If all of the known National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance wasn’t enough, the organization infected 50,000 computer networks with malware that could “steal sensitive information,” according to new slides published by the Dutch paper, NRC.
The information published this weekend is another revelation courtesy of leaker Edward Snowden. The 50,000-figure comes from a 2012 presentation slide explaining how the NSA acquired information worldwide. It described an initiative called “Computer Network Exploitation” (CNE), which NRC reports as “the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware.” The slide shows CNE’s reach spans five continents worldwide.
As CNET noticed, an NSA webpage for job applicants describes the CNE strategy as well as other “Computer Network Operations.” The CNE function includes “enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks,” according to the page.
NRC connects this most recent piece of information to a series of Washington Post reports on the NSA-TAO (Tailored Access Operations) group (the latest story on that is from August). The NSA allegedly had 20,000 implants for cyber operations in 2008—so this figure grew significantly in just four years. The NRC writes that this type of operation has been happening since 1998, and the malware at this point can be remotely activated and deactivated at the push of a button.
Update: This article incorrectly identified the NRC as a Danish newspaper, when it is Dutch. Ars regrets the error and this post has been fixed accordingly.