The TAO of the NSA: Specialized Hacking Team Gets the ‘Ungettable’

Der Spiegel report outlines how a team of highly skilled hackers intercepts and steals data from around the world

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The U.S. National Security Agency uses a specialized team of hackers to break into computer hardware and exploit loopholes in software like Microsoft’s internal reporting system, according to a new report.

German magazine Der Spiegel published an extensive story on Sunday, based on a cache of NSA documents, detailing the Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The unit’s mission is described as “getting the ungettable” by using James Bond–like methods, including computer-monitor cables specially designed to record typing in real time, USB sticks containing radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over airwaves, intercepting laptops before they’re delivered and faux base stations set up to intercept mobile-phone signals.

The unit, formed in 1997, has hacked 258 targets in nearly every country in the world, according to Der Spiegel.

The team also steals data by exploiting Internet and software vulnerabilities in companies like Cisco Systems and China’s Huawei Technologies. One of the more startling revelations was that TAO breaks into Windows-based computers by scouring Microsoft’s crash reports. Microsoft did not immediately comment but is one of several U.S. tech companies seeking more government transparency about the NSA’s surveillance methods.

Der Spiegel did not identify the source of the NSA documents, but has previously published reports based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. One of the article’s authors was American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, a contact close to Snowden.

[Der Spiegel]

30 comments
AmmarNaeem
AmmarNaeem

NSA should stop immediately its all illegal activities related with online privacy. Snowden is not a whistle blower. He did justice to his job and for this whole nation. Hacking is not the way to do surveillance activities. 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

Can the next person who comes up with the Vague Comment "We are losing our Freedoms"  please declare what Freedoms you have lost because of the NSA.  I don't know if its the whole Media Machine that just says the vaguest comments but never come up and say what Freedoms are lost and it just sucks in all the lemings who can't see past it

faizprime
faizprime

This has been an eventful year for NSA and Technology. We have seen Whisltebower termed as a traitor!, NSA Spying on foreign delegates, NSA and RSA teaming up to spy on us, Countless Hacking news and security lapses and now this! Seems like NSA is not going to stop no matter who stands up against it! 2014 is going to be the year to watch out for because the people are now aware of this threat and it will be interesting to see what comes out of this! 2013 was also awesome for technology in general but was heavy on hacking and spying as well can't wait for the next episode of N.S.A vs the World!



MarkBvs
MarkBvs

Did NSA break the law, YES and due to their actions our allies have lost trust in the U.S. Now we all know that security can walk a fine. In cases we all need to say "peer over the line" this is in order to find what potential threats and discover how to be prepared for those threats. NSA just does not see any lines, which is a huge problem. Look at NSA Puts the Burden on Telecom Companies for Storage of Phone Meta Data. This new update certainly create panic in Telecom Industry

EdwardDouglas
EdwardDouglas

When you start to connect the dots about the USA, the picture becomes very, very ugly.  I can say that I am truly ashamed of this country my family has fought for. It is not just the violation of the 4th amendment and the KGB like NSA.  It is the federal agents with immunity who kill American citizens by gross negligence and are not held accountable.  It is the corruption and cronyism.



chrispy
chrispy

The NSA is bad, but google and facebook are much worse. Don't be hypocritical and use these services if you claim to care about your privacy. Instead, you should be using sites like DuckDuckGo, Ravetree, and HushMail. They offer excellent privacy and we should support them if we truly care about our privacy.

NeedLaw
NeedLaw

How much money was spent removing NSA related malware in the corporate world? Who will survive american corporations or international ones?

NeedLaw
NeedLaw

It is time to sue for economic losses after asking microsoft tech support for help in removing virus/malware and then upgrading for 25 years of Windows versions. We all agreed to terms of service, what kind of evidence do you need?

If you were one of those people who asked for remote assistance and were told you were infected and had no choice but to upgrade. Someone at Microsoft has my remote assistance casefile.

nra_is_here
nra_is_here

   Thank you so much, NSA, you are truly making the country a lot safer, no more terrorist attack except Boston bombing, and you also make the NSA infested iPhone more popular than ever!


     I expect the It industry to have explosive growth in the next 10 years.


     Wonderful, I know you have infected my PC also, because whenever I leave the computer alone for 30 min, the hard spins like crazy. It is always 30 min, and always transfer data, because the router lights just keep blinking so fast 30 min after I stop using the PC!


    Hahahaha, love you guys!

emeraldseatown
emeraldseatown

What did people think the NSA, CIA, etc. actually did, if not spy on people?


If you didn't think we spied on our friends, why do you think our friends spy on us?

kurtis.engle
kurtis.engle

You know, when something happens four years before its' motive....


Perhaps this problem is so complex we should start thinking about simply liquidating the united states government and starting a new one, being very careful to keep it under control this time.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@faizprime  I hope they don't stop.  I feel safest in this country.  I've never been hassled or spied on, and if I have been spied on then they are wasting their time because i'm not that important.  A negative year for the NSA would be if you are in Russia right now where bombs are going off now

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@EdwardDouglas What american citizens have been killed by federal agents... Don't be vague.

Move to Russia if you are so ashamed.  At least they are feeling safe with their terrorism

ChrisWicklund
ChrisWicklund

@chrispy 

Here's the difference chrispy... You can choose to not use google and facebook, you can't choose not to use the government, in fact you're forced to pay for your own lack of privacy. Google and facebook aren't bound by the constitution, but apparently neither is our government...

TimRobinsonAus
TimRobinsonAus

Are you for real?? We couldn't care less that they spy, just not your own people

AndyHofer
AndyHofer

@kurtis.engle " we should start thinking about simply liquidating the united states government and starting a new one"

Funny, that's the same thing Al Queda wants to do...

Denesius
Denesius

@Realworldnonfantasyland @faizprime Unfortunately, that's the popular attitude that leads to tyranny & enslavement: I'm glad you have nothing to fear, and feel safe, but if you come up on their radar, even for reasons that aren't your fault, you'll be crying over your lost freedom. Remember, they're tying strings together: took a wrong turn into a military base? you're tagged. Parked at an airshow? you're tagged. Questioned for taking innocuous photos at a monument? you're tagged. Clicked on a web link that was less than honest? You're tagged.

Famously stated after WW2: "They're going after the jews, I'm not jewish, so it's ok; They're going after the mentally retarded. I'm normal, so it's ok. They're coming after me, and now no ones left to stop them..."

EdwardDouglas
EdwardDouglas

@Realworldnonfantasyland one example: federal agent Cole Dodson was going 100 mph after a drug smuggler in California with no lights or sirens.  He ran a stop sign killing 3 women.  His actions were ruled " gross negligence" and charged by the state of california. He was given qualified immunity.  This is JUST ONE example. Had this been a local fire department answering a call, the firefighter would do life in prison on manslaughter.  Putting the public in jeopardy to catch a criminal is not right...The ends do not justify the means.


http://articles.ivpressonline.com/2012-05-24/cole-dotson_31843250

ChrisWicklund
ChrisWicklund

@Realworldnonfantasyland 

How many people do you think are killed by terrorists? More people die from slipping in their tubs, or eating tainted spinach. The illusion of safety, and the unrealistic fear of terrorist acts is for fools that can't do math.  

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@TimRobinsonAus What do you think they get out of spying on there own people who are doing nothing wrong.  Why would they waste their time on you.  Do people not understand that there are 330 million people living here, chances are if you are doing nothing wrong that they don't have the time to spy on you. 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@Denesius @Realworldnonfantasyland @faizprime

There are 330 million people in the country. How many people you think it would take to do everything you said?

50 years ago Blacks couldn't drink out of the same water fountain as me. What freedoms have you lost because of them? Don't be vague, i'm just curious. People keep saying that they have lost their freedom, but I honestly have no idea what freedom I lost.


 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@EdwardDouglas @Realworldnonfantasyland  Wheres your proof of the firefighter doing life in prison or was that just a vague comment

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@ChrisWicklund @Realworldnonfantasyland I don't fear terrorists.  I let the people in charge keep me safe, thus I don't worry about it.  In order to keep me safe in means that my phone records have been put into a giant data base of 330 million americans , then whoopty freaken doo