This week has seen a new batch of documents swiped by Edward Snowden hit the media, with The Washington Post leaking a barrage of information in recent days. Among this information was data about a hacking collective the NSA has for targeting foreign subjects, and that was followed up today with information stating US agencies performed 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011.
The information was part of a classified intelligence budget that was leaked this week, among the information being the revelation of a program codenamed GENIE that involves computer specialists hacking foreign networks and putting them under “surreptitious” control by the US. Such a project received a budget of $652 million, according to the budget.
Reportedly, the US government has “covert implants” in the form of malware on routers, firewalls, and computers, placing “tens of thousands” of them annually — and it wants to boost that number into the millions range. And of the 231 offensive cyber-operations performed in 2011, about 3/4th of them are said to have been against Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and other “top-priority targets.”
What exactly constitutes an offensive cyber-operation? Something intended “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves.” Among this can be scrambling and reducing the speed of a network, for example. U.S. officials who spoke to The Washington Post said malware used by the US government “differs little” from the same reportedly resulting from China.
The difference, it is contended, is that China uses its processes to swipe corporate secrets for monetary reasons, whereas the Department of Defense “does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” In some instances, physical hardware is implanted by the CIA or military forces, the budget documents also reveal.
It is said that by the end of 2013, GENIE will control a minimum of 85,000 implants on machines located across the globe. Such a figure can be compared with the 21,252 from 2008, and what is apparently a plan for “rapid expansion” that will boost the numbers in the future.