American spy agencies launched 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011 alone, leaked documents show
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Leaked documents reveal that U.S. intelligence agencies were responsible for 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011 alone, part of a more widespread expansion of cyberwarfare in the military and intelligence communities.
The latest information was revealed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Washington Post. The Post reports that it was contained in the recently reported classified intelligence budget and that it “provides new evidence that the Obama administration’s growing ranks of cyberwarriors infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks.”
Under an extensive $652 million project codenamed GENIE, American operatives break into foreign computer networks “so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control,” according to the Post.
Under the GENIE project, specialists would remotely place “covert implants” – advanced malicious software – on tens of thousands of computers, routers and firewalls every single year.
While this kind of widespread use of malware isn’t surprising, it is quite amazing to learn that the U.S. government plans “to expand those numbers into the millions,” as the Post reports.
Then again, given the amount of malware purchased and/or developed by employees of the U.S. government, it shouldn’t be shocking that they seek to get their money’s worth.
Indeed, the budget revealed that the government devoted $25.1 million to “additional covert purchases of software vulnerabilities” from private malware vendors this year.
While the Obama administration officially refuses to acknowledge these types of cyberwarfare programs, former U.S. officials confirmed and described “a campaign of computer intrusions that is far broader and more aggressive than previously understood” to the Post.
The budget states that almost three-quarters of the 231 offensive operations conducted in 2011 targeted countries deemed to be “top-priority targets.”
Former officials explained that those targets include countries like “Iran, Russia, China and North Korea and activities such as nuclear proliferation.”
However, the budget document did not provide many other details about the clandestine operations.
Due to the prevalence of these kinds of operations, there has been a massive expansion of the National Security Agency’s Tailored Access Operations along with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Information Operations Center (IOC).
The Post reports that the IOC has been responsible for some of the most notable offensive cyberoperations and the recruitment of new intelligence sources.
Many of the operations are apparently coordinated by the NSA’s Remote Operations Center (ROC).
“To the NSA as a whole, the ROC is where the hackers live,” said an anonymous former NSA operative from another section who has worked with the so-called “exploitation teams” in the past.
“It’s basically the one-stop shop for any kind of active operation that’s not defensive,” the individual said to the Post.
Operatives with the ROC work with FBI, CIA and U.S. Cyber Command teams along with the NSA’s National Threat Operations Center and the IOC.
According to the budget, most of the operations carried out under the GENIE program fall under the umbrella of “exploitation” of foreign systems.
The document defines this exploitation as “surreptitious virtual or physical access to create and sustain a presence inside targeted systems or facilities.”
“System logs and processes are modified to cloak the intrusion, facilitate future access, and accomplish other operational goals,” the intelligence budget summary adds.
The growth of the U.S. cyberwarfare effort is undeniable and it seems that it is only increasing.
“The United States is moving toward the use of tools short of traditional weapons that are unattributable — that cannot be easily tied to the attacker — to convince an adversary to change their behavior at a strategic level,” said an anonymous former senior U.S. official.
Yet since a cyber-attack is considered “an act of war” by the White House and Pentagon, it is hard to see how countries targeted by U.S. cyber operations would want to react positively to such an act.
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