Snowden’s document leaks didn’t just uncover the tacky gadgets the NSA used, they also gave security researchers (read, hackers) the necessary know-how to develop their own.
We have been quite well ahead of the times when it came to reporting about the United States’ National Security Agency’s (NSA) covert practices of mass surveillance. The United States reportedly infringed into the privacy rights of as many as 100,000 homes and offices across the globe by putting software in the equivalent computers allowing it to ‘spy’ on those devices. The technology has been in use since at least 2008 and relies on a covert channel of radio waves transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards secretly inserted in the computers. The basis of the report were US officials, computer experts and documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. However, latest revelations suggest that Snowden’s leaks might have gone ahead and done much more than what we imagined!
Snowden’s document leaks didn’t just uncover the tacky gadgets the NSA used, they also gave security researchers (read, hackers) the necessary know-how to develop their own. Taking hints from the NSA’s classified Advanced Network Technology catalogue, Michael Ossmann and Co have now managed to build their own version of two of NSAs approved radio-based surveillance devices, reports engadget. They have built their own version of NSAs so-called “retro reflectors” that could either be attached to a computer’s monitor connector to send on-screen images to a nearby radio point or could be fixed to a keyboard cable to collect keystrokes wirelessly. These tiny transistor-sized devices are indeed marvels in their own right, however, there’s a broader issue here, one that entails long term risks.
Although, Ossmann’s intentions are noble: he intends to educate others about how the NSA’s bugs operate so they can be better protected in future- there might be countless others lurking in the dark, building their own surveillance devices. These in turn could mean an even more risque future. For now, people like Ossmann give us hope, that we could build necessary mechanisms too for what might come our way- for now our fate lies in balance.