According to slides released from Edward Snowden, the TAO, or Tailored Access Operations agency, has gained access to nearly 50,000 computers around the globe to serve as a virtual botnet for the spy agency to collect information and use against anyone who might be named on the machines in question.
Reported by Dutch newspaper NRC, a management presentation from 2012 goes into detail about how the intelligence service relies on ‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE) to gain access to random users computers, where the program can then lie in wait for anyone to activate at the click of a button.
Public records show the TAO currently employs around 1,000 hackers to do their bidding from various offices across several continents, with operations centered in countries like Belgium (home of violated telecom Belgacom), along with capital cities such as Rome, Berlin, and Pristina.
“Clearly, conventional criminal gangs aren’t the only people interested in breaking into computer networks anymore,” wrote computer security expert Graham Cluley in a blogpost.
It has employed a system known as “forward secrecy” that makes it harder for eavesdroppers to access the keys used to encrypt data passing between Twitter’s servers and users’ phones, tablets and PCs.
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