force of cyberwarriors infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks.
The documents reveal that U.S. intelligence agents carried out 231 Internet attacks during 2011. Operations include such tactics as breaking into foreign networks to place tens of thousands of connected machines under the surreptitious control of the American government. The documents refer to plans to control millions more machines in this way in the future.
“The documents provided by Snowden and interviews with former U.S. officials describe a campaign of computer intrusions that is far broader and more aggressive than previously understood,” the Post reports. “The Obama administration treats all such cyber-operations as clandestine and declines to acknowledge them.”
See an immersive info graphic outlining the $52.6 billion budget here.
Of the 231 offensive operations conducted in 2011, the budget said, nearly three-quarters were against top-priority targets, which former officials say includes adversaries such as Iran, Russia, China and North Korea and activities such as nuclear proliferation. The document provided few other details about the operations.
… U.S. agencies define offensive cyber-operations as activities intended “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves,” according to a presidential directive issued in October 2012.
Most offensive operations have immediate effects only on data or the proper functioning of an adversary’s machine: slowing its network connection, filling its screen with static or scrambling the results of basic calculations. Any of those could have powerful effects if they caused an adversary to botch the timing of an attack, lose control of a computer or miscalculate locations.