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Modern spying 101: How NSA bugs Chinese PCs with tiny USB radios - NYT

Project 'Quantum' pwns air-gapped computers with mysterious devices

The NSA Unchained

The NSA has compromised almost 100,000 computers around the world in its quest to get its tentacles into air-gapped computers operated by adversaries such as the Chinese Army.

The revelation was made by the New York Times in a report published on Tuesday based on documents released by Edward Snowden.

The spy agency has penetrated these computers via "a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the internet," the NYT reports.

This tech has been in use since 2008 and uses a "covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards."

These ghastly widgets sometimes pass data onto a briefcase-sized relay point named "Nightstand" that can be used up to eight miles away, and can feed data packets back to the compromised host. The tech is physically inserted by agents, component manufacturers, or unwitting people who have been pwned, we're told.

Frequent targets of the uber-snoop tech include the Chinese Army, along with Russian military networks, trade institutes within the European Union, systems used by Mexican police and drug cartels, and folk in Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan.

Some of this sneaky gear was crucial to the "Olympic Games" cyber-attack program which successfully inserted the Stuxnet virus into Iranian nuclear facilities. ®

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