New Leaks Detail How The NSA’s ‘TAO’ And ‘ANT’ Units Spy On Devices, Global Networks

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New leaks emerged today in Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper about the scope of electronic surveillance conducted by the United States’ National Security Agency.

In short, it looks like the agency has even more access to personal data than we already thought.

Der Spiegel says it has obtained documents detailing the depth and breadth of access that the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit, an elite group within the NSA that’s reportedly tasked with gaining access to foreign computer systems in the name of protecting national security, now has when obtaining data.

The paper wrote:

“According to internal NSA documents viewed by Spiegel, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies… The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO’s disposal have become — and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks.”

Also according to Spiegel, the NSA has created a division called ‘ANT’ which has compiled information about specific hacking methods for everything from high-end networking devices to consumer-grade electronics:

“A document viewed by Spiegel resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry — including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell.

These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000.”

You can read the entire coverage at Spiegel here and here.