NSA allegedly puts backdoors on American-made network devices

Glenn Greenwald’s new book titled No Place to Hide is out today. Aside from telling the story of how he worked with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Laura Poitras to make public the mind-blowing extent of mass US surveillance, the book also includes a number of revelations and documents that have not been previously shared with the public.

Among these is the disclosure that the US National Security Agency has been interfering with shipments (“supply-chain interdiction”) of American-made computer network devices destined for foreign markets.

“A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers,” he wrote for the Guardian.

“The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. Eventually, the implanted device connects back to the NSA.”

The revelation comes after years of US government’s accusations that Chinese-based manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE are doing the same thing, as instructed by the Chinese government and intelligence agencies.

The aforementioned accusations were given additional weight by the release of the 2012 report from the US House Intelligence Committee, in which they urged US companies to avoid using devices made by those companies. In the wake of the report, some government agencies have also begun slowly removing the companies’ technology from federal systems.

The report also influenced the Australian government to bar Huawei from competing for national contracts, and made the UK government decide to investigate the employees at the Huawei’s Cyber Security Evaluation Center located in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

“Warning the world about Chinese surveillance could have been one of the motives behind the US government’s claims that Chinese devices cannot be trusted. But an equally important motive seems to have been preventing Chinese devices from supplanting American-made ones, which would have limited the NSA’s own reach,” Greenwald pointed out. “In other words, Chinese routers and servers represent not only economic competition but also surveillance competition.”

Also, according to TEXTWired, Greenwald disclosed that the NSA has been partnering with US telecom firms and used their access to international systems – which they were contracted to build or maintain – to redirect the data passing through them to NSA repositories.

The release of the book was accompanied by a dedicated website on which, among other things, one can also peruse the NSA documents included in the book.

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