The US National Security Agency has issued a statement in response to the latest accusations that the agency has infected millions of computers with malware.
Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept reported, based on information leaked by Edward Snowden, that the NSA had processes in place that enabled it to automatically infect millions of computers from all around the world.
The malware implants, powered by a system dubbed “TURBINE,” are said to be used to capture all sorts of information from infected computers, including recording audio via the microphone and video through the webcam.
The NSA has also been accused of impersonating Facebook and other popular websites to deliver malware.
The NSA doesn’t always respond to reports that are based on Snowden leaks, but this time it has. Basically, the intelligence agency says the reports “are inaccurate.”
“NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities. Technical capability must be understood within the legal, policy, and operational context within which the capability must be employed,” the agency’s statement reads.
“NSA’s authorities require that its foreign intelligence operations support valid national security requirements, protect the legitimate privacy interests of all persons, and be as tailored as feasible. NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites,” it added.
“Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”
The latest reports say that the NSA initially infected only a small number of computers. However, as their capabilities increased, the number of implants reached tens of thousands. TURBINE, the systems developed by the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit, is said to enable the agency to perform “industrial-scale exploitation” of computer networks.
TURBINE is said to be part of a project called “Owning the Net,” for which the NSA requested a $67.6 million (€48.6 million) budget last year.
Over the past period, many privacy advocates, including the famous Edward Snowden, have called for the wide-scale deployment of encryption tools to make the Internet safer. However, if The Intercept’s reports are accurate, the spy agency’s tools are capable of intercepting information before it’s encrypted.
The NSA is believed to have utilized its monitoring capabilities not only against terrorists and extremists, but also against system administrators that are considered a “means to an end.”