A group of cybersecurity experts has released “hacking tool” files and software that allows the US National Security Agency to remotely access encrypted files, emails and other online activity without a warrant.
The group’s disclosure comes just days after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks of documents showing how the NSA can access encrypted traffic, including emails and web browsing history.
The release is an attempt to shed light on a controversial topic that has become increasingly sensitive in recent years: the ability of the US intelligence community to spy on the private lives of people around the world.
Ars Technican reporter Adam Hodge wrote that the files, which were posted on a website called the Shadow Brokers, show how the US government can “obtain encrypted data” through a number of methods, including through “tampering with a system, a network, or a system administrator.”
The Shadow Broker site also shows how it can access the files of “the people who have access to these files,” including “government officials, corporate insiders, and individuals who are in contact with government officials, insiders, or insiders of companies with which the government has a business relationship.”
Ars Technics’ Mike McCord reports on how the “NSA tools” are used.
The tools were provided by the US Government Accountability Office, which in December released a report showing that the NSA had hacked into “a wide range of devices, including credit card systems, personal computers, routers, and printers.”
Ars’ Mike Cernovich has called the NSA’s surveillance program the “Snowden effect.”
Ars has previously published reports detailing how the spy agency has used techniques like this to hack into other countries’ networks and spy on activists.
Ars’ Alex Wilhelm wrote in November that the US spy agency’s use of such techniques is “not new.”
The report noted that “this kind of program has been deployed in countries from Australia to China, even the U.K.” to Mexico, and that the United States has “used similar methods to spy for years.”
In January, the White House released a list of countries it believed the NSA was spying on, and included Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Iran, and Russia.
It noted that the U!
had been spying on Latin America and the Caribbean “for years.”
Ars recently reported on the NSA targeting WikiLeaks’ computer servers and hacking into the network of an Iranian government agency.
That news led the Obama administration to launch an investigation into the US’s use the tools.
In January the Obama Administration announced that it was launching a national cybersecurity strategy to improve the US cybersecurity and privacy protections.
The goal is to “create a robust and robust cybersecurity infrastructure that can support the US economy, promote the security of our people and information, and strengthen our ability to respond to emerging threats to our national security, economic well-being, and democratic freedoms.”