NEW SNOWDEN LEAK | TEXAS, TAO & QUANTUM THEORY TOOLBOX HIGHLIGHTS
A comprehensive internal NSA presentation titled “QUANTUM CAPABILITIES,” listing virtually every popular Internet service provider as a target, including Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and YouTube outlines NSA QUANTUM which has the greatest success against Yahoo, Facebook and static IP addresses.
According to details in Washington’s current budget plan for the US intelligence services, around 85,000 computers worldwide are projected to be infiltrated by the NSA specialists by the end of this year. Confirmed by Der Spiegel Online by far the majority of these “implants” are conducted by TAO teams via the Internet, short for Office of Tailored Access Operations.
TAO’s responsibilities (according to newly leaked documents) make clear aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit’s tasks. With a government mandate, the special unit has succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.
TAO has dramatically improved the tools at its disposal. It maintains a sophisticated toolbox known internally by the name “QUANTUMTHEORY.” “Certain QUANTUM missions have a success rate of as high as 80%, where spam is less than 1%,” one internal NSA presentation states.
The NSA has been unable to employ this method to target users of Google services. Apparently, that can only be done by Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service, which has acquired QUANTUM tools from the NSA.
One of the hackers’ key tasks is the offensive infiltration of target computers with so-called implants or with large numbers of Trojans. They’ve bestowed their spying tools with illustrious monikers like “ANGRY NEIGHBOR,” “HOWLERMONKEY” or “WATERWITCH.” These names may sound cute, but the tools they describe are both aggressive and effective.
Until just a few years ago, NSA agents relied on the same methods employed by cyber criminals, sending attack emails disguised as spam containing links directing users to virus-infected websites. They used sufficient knowledge of an Internet browser’s security holes — Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
And yet, favored tools used by the fastest growing unit at the NSA, station in San Antonio, Texas…include the use of intelligence service named “QUANTUMINSERT.” GCHQ workers used this method to attack the computers of employees at partly government-held Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom, in order to use their computers to penetrate even further into the company’s networks. The NSA, meanwhile, used the same technology totarget high-ranking members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at the organization’s Vienna headquarters. In both cases, the trans-Atlantic spying consortium gained unhindered access to valuable economic data using these tools.
Unconfirmed reports show the Texas NSA outport has grown quite impressively. 2008 the Texas Cryptologic Center employed fewer than 60 TAO specialists. By 2015, the number is projected to grow to 270 employees. In addition, there are another 85 specialists in the “Requirements & Targeting” division (up from 13 specialists in 2008). The number of software developers is expected to increase from the 2008 level of three to 38 in 2015. Among other work he San Antonio office handles attacks against targets in the Middle East, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, not to mention Mexico, just 200 kilometers (124 miles) away, where the government has fallen into the NSA’s crosshairs.