Netherlands-based news site NRC.nl reports the American intelligence service – NSA – infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information.
A management presentation dating from 2012 explains how the NSA collects information worldwide (presentation slide shown below).
In addition, the presentation shows that the intelligence service uses ‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software.
While Cyber operations are increasingly important for the NSA the hacks that enable agency hackers to collect sensitive data are relatively inexpensive. Attacks are performed by a special department called TAO (Tailored Access Operations).
Public sources show that this department employs more than a thousand hackers. As recently as August 2013, the Washington Post published articles about these NSA-TAO cyber operations. In these articles The Washington Post reported that the NSA installed an estimated 20,000 ‘implants’ as early as 2008. These articles were based on a secret budget report of the American intelligence services.