It has now been released that the NSA has planted bugging hardware and software into 100,000 computers worldwide, not the 50,000 originally claimed. Offline or “air-gapped” computers can now be tracked and surveillance can be gathered according to leaker Edward Snowden.
Tiny radio receivers are planted inside the computer before it is shipped or during a covert operation called “a black bag job.” The devices look just like a normal USB port and infiltrate/exfiltrate data to an NSA relay station (about the size of a suitcase) up to eight miles from the location of the receiver.
“Air-gapping” a computer (unplugging it from any internet network connection) was thought to be a safe way for people to utilize their computers with no worry of someone monitoring their activity. But, the NSA uses radio waves, which can access computers when they are completely offline. No longer is disconnecting a computer from the internet a foolproof way to keep the agency from gathering surveillance.
Code named “Quantum”, the NSA has used this technology ot spy on Chinese hackers, Russian military, South American drug cartels, Middle East interests, and even the European Union. “Quantam” was even used in recent cyber attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. This would be the first documented report of the NSA participating in cyber attacks. This attack crippled Iranian centrifuges causing them to spin out of control. This is not the first time that details of the “Quantam” project have been exposed.
A leaked powerpoint slide showed that receivers had been inserted into 50,000 computers worldwide and that report has now been increased to 100,000. Jacob Applebaum, known security researcher also mentioned the “Quantam” receivers in the hacking conference Chaos Communication Congress.